Lidl is adding “method of production” labels to all its fresh chicken products to help customers “make more informed decisions”.
The detail will be similar to that found on egg packaging, with information on five different types of farming system, including “indoor” and “British free range”.
But some campaigners claimed the new scheme “shies away from the truth”.
Lidl’s trial follows research showing that 71% of shoppers want retailers to offer more transparent information on packaging. “With method of production labelling in place for a number of years on egg packaging, it makes sense to us to apply the same concept to meat products,” said chief commercial officer Ryan McDonnell. “It’s a topic that has been discussed extensively across the industry.”
Campaigners want details of the method of production to be compulsory on all meat and dairy products. Last year, Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) said consumers were being “left in the dark” about how animals are reared: “More than 70% of the animals raised in the UK each year are factory farmed but these inhumane farming practices are hidden behind closed doors, out of public view.”
Retailers have also been criticised for misleading shoppers. In April, an investigation by Which? showed how UK retailers were luring shoppers into buying intensively-reared chicken by using ambiguous language on the packaging.
Lidl was using the phrase “reared with care”, for example, which does not have any legal definition when applied to animal welfare. The supermarket was also using a “self-designed ‘higher welfare’ logo”, Which? found, whilst Aldi labelled some of its chicken “higher welfare”.
The report reads: “While not technically inaccurate – as the chicken from these supermarkets is Red Tractor certified and reared using natural light, which is above EU and British standards – these supermarkets are not noticeably exceeding the standards offered by any of the other supermarkets with the exception of Iceland.”
The RSPCA published similar findings in February. It also discovered that higher welfare chicken was being put in less prominent positions on shelves, whilst nearly all the price promotions were focused on intensively-reared chicken.
The RSPCA welcomed Lidl’s new trial. CIWF was also positive, but said the scheme should go further. “They have shied away from telling consumers the unvarnished truth,” said CIWF chief policy advisor Peter Stevenson in an interview with the Times. “Factory farmed chickens are labelled ‘indoor’ – a term such as ‘intensive indoor’ would have given consumers a more accurate picture.”
Lidl introduced a similar labelling scheme in Germany last year, which has led to wide-scale adoption across the industry.
Lidl will use the following labels on all its fresh chicken:
- Indoor: Birds are reared outside the UK to legal housing requirements
- British Indoor: Birds live in safe, comfortable housing with natural daylight, bales, perches and pecking objects
- British Indoor: Birds live in housing with more space to exhibit natural behaviour; with natural daylight and environmental enrichment
- British Free Range: Birds live in safe, comfortable housing with access to the outdoors for a minimum of eight hours a day
- British Organic: Birds have access to large outdoor ranges, with smaller flock sizes and a GM free diet