The voluntary three-tier labelling scheme features three green-coloured hearts denoting the welfare conditions the pig-turned-pork was raised in. If all three hearts are fully green, this means the pig has been raised in the highest possibly welfare standards, but if only one heart is green, the welfare standards are deemed to be still high.
The new scheme is expected to be on packs of pork in Denmark by May 2017.
Per Olsen, a veterinary policy officer at the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, said the label was developed to “promote market-driven animal welfare and provide consumer with better information on welfare”.
In a presentation to the media, Olsen pointed to research carried out by TNS Gallup for the Danish Agriculture and Council in 2016, which found 70% of Danes are conscious of animal welfare and think about it frequently. The study found welfare plays, what Olsen called, a “major role” in purchasing decisions. However, issues like high prices and a lack of clear on-pack label information deterred consumers from buying products with higher welfare standards.
The study also found 60% of consumers wanted enhanced clarity on welfare labelling, and the scheme has made efforts to deliver this. Basic aspects for the scheme rule that pigs must have intact tails, so no tail docking; farmers must give fresh straw to pigs every day for nesting; sows must be loose-housed; and pigs should not be transported more than eight hours prior to slaughter.
To achieve the full three-tier label, famers must wean piglets at 28 days, provide free-range farrowing areas and have outdoor areas for piglets and finishers (pigs ready for slaughter).
Why has Denmark launched the scheme?
Denmark’s pork industry came together to work on a new high-welfare labelling scheme, following mounting pressure from the government and animal rights’ groups to improve welfare standards. An agreement made between politicians, lobbyists and industry stakeholders at a welfare summit in 2014 formalised key conditions to improve welfare, while simultaneously safeguarding growth in the pig sector. This led to the creation of the three-tier welfare label that will be seen across Danish retail stores in May 2017.
Coop opts out of scheme
The scheme has been widely adopted by the Danish industry, yet the country’s largest retailer, Coop, which retains a 37% share of the market, has refused to adopt to the scheme.
A spokesman told this site the retailer believed the official government-backed scheme was “whitewashing” welfare. Coop has now launched its own welfare label that covers pork, poultry, eggs, beef and dairy products.
“We see it as our task to consumer advocacy,” said Coop CEO Jens Visholm in a press statement on the retailer’s newly-launched welfare scheme.
Jens said the retailer’s own labelling system is “different” to the government-backed one, and would create a “noticeable and significant improvement in animal welfare”.