FAWC Report On Farm Welfare: Examples Of Existing Labelling Schemes

By the Farm Animal Welfare Council - This article is part of a report on labelling in relation to the welfare provenance of livestock products. This Report concentrates on the purpose and nature of labelling and its justification, whether such labelling should be voluntary or mandatory, and how best to convey relevant information.
calendar icon 2 June 2006
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FAWC Report On Farm Welfare - By the Farm Animal Welfare Council - This article is part seven of a report on labelling in relation to the welfare provenance of livestock products. This Report concentrates on the purpose and nature of labelling and its justification, whether such labelling should be voluntary or mandatory, and how best to convey relevant information.


  1. The European Eco-label (flower symbol) was launched in 1992 and provides a good example of an initiative which is voluntary in terms of participation by businesses but is compulsory in terms of administration by member states. The European Eco-labelling Regulations require member states to set up Competent Bodies to administer the scheme, which applies to goods and services (excluding food, drink and pharmaceuticals) that achieve high environmental standards. These criteria, developed in consultation with industry and other interested parties, apply to every stage of the product’s life, from manufacture through to disposal, and must be approved by the member states and the European Commission before the label can be used on a product.

  2. The Eco-label is subject to independent certification and operates in the 25 member states as well as in Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein – a potential consumer base of more than 450 million people. The UK was the first country to issue the ‘flower label’ for a product and has invested over £5million in running and promoting the scheme. Defra is the Competent Body for administering the scheme in the UK.

  3. The term ‘green label’ is now being used to apply to labels or logos with a recognisable environmental or sustainability strand ranging from protection of natural resources, biodiversity and habitat to policies on packaging, waste management and recycling. The International Standards Organisation (ISO) has developed a classification system for environmental product claims and labels. In August 2005 the Global Ecolabelling Network approved the concept of developing an International Co-ordinated Ecolabelling system and proposals include the development of 12 harmonised or core criteria.

    Organic Labelling

  4. The rules that govern the labelling of organic foods are set out in Regulation EC 2092/91. Organic farming is characterised by the emphasis placed on the farming system as well as the legal framework of production standards and inspection. 5. The word “organic” can be used on food products only if they are produced according to regulations, and any operator who produces, prepares, stores or imports from outside the EU must be certified by an approved organisation. Currently there are 10 Organic Certification bodies in the UK. An organic product should contain 100% organic agricultural ingredients. In processed food products where an ingredient is not available in organic form up to 5% of certain non-organic food ingredients can be included following authorisation by Defra or where these are authorised by the Compendium of UK Organic Standards. There are similar requirements for foods which contain 70-95% of organic ingredients; however the word organic appears only in the ingredients list and as a description on the front label to show the percentage of ingredients which are organic. There is no requirement to display a logo, but the certification number must be used in the labelling of certified organic products (eg “Organic Certification: UK 4”).

    Freedom Food Scheme

  5. The Freedom Food Scheme was set up by the RSPCA in 1994 as an independent farm assurance and food labelling scheme with explicit focus on animal welfare. Scheme members are required to implement the RSPCA’s species-specific welfare standards which apply to both indoor and outdoor systems. Freedom Food Standards are integrated across the food chain from birth to the point of slaughter. The Freedom Food certification mark can only be used on products that have been produced through a supply chain that has been approved by Freedom Food.

    Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

  6. The MSC is an independent, global, non-profit organisation which was set up to find a solution to the problem of overfishing. It is dedicated to wild seafood sustainability and is not a welfare organisation. It was first established by Unilever and WWF, the international conservation organisation, in 1997. In 1999 MSC became fully independent from both organisations and is currently funded by a wide range of organisations including charitable foundations and corporate organisations around the world.

  7. The MSC has set an internationally recognised environmental standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries. It is based on healthy fish stocks, a thriving marine environment and effective management. The MSC logo appears on seafood in supermarkets and restaurants in 25 countries.


  8. LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) is a small national charity, set up in 1991, to develop an environmentally sensitive system of farming, which is realistic and achievable for the majority of farmers. LEAF is the primary organisations responsible for promoting Integrated Farm Management through its network of demonstration farms and the provision of management tools to assist in delivering sustainable farming.

  9. The LEAF Marque is a certification standard for farmers and growers. Those farmers who are certified have been independently inspected by food certification organisations licensed by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). The LEAF Marque provides the consumer with the assurance that the producer operates their business and production processes to the LEAF Integrated Farm Management principles and to high environmental standards.


  10. The fairtrade label applies mainly to imported products and targets consumers in developed countries and producers in developing countries. The criteria and requirements for the fair trade label are set by the Fair Trade Labelling organisations (FLOs). FLO International, the world-wide fair-trade standard-setting and certification organisation of 17 national labelling organisations national initiatives, was set up in 1997 to co-ordinate national fair-trade initiatives, develop international criteria for each product and monitor producer and trader compliance with fair-trade criteria. At present these criteria do not cover livestock products. In order to use the label, each link in the fair-trade chain has to be approved by the FLO or its national counterpart. FLO works with a network of independent inspectors who check on compliance with the criteria. The need for a single logo has been identified in the interest of clarity and transparency and FLO has started harmonising the different labels into one fair-trade certification mark which will be replacing existing labels in different countries on a demand-led basis.

    The Red Tractor mark

  11. The Red Tractor mark is an industry owned mark which is used at retail level to indicate food that has been produced in accordance with standards laid down in qualifying British food assurance schemes or equivalent. The scheme covers output for beef, lamb, pork, chicken, dairy, cereals, fruit and vegetables. Its use is administered by Assured Food Standards – a private company that was set up for that purpose. Food assurance schemes are private initiatives which seek to assure buyers in the food chain, and consumers, that certain standards of food safety, hygiene, and animal welfare, and to a lesser extent environmental protection have been observed during the production process. Membership of assurance schemes is voluntary and require participants to be audited by independent inspectors every twelve to eighteen months.

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Source: Farm Animal Welfare Council - June 2006
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