Method of Production & Slaughter Labelling

APGAW – Method of Production and Slaughter Labelling

27th February 2018


Attendees: Lord Trees, Angela Smith MP, Baroness Byford, Lord Blencarthe, Henry Smith MP, Rebecca Pow MP, Lord Hodgson

Panelists: Dr Phil Hadley (Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board), Nick Allen (British Meat Processors Association), Gudrun Ravetz (British Veterinary Association), David Bowles (RSPCA), ffinlo Costo (FarmWel), Shimon Cohen (Shechita UK), Rizvan Khalid (Eurolambs Halal)


Summary: Labelling would lift welfare and promote the UK for its high standards, however a simple Method of Production label is questioned by a lot of key groups including NFU, British Meat Processers and Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board. Whilst eggs have been relatively simple, pork and beef have a wide array of production systems which would be difficult to put into a standardised description.


It was agreed by the majority that welfare outcomes must be central in any labelling system.


On method of slaughter, the religious groups felt they were discriminated against if labelling focused on stun and non-stun and it should go further to identify all methods of slaughter. A 12-point system was suggested but there was a feeling that would not provide any clarity to the public.  There is evidence that too many animals are being killed using non-stun methods to fulfil the population demanding it and therefore it is entering the secular market without transparency.  This can be tackled immediately to reduce numbers. APGAW members still feel non stunned meat should be labelled clearly.


Part 1 – Production Labelling


Phil Hadley AHDB.

  • Non-labelled products do not mean poor welfare/no extra welfare measures taken.
  • Premium products can be utilised overseas and domestically which presents good opportunities for trade.
  • Any changes need to well thought out so they are equitable for UK and international
  • Intensive production does not mean it is not positive about animal welfare so there is a need for relevant indicators.


Nick Allen (BMPA)

  • Poultry as an example of a well structured sector so easy to define the different production methods but then as get into beef and sheep sectors then it would be difficult to identify these schemes and would require huge amounts of industry debate.
  • Lots of members already run their own schemes promoting welfare standards as there is a market demand.


Ffinlo Costain (Farmwel)

  • The Government is committed to high Animal Welfare and rewarding outcomes.
  • Some outcomes can be delivered quickly at low cost and some need system change. The market needs to identify where those system changes have occurred and reward the producer.
  • Cage-free eggs increased from 3% to 52% due to labelling in 2004 and consumer change and pork sector has started on this route with voluntary standards but could be improved. Voluntary schemes have not delivered in the poultry and dairy sector.
  • Dairy may be more difficult as there isn’t currently a welfare related labelling system so this would be need to be worked out but there is thought to be a market for this. 20% of dairy herds are not fully indoor.
  • Labels need to be underpinned by robust welfare based assessments to ensure public confidence and the potential of a higher welfare system is actually delivered.


Peter Stevenson (CIWF)

  • There is currently poor labelling for many products e.g. dairy, hence the need for mandatory labelling and this needs to be more complex than a simple intensive/extensive system. The Defra Command Paper has committed to using post-Brexit subsidies to improve welfare but consumers also have a role in this.
  • Labelling has to require intensively produced to be identified as well as free range to ensure clarity.


Gudrun Ravetz (BVA)

  • In existing farm assurance schemes, they are many making good progress, but we need to avoid over simplification and simply basing label on production.
  • It cannot be simplified to type of production system or size as they are not the only influencers of welfare.
  • Many different themes that can be looked at from welfare at slaughter, antimicrobial use, sustainability, veterinary involvement and environmental impact.
  • Labelling would need to be flexible so it can adapt to science emerging.


David Bowles (RSPCA)

  • Existing livestock schemes include a mix of mandatory and voluntary labelling so consumers are confused.
  • Egg sector mandatory labelling had great success. We have voluntary labelling for pigs produced. Poultry we do not have anything.
  • Country Fresh and Farm Fresh labels which we saw caused confusion with eggs is starting to appear with dairy and other products and that is very misleading for the public.
  • RSPCA Assured is the main high assurance system in the UK with 58% of the egg market and 21% of the pig market.
  • Ideally want to give the consumer the information and allow them to make their own choice – we had success with this in eggs, we can do it for others.
  • It is possible to able under WTO trade riles as last November they came up with a final decision around the tuna/dolphin label which was accepted.


Richard Griffiths (British Poultry Council)

  • Care must be taken to not over simplify as welfare is moving with science and is not static
  • It will be challenging to get level of information onto a label that we are suggesting but we just need to find a way to do this. There is a real challenge as to how to get the depth of information on a label.
  • Do not assume consumers are ignorant as they are more informed than they have ever been.


Lord Hodgson

  • How do we ensure equality of choice for those buying cooked food or processed food?


Angela Smith

  • Apps to allow you to pull out more detailed information for a product may be likely in the future. But how does this work for small retailers e.g. butchers?
  • Lure of ‘local’ food being desirable but actually local does not give any indication of welfare, so how do we ensure these services are transparent too? It goes wider than just the primary meat products in the supermarket.


Lord Blencathra (former MAFF minister)

  • Lots of food eaten outside the home so there should be labelling of this food also.
  • Be aware that companies promote that ‘all their chicken on the bone is UK’ but there are many processed products coming from Vietnam/Thailand. This doesn’t help us understand if they are coming from good or bad welfare, but the UK advertising them is misleading


Baroness Bywater

  • Processed foods absolutely must be included in the labelling and this obviously may cause more challenges but is crucial.


Nick Allen

  • Egg supply chain is simple as it is one single product compared to the beef supply chain as many different parts of the carcass are used as different products. 50% of beef is consumed as mince. How do we keep track of these? This is bound to incur a cost – and this will also push up the cost of products for consumers across low- and high-end food.


Ffinlo Costain

  • If we have transparency over the process, then it should flow through into restaurants and processed foods.
  • Sainsbury’s pay so much attention to their supply chain for source of meat as it proves cost effective to do this when there is a price to reflect higher welfare food i.e. consumer demand


Angela Smith MP

  • It would be simpler to start with primary products but then move onto the more complex products. If you have a chocolate bar that has dried milk powder in it do you label that? The bar may have been made in different countries.

Lord Blencathra

  • How did this work out when we labelled eggs? Did the caged eggs just end up pushed into processed foods? I presume all the caged eggs went into cakes and bread and other processed products.


Gudrun Ravetz

  • Cost is always important but the public is willing to pay more for higher welfare if they are informed about it.


John Fiswick, (BVA President)

  • Ensure that labelling of production labelling is evidence based and we avoid emotive language.


Lord Trees

  • Welfare outcomes not just inputs are necessary – but not as easy to obtain or understand so research should be on going.
  • Role of social sciences in consumer labelling design needs to considered.
  • Current assurance schemes have a lot to offer and can be expanded.
  • How to ensure labels are accurate farm-to-fork – technology many offer some solutions?
  • The WTO trade rules will allow labelling so it is not a barrier to trade



Part 2 – Slaughter Labelling


Phil Hadley

  • Much work done by the AHDB on welfare at slaughter for sheep.
  • 35% of all sheep sector is exported, 95% of this goes to Europe and a vast majority goes to France. Germany is of interest and last week we got a licence to export to Saudi Arabia. This is very important to the UK sector and the majority of growth has been there.
  • Levy at slaughter is paid mostly by producer and partly by the processor. Not specific to method of slaughter.
  • Gradual decline of sheep consumption ~3.5kg/person as young consumers less likely to buy. AHDB looking at more convenient cuts of meat to tackle this.
  • AHDB has conducted consumer attitude surveys to stun/non-stun and welfare at slaughter, public and academic surveys.
  • AHDB videos made to show stun, non-stun, post-cut-stun slaughter to raise awareness and tackle poor welfare videos that get out online.
  • Seeking industry responses to a voluntary labelling scheme currently, in particular getting an industry response. Previously there wasn’t a clear outcome so they are revisiting again.
  • Survey mentioned by APGAW is not indicative –less than 1% of respondents mentioned welfare when there was not a prompted question.
  • Need to demonstrate recovery from stunning so more research should be done around slaughter methods in general.
  • Method of Slaughter labelling would need a risk impact assessment.


Shimon Cohen (Shechita UK)

  • Dispute 72% statistic quoted in agenda as this was only after the respondent was prompted.
  • Jewish community invented food labelling – Kosher is everywhere and every ingredient is labelled.
  • Sainsbury’s has 27 types of meat in one pie so how can be it be known how every one was produced and slaughtered?
  • Labelling using stun/ non-stun is a deception.
  • Mechanical stun before slaughter is an aggressive invasive action that does not act in the interests of animal welfare, arose from a need to speed up production
  • Support labelling of all slaughter types as how do you know which method is better – captive bolt shot, electrocuted, gassed etc
  • Recommend survey of consumers to see if they actually want this


Ffinlo Costain (Farmwel)

  • Farmwel has proposed a numbering system which consists of 12 Defra approved methods of slaughter
  • Previously labelling arguments have been on stun Vs non-stun but were not getting anywhere. This system using the 12 numbers is non-discriminatory
  • Slaughter might not be mentioned by many respondents in surveys until prompted as this is something people don’t want to think about
  • There are issues with many slaughter methods, so labelling will help us improve these as well. This is not an argument of religious slaughter.
  • A 12-point system won’t be for people to use on a daily basis but it will provide the tools to drive standards.
  • There are low levels of innovation in the slaughter sector so hope that this will help boost this.
  • Important to have citizen facing information so that it can drive standards but it should be part of a wider


Rizvan Khalid, (EuroLambs Halal)

  • Meat Science degree from Bristol
  • Food exports of lamb – halal market fundamentally underpins the lamb market
  • Default method of slaughter is pre-stun halal, but allow that those that want non-stun
  • Slaughter is an emotive subject and gets much media coverage. Survey used animated slaughter scene as otherwise the blood distracts viewers.
  • Misuse of footage of post-death convulsions as evidence for welfare problems is not helpful.
  • Animal welfare in Islam is a very important issue.
  • In survey, welfare ranked highly for Halal consumers (who are mostly young millennials)
  • Would mis-stuns be labelled as that is a welfare issue?
  • Need nuance system of labelling as those halal consumers who want recoverable stun also need the greater detail than Stun Vs Non Stun.


Gudrun Ravetz (BVA)

  • BVA believes all animals should be stunned.
  • BVA also looking at ineffective stuns. Science tells us that an effective stun is the best method.
  • Should labelling be typographically and visually controlled so that this cannot influence consumer’s perception.
  • Block chain technology might mean that paper labels a thing of past in 5 years. So investigate options for technology as that could provide solutions.
  • Labelling needs to be clear and consistent and avoid using words which are not evidence based.


David Bowles (RSPCA)

  • There is a problem with the limited amount of information available to consumers – especially owing to the increase in non-stun slaughter in chickens and sheep. There has been a strong increase in non stun which does not match the target audience population.
  • Where is this extra meat going? If they are going for not religious community consumption, then this is illegal.
  • Lancashire council debate on labelling in schools a good example of a need to have this discussion.
  • The 12 different indicators of slaughter would be difficult for the public to understand and not very helpful so the RSPCA would not support this.


Richard Griffiths (BPC)

  • Method of production slaughter labelling is discriminatory – we should move back towards the welfare outcomes as a measure of success of the slaughter method.
  • We need a debate about what those welfare outcomes would be and these would likely be applicable across all groups.


Nick Allen (BMPA)

  • Many other types of stress occur in the chain therefore welfare outcomes should be the focus. When an animal is sent to slaughter the animal has to be rounded up, loaded into transport, mixed with other animals with which it is not familiar and then all the other processes at the abattoir. Why focus on just a few second at point of slaughter?


Rizvan Khalid

  • Muslims consume 65% chicken, 30% sheep, 5% beef so increase in sheep non stun numbers are scare mongering.
  • We don’t think that labelling will reduce the non stun numbers – it may well lead to an increase in those products.


Lord Trees

  • There has been a doubling of non-stun slaughter in the last 6 years.


Naved Syed (Abattoir owner)

  • In non-stun we have to use Reg 1099, which means that we have to pull the animals out of the pen to restrain them and this is cruel. There are deliberate mechanisms to make the slaughter slower.
  • NFU and others have agreed this is poor welfare. Defra are only interested in compliance with regulations and ‘not concerned for welfare’improvements.


Dr. Phil Hadley

  • Revisiting restraint at point of slaughter is something the Government could look at. The AHDB have a paper on this. Individual handling of sheep has poor welfare outcomes.


Muhammad Saleem (EU council of Halal consumers)

  • An ongoing survey has show that Muslims prefer non-stun. Labelling could drive up the demand.
  • Lancashire council debate is not about animal welfare but a political stunt.


Angela Smith MP

  • Is it about a right to know for the consumer? Is it about standards? Is it about driving market change?
  • Labelling does not negate our responsibility to ensure that animal welfare standards are high. Relying on consumer choice to drive change might allow the Government not to hold up their side of the responsibility when they should properly enforce those standards regardless.


John Fishwick.

  • Non-stun Vs Stun slaughter is not about religious Vs non-religious slaughter.
  • There needs to be clear labelling for those who don’t want to eat non-stun



  • APGAW political members will consider how to get some movement on this issue and will report back to attendees.


Summary points:

  • Not helpful to over simplify system. Stun Vs non-stun label was not accepted by all attendees.
  • Wider welfare outcomes as an alternative to input/slaughter method
  • Need to recognise foods entering catering sector and ingredients, although acknowledge that this may have to be introduced gradually.
  • Egg sector held up as good example of a simple supply chain and successful labelling – how can we use this model to ensure success for more complex supply chains.
  • Labelling needed to improve transparency as a moral good; labelling to allow the market to drive changes but also there is a role for Government in setting standards.


Action points: APGAW will consider the wider welfare outcomes at slaughter in due course with a small working group.