Vet highlights imporatance of food assurance schemes

The importance of food assurance schemes and their future were stressed by University of Bristol veterinary surgeon David Main at the Animal Welfare Foundation Discussion Forum (AWFDF) on Monday (13 May).

Main said that due to the many different food assurance labels, consumers are often confused with information. He claimed there was a “myriad” of animal welfare claims and that these needed to be more clear.

Main and University of Bristol have worked on welfare outcomes and assurance schemes alongside Freedom Food and the Soil Association on a scheme called the AssureWel project.

“As part of that project we’ve been promoting the uptake of welfare outcome assessments into the different industry sectors. Where appropriate, we’ve been collaborating with the Red Tractor assurance scheme to help them implement a welfare outcome,” he said.

He added that they had been helping Red Tractor introduce welfare outcomes for the pig sector into their schemes.

“The industry has decided to use vets to do the assessments as part of their routine quarterly vet visit. Red Tractor is requiring that and it’s a hugely positive thing, because then the vet and the producer can have a conversation about welfare outcomes.

“For pigs, especially with things like tail-biting, it is very valuable for the producer and the farmer to have that conversation,” he said.

Main further stated that, in terms of challenges, the industry has been “very proactive and really engaging”, which is hugely important.

“What the consumer needs and expects is that the product is safe and that the animal welfare is being catered for. The Red Tractor Scheme, for example, does that very well and this adaption is a way to deliver that improvement. The consumer should expect that the Red Tractor scheme is looking at animals and that they’re trying to deliver welfare improvements,” he added.