An NFU livestock board member has said the union will oppose mandatory method of production labels on food because they would be ‘misleading’.
Yorkshire farmer Andrew Loftus, who has sat on the livestock board since 2016, made the remarks at a Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum event 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.
But Mr Loftus warned the NFU would fight any plans to introduce such labelling.
He said: “Production method is being framed as an indicator of welfare, which is inaccurate and therefore misleading to the consumer.
“Good welfare can, and should, be maintained in all systems and not just those deemed to be of somehow higher value.”
He went on to point out that cattle and sheep movements could add to customer confusion.
“Cattle and sheep tend to be born on one farm, typically in the west of England, and then fattened and moved further east to where the grain grows,” he said.
“This is natural. It has occurred for many hundreds of years, but it means they move from different farms as they increase in maturity, so which farm are you referring to on the label?
“Animals move through many different production systems on that journey.”
Other objections to the plans from the NFU included a possible increase in bureaucracy and costs for farmers.
“Is this information something the average consumer wants or needs, or wants enough to pay for it?” Mr Loftus asked.
“It is likely to be burdensome for farming and there will be additional cost in proving this information.
“Research shows price and quality are routinely cited as the main consideration for consumers making purchasing decisions.”