How to choose the best animal welfare

The idyllic pictures and language on meat and dairy packaging can make it hard to know what standard of welfare you’re really supporting.

Thanks to some high-profile campaigns about battery hens, eggs are now legally required to be labelled with their welfare standard: caged, barn, free range or organic. The same isn’t true of meat and dairy labels, which are still free to mislead or confuse consumers about the truth of animals' lives on the farm.

Organic always means…

Here’s how Soil Association organic farmers give their animals the happiest, most natural lives possible.

Truly free to roam

Organic animals must have constant, easy daytime access (weather permitting!) to clean organic pasture.

The average organic cow spends over two weeks longer outside a year than a free-range cow. And because there are no rules about how many exits must be provided from sheds containing up to 16,000 birds, some so-called ‘free-range’ chickens never go out at all.

More space, inside and out

pared with free range, Soil Association-certified organic hens enjoy 50% more space inside their barns. Outside, every organic hen has more than double the space.

Read our article about free range vs. organic eggs


Choosing the best animal welfare is easy once you know what you’re looking for. The Soil Association organic stamp (like you’ll find on all Riverford’s eggs, dairy and meat) guarantees better welfare than any other system – even free range!

No mutilation

Organic farming strictly forbids any painful mutilations. Our animals will never suffer:

  • Tail docking. 84% of UK pigs have their tails cut off, to stop other bored, unhappy pigs from biting them.
  • Nose-ringing. Non-organic pigs can have their sensitive noses pierced with rings to prevent natural rooting behaviours.
  • Debeaking, common even in free range. To prevent stressed hens from pecking each other, beaks are cut with infrared burners – without anaesthetic.

Rich natural diet

Although genetically modified (GM) plants are only permitted to be grown in research centres in the UK, over a million tonnes of GM crops (mostly maize and soya) are imported every year to feed non-organic animals.

Organic animals enjoy a 100% organic diet, mostly foraged from the pasture.

No routine antibiotics

Farm animals now account for two-thirds of all antibiotics in the EU, used to prevent disease in poor conditions. This overuse is contributing to the rise in antibiotic-resistant diseases.

Instead of overusing antibiotics, organic farmers keep their animals in outstanding conditions – preventing disease the natural way, through clean housing, exercise and good food.

Riverford’s organic welfare

All Riverford’s meat, eggs and dairy are certified organic by the Soil Association, and come from small-scale farmers we know and trust to uphold these standards really well.

Meet our lamb farmer, David:

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Choose the best animal welfare. Choose Riverford.

We source our organic meat from a small group of Soil Association-certified West Country farmers, for outstanding welfare you can trust.

Choose from a wide selection of cuts, prepared in our own butchery, and top up with organic veg, dairy, drinks and more. Delivery is free; no need to be home.

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© 2019 Riverford Organic Farmers Ltd