Mandatory labelling of food products: October 2023

Dear Constituent,

Thank you for your email.

I note your concerns about caged farm animals and labelling of food products, however, I understand that my ministerial colleagues do not believe that the time is right to consult on cage reforms. The market is already driving the move away from using cages for laying hen production, and that the proportion of eggs from caged hens has steadily decreased from 47 per cent of total throughput in Q4 of 2017 to 21 per cent in Q1 of 2023.

The Government ran a call for evidence in 2021 to gather data on the impacts of different types of labelling reforms for animal welfare. I am aware that over 1,600 responses were received and the evidence suggested that there is public appetite for improved welfare labelling. However, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) does not consider the time is right to consult on proposals to reform labelling for animal welfare.

The Government will continue to work with the sector to maintain and enhance high standards of welfare. For example, the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway will prioritise areas for additional improvement in the health and welfare for pigs, cattle, sheep and poultry. I know that one of the Government’s priorities for the pathway includes supporting producers to transition away from confinement systems. More broadly, the Government will continue to improve biosecurity to control endemic diseases, and on meat chickens, producers are being encouraged to implement the Better Chicken commitment which would require the use of slower growing breeds and lower stocking densities. Ministers also intend to continue working with industry to explore how we can harness the market to improve food information for consumers and raise animal welfare standards.

As part of this, Defra will continue to gather evidence on the impacts of wide range of market interventions, as well as how they would align with wider labelling proposals such as eco-labelling.

In my view, the Government has a strong record on animal welfare improvements through a diverse range of measures introduced in recent years and further details are set out here:

Thank you once again for contacting me.