‘Free range’ term no guarantee of good animal welfare
Consumers with an interest in humanely farmed meat and eggs run the risk of being misled by the term ‘free range’, as ‘free range’ does not necessarily mean good animal welfare.
SPCA Blue Tick Business Unit Manager Ségolène de Fontenay says the term ‘free-range’ has no formal definition, and is nothing more than a ‘marketing’ term.
“There is a groundswell of conscious consumers who care about methods of food production and who are choosing humanely farmed produce. These consumers routinely seek out ‘free range’ products, with an understanding that the animals have roamed free, rather than being cooped up in cages.
“Free range is only a style of farming, when you see ‘free range’ it is important to question by what measure, if any, the product has been certified as ‘free range’. If it isn’t backed by an audit with an independent certification, there is not reliable way of checking whether it was actually ‘free-range’ with access to outdoors and high animal welfare, and you could be paying more for that product than you should be,” she says.
“There are no legal definitions of any farming methods in New Zealand so unless farms are independently audited, and checked regularly against specified standards, there will always be room for poor animal welfare and inaccurate marketing terms.
“The terms “free-to-roam”, “free-range” or “free-farmed” are no guarantee of good animal welfare without independent auditing and a third party trusted certification mark,” says de Fontenay.
“Consumers who want to be sure their food have been produced to high animal welfare standards should look for the SPCA Blue Tick logo. The SPCA Blue Tick standards
can be trusted as it is backed by independent auditors AsureQuality, who conduct regular, and spot audits without notice, so consumers (and SPCA Blue Tick farmers) know there are high animal welfare standards.
“We are in regular contact with our farmers and auditors to guarantee they are farming humanely according to our stringent standards.
“SPCA Blue Tick standards cover an animal's needs, going well beyond the bare minimum that the law requires. The Accreditation standards - put together by a Committee of animal welfare experts - also incorporate current legislation, codes of practice, codes of welfare, scientific research, veterinary advice, and practical farm experience,” she adds.
Additionally, the SPCA Blue Tick standards also account for responsible animal management, skilled stockmanship, environmental design, and humane handling and transport.
“Consumers can buy any farmed product
which carries the SPCA Blue Tick logo with confidence, knowing that their food was humanely produced. The same simply cannot be said for products that merely claim to be ‘free range’. That term is no guarantee of good animal welfare but simply a marketing term,” she says.
As part of this transparent process, the farming standards applied by farmers and auditors are available for consumers to download from the SPCA Blue Tick website.
“The SPCA Blue Tick Accreditation scheme is actively promoting cage-free farming so by purchasing SPCA Blue Tick products
consumers are helping to free farm animals from cages, and ensure their high animal welfare” she concludes.
Ségolène de Fontenay
SPCA Blue Tick Business Unit Manager