FOOD LABELS & CERTIFICATIONS
For chickens & eggs
Inside space: 10 birds per square meter (sqm)
Outside space: one bird per 4sqm
Birds are given good natural light and the most space to roam around indoors, and are encouraged from an early age to roam free-range. Slower growing breeds are used, which means birds develop at a natural rate. They eat organic food and individual birds are only given antibiotics if absolutely necessary.
Soil Association is generally considered the highest welfare organic certification.
Inside space: 10 birds per sqm
Outside space: one bird per sqm
Birds are given natural light and more space to roam around, and are also encouraged to roam free-range.
Inside space: 15 birds per sqm
Outside space: not always required
Chickens can be free-range (as above) or indoor-bred, and this will be clearly labelled. The indoor-bred chickens have significantly better lives than intensively reared chickens – with natural light and natural enrichment (perches, objects to peck at such as straw bales and vegetables). They also don’t allow fast growing chicken.
Inside space: 19 birds per sqm
Outside space: not required
This is the most common food safety standard required by most retailers. Their animal welfare standards are in line with the minimum required by law, which are widely considered to be insufficient. This means chickens are too tightly packed into barns, don’t have to be given natural light, and can be bred to grow unnaturally fast.
KOSHER OR HALAL
When it comes to chicken, these are mainly concerned with the slaughter method. Kosher forbids the use of stunning. Halal requires the animal to be alive at point of death but it is often stunned first.
BRITISH / CORN FED / FRESH
Meaningless terms when it comes to animal welfare.
Barn and aviary systems – the hens are kept indoors but they can move around and have enough space to do natural things like peck, scratch, flap their wings and lay their eggs in a nest box. Free-range and organic systems – the hens live in sheds but can also go outside during daylight hours, where they often have trees and shrubs for shelter. Organic hens are also limited to smaller flocks, given extra space both indoors and out, and their beaks are not usually trimmed. All eggs must be stamped with a code to specify the method of production. Look at the first number in the code on the egg. 0=Organic, 1=Free-range, 2=Barn, 3=Caged
What these descriptions mean for pigs
The pigs are born in systems with outdoor space, then brought indoors for fattening after weaning, while the mother continues to live outdoors.
The pigs are born in systems with outdoor space and spend around half their life outdoors.
ORGANIC OR FREE RANGE
The pigs are born and reared in systems with space where they can roam outdoors.
For cows and ruminants
PASTURE FOR LIFE
Pasture for Life represents a distinct method of farming where the raising of ruminant livestock is based exclusively upon pasture. The produce from this system of farming is also distinct and is typically associated with particular health and other benefits. The Pasture for Life Certification Mark (referred to as the Certification Mark) provides a trusted means of clearly identifying this produce and its integrity at the point of sale.
Livestock and produce can only carry the Certification Mark if there is an unbroken chain of Certified, compliant practice from the field to the point of production of the finished product, ready for sale.
To become a Certified Farmer, beef, sheep and dairy producers apply via a self-assessment form, and the Pasture Fed Livestock Association then arranges for independent, third-party auditing and a farm inspection. Once approved, farmers can market their meat and dairy produce under the Pasture for Life mark and use this logo on their food products as a sign that it is 100% grass-fed.
RPSCA Assured is the RSPCA’s labelling and assurance scheme dedicated to improving welfare standards for farm animals. The standards offer a number of welfare benefits relative to standard industry practice and we recommend you look out for this logo when shopping or eating out. The scheme covers both indoor and outdoor rearing systems and ensures that greater space, bedding and enrichment materials are provided. In addition, on-farm health and welfare monitoring is required and stunning and slaughter processes are specified. RSPCA assured has a reach of 30% of UK pig production and is looking to expand.
RED TRACTOR CERTIFIED STANDARDS MARK
This is a UK certification system run by the Agriculture Food Standards company which prescribes basic standards of management and traceability for farms using the Red Tractor mark. It does not allow the use of growth hormones or chlorine-washed meat and requires basic safety and animal welfare standards to be met.
There is no requirement for ‘Red Tractor’ marked foods to be produced in a regenerative manner and food carrying this mark will typically have been produced using tillage, large machinery, chemical fertilisers and sprays. There is no requirement for farm animals to be outdoor or pasture reared.
General principles of organic production. To be certified as Organic by the Soil Association a production system must meet the following principles and objectives:
1.To produce food of high quality and in sufficient quantity by the use of processes that do not harm the environment, human health, plant health or animal health and welfare.
- To work within natural systems and cycles at all levels, from the soil to plants and animals.
- To maintain the long-term fertility and biological activity of soils.
- To treat livestock ethically, meeting their species-specific physiological and behavioral needs.
- To respect regional, environmental, climatic and geographic differences and the appropriate practices that have evolved in response to them.
- To maximise the use of renewable resources and recycling.
- To design and manage organic systems which make the best use of natural resources and ecology to prevent the need for external inputs. Where this fails or where external inputs are required, the use of external inputs is limited to organic, natural or naturally-derived substances.
- To limit the use of chemically synthesised inputs to situations where appropriate alternative management practices do not exist, or natural or organic inputs are not available, or where alternative inputs would contribute to unacceptable environmental impacts.
- To exclude the use of soluble mineral fertilisers.
- To foster biodiversity and protect sensitive habitats and landscape features.
- To minimise pollution and waste.
- To use preventative and precautionary measures and risk assessment when appropriate.
- To exclude the use of GMOs and products produced from or by GMOs with the exception of veterinary medicinal products.
- To sustainably use products from fisheries.
In addition to the overall organic principles set out above, organic farming must be based on the following specific principles:
- the maintenance and enhancement of soil life and natural soil fertility, soil stability and soil biodiversity preventing and combating soil compaction and soil erosion, and the nourishing of plants primarily through the soil ecosystem
- the minimisation of the use of non-renewable resources and off-farm inputs
- the recycling of wastes and by-products of plant and animal origin as inputs in plant and livestock production
- taking account of the local or regional ecological balance when taking production decisions
- the maintenance of animal health by encouraging the natural immunological defence of animals and the selection of appropriate breeds and husbandry practices
- the maintenance of plant health by preventative measures, such as the choice of appropriate species and varieties resistant to pests and diseases, appropriate crop rotations, mechanical and physical methods and the protection of natural enemies of pests
- the practice of site-adapted and land-related livestock production
- the observance of a high level of animal welfare respecting species-specific needs
- the production of products of organic livestock from animals that have been raised on organic holdings since birth or hatching and throughout their life
- the choice of breeds having regard to the capacity of animals to adapt to local conditions, their vitality and their resistance to disease or health problems
- the feeding of livestock with organic feed composed of agricultural ingredients from organic farming and of natural non-agricultural substances
- the application of animal husbandry practices, which enhance the immune system and strengthen the natural defense against diseases, in particular including regular exercise and access to open air areas and pasture where appropriate
- the exclusion of rearing artificially induced polyploid animals.
ORGANIC FARMERS & GROWERS
Another less-known, but equally good, organic certification body.
- Biodynamics is a holistic, ecological and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food and nutrition.
- The approach was developed by Dr Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian writer, educator and social activist, in the early 1920s.
- Biodynamic farmers strive to create diversified, balanced farm ecosystems which generate health and fertility from within the farm system.
- Fermented manure, minerals and herbs are used to make preparations which help enhance the health of compost, soil and the resulting produce.
- Consideration is given to the influences of the wider cosmos on soil, plant and animal health.
- The triple bottom line approach (ecological, social and economic sustainability) is an important part of biodynamic initiatives.
More information here – http://bdcertification.org.uk/
A GREENER WORLD CERTIFIED REGENERATIVE
Is an new international label, currently being launched in the UK. A regenerative label is needed as there may well be farms, producers and brands that call themselves ‘Regenerative’ when all they have done is reduced tillage a little or have some clover in their grass! This is called Greenwashing!
Similarly, to A Greener World’s new certification, Control Union have recently launched Regenagri. Both offer a stepped certification in order to be all inclusive, so farms at the start of their regenerative journey will be offered perhaps one star, whereas a farm practicing a wider range of regenerative techniques may be awarded a three or silver star certification. They then aim to offer direction as to get further up the ladder. Currently there is talk that this and perhaps A Greener World also, will be working with the Soil Association to potentially produce an organic/ regenerative label suitable for the UK.
For fish and seafood
Wild, traceable, sustainable: the blue fish label is only applied to wild fish or seafood from fisheries that have been certified to the MSC Fisheries Standard, a science-based set of requirements for sustainable fishing. Unfortunately we have overfished most of our oceans and the majority of fish consumed is now from freshwater fish farming. This provides two-thirds of such fish in Asia and 96% in Europe, and was thought to be relatively environmentally friendly however, such fish deposit excreta and unconsumed feed down to the bottom of the pond, where there is barely any oxygen, making it the perfect environment for methane production, a potent greenhouse gas.
For over 20 years the MSC have worked with scientists, fisheries, seafood producers and brands to develop their standards and promote sustainable fishing. The MSC is the only wild-capture fisheries certification and ecolabelling program that meets best practice requirements set by both the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) and ISEAL, the global membership association for sustainability standards. In March 2017, the MSC became the first global seafood certification program to be recognised for rigor and credibility by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI).
Ten reasons to buy fish with the MSC label – https://www.msc.org/what-you-can-do/10-reasons-to-choose-the-blue-fish-label
Generally, conditions for farm workers, especially in developing countries, are appalling. When buying products with the Fairtrade label you are helping to make their lives slightly better and in some cases the organization offers advice and training in sustainability.
For timber and paper
RAINFOREST ALLIANCE CERTIFICATION
The Rainforest Alliance Certification means that the certified product or ingredient was produced using methods that support the three pillars of sustainability: social, economic, and environmental. Independent, third-party auditors, critical to the integrity of any certification program, evaluate farmers against requirements in all three areas before awarding or renewing certification.
RAINFOREST ALLIANCE CERTIFICATION
FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not for profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. Look for this mark when buying paper and products containing wood.