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Agriculture: Pig and Poultry Products

House of Lords written question – answered on 21st December 2011.

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Photo of Lord Laird Lord Laird UUP

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the major differences in the United Kingdom and European Union baselines in chicken and pig welfare standards; what are the reasons for those differences; whether they represent a competitive disadvantage to the United Kingdom; and whether they will take steps to ensure that pork on sale in the United Kingdom is labelled according to its welfare provenance.

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Council Directive 2007/43 came into force in 2010 and has provided a harmonised approach to most aspects of meat chicken production across the EU. There is scope within the Directive for Member States to set a maximum stocking density of up to 42kg/r2. The legal maximum stocking density has been set in Great Britain at 39 kg/m2, a decision made on animal welfare grounds. The majority of the UK industry continues to rear meat chickens to Red Tractor standards which set a maximum stocking density of 38 kg/m2. The impact of the Directive on the competitiveness of the broiler industry in Great Britain will be assessed as part of the post implementation review.

On pigs, the UK unilaterally banned sow stalls in 1999 on welfare grounds, following all-party support. Similar EU rules will mean that the rest of Europe will ban sow stalls by 2013, which will help to provide a more level playing field for UK producers.

If any Member State were to seek an extension to the 2013 sow stall ban, the UK would strongly oppose it. We recognise any extension would disadvantage UK producers who have invested heavily in converting to alternative systems. We continue to urge the Commission to learn lessons from the 2012 laying hen conventional cage ban, so that our pig industry is protected in 2013.

There are many routes to educate consumers, one of which could be the use of a label to allow consumers to make informed purchases. However, due to the difficulty in defining animal welfare, the array of labels already on products may not be the most effective route to inform consumers.

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