At present, in Canada, consumers do not have enough information under the Food Labelling regulations to consider animal welfare factors when buying animal products (meat, cheese, milk, butter, eggs) or processed food containing animal ingredients. While some companies include ‘method of production’ information on their packaging such as “free run” or “free range”, others do not. There is consequently no uniformity between products, preventing consumers from making fully informed purchase decisions. Transparency and consistency regarding the method of production of animal products and food containing animal ingredients are thus areas in great need of attention and development.
As a group representing concerned consumers from across Canada, CETFA is advocating for the following:
– Commodity-specific requirements regarding the method of production should be mandatory, in the short term, on the label of all animal products, and, in the long term, be also included on the label of processed food containing animal ingredients.
– The veracity of the method of production labelling should also be assessed (certified) by government or an independent third party to ensure that the labels are meaningful and can be trusted – another area in need of attention and development.
– ‘Method of production’ label information should be simple to understand and clear and convey the main characteristic of the production system to allow the consumer to know how the animals were housed. For example, eggs could be labelled ‘eggs from caged hens’, ‘barn eggs’ or ‘free range eggs’. Such labelling would help customers who are more and more concerned about animal welfare to make informed choices, and be fair to producers who are investing in higher welfare systems.
– A mandatory “ritually killed: animals not stunned prior to slaughter” label should also be present for all products from animals killed without prior stunning, as these products correspond both to a growing number of products and to a growing concern by consumers.
In addition, CETFA believes that food labelling policies regarding misrepresentation (false or misleading labelling or advertising) need to address misrepresentation of methods of production for animal products and animal ingredients. Presently, producers may freely use a variety of terms, such as “farm fresh”, “animal-friendly”, or “quality assured”, when there are no standards to compare the production methods to, and no inspections to assess the claims. Producers should be prohibited from using method of production labels others than those that would be officially recognized under the Food Labelling regulations.
In the same vein, images (photos, drawings, etc.) of animals, farms or farmers in the countryside, suggesting that the food sold comes from animals who have been farmed outdoors (implying higher welfare standards) whereas in reality the animals have been farmed intensively with poor welfare standards, should be prohibited.