Animal welfare at forefront

Farmers and producers seem to be growing more conscious about animal welfare, said the RSPCA.

According to the charity, requests for its Freedom Food scheme have hit the roof over the last couple of months. There were 115 requests in July alone, and 68 applications from pig producers in just one month.

Freedom Food marketing controller John Akehurst said: "The fact that we have seen such a dramatic uptake in the scheme is very encouraging. There is a very clear demand for higher welfare foods, both from retailers and consumers, and these findings also show that there is ample opportunity for continued growth within the market."

The membership scheme was started in 1994 and includes farms, hauliers, processors, packers and abattoirs who receive yearly inspections from RSPCA farm livestock officers on welfare standards.

Akehurst added: "This is great news for farm animal welfare and we hope the number of animals under Freedom Food will continue to leap forward as consumer demand rises and more farmers see the benefits inherent in adopting the scheme."

The RSPCA claim that by becoming a member of Freedom Foods, farmers and producers can add value to produce, strengthen credibility in the industry and bring about benefits to business.