Introducing mandatory method of production labelling for meats such as beef and pork could mean animals kept in colder climates are ‘put on the scrap heap’, according to a food labelling specialist.
Stephen Pugh, who was head of food labelling at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for more than 20 years, made the remarks at a conference on the future of food regulation held by the Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum last week.
The push for method of production labelling to be extended to all meat and dairy products is being led by the Labelling Matters coalition, which is supported by Compassion in World Farming, the RSPCA and the Soil Association.
The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, which counts close friend of Defra Secretary Michael Gove, Zac Goldsmith MP, a patron, is also backing a change in the law.
Asked by Farmers Guardian whether he thought this kind of labelling could work, Mr Pugh said: “It is a big issue, but before we start looking at the legal aspect, we need to see if the British public want it.
“They really did with free range eggs, and now the shift has gone to other methods of production.
“Is there the same push for grass-fed beef or outdoor-reared pork? I suspect there might be and this an untapped area for further labelling, but whether it should be a mandatory requirement raises all sorts of other problems.
“You get many farms, particularly in northern areas where it is very cold, where larger animals spend time both inside and outside.
“Before we go down the mandatory route, it is issues like this which need to be sorted out so people are assured they are complying and animals are not put on the scrap heap simply so the labels which are put on meat at the end satisfy certain legal requirements.”