Trying to eat an ethical diet can leave consumers very confused about what choices to make. Is organic better than free range? What’s the value of locally sourced produce? The Compassionate Food Guide from Compassion in World Farming breaks down these terms so that you can make a more informed choice about what to eat.

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With a focus on higher animal welfare, the guide includes information on some of the most well known labelling schemes, including the Soil Association, RSPCA Freedom Food and the British Lion Quality Code of Practice.

The guide is broken down into eight categories and covers dairy, eggs, chicken, pork, beef, lamb, turkey and salmon. For each category, you’ll find explanations of seven key assurance schemes alongside a sliding scale, which shows how their minimum standards measure up in terms of animal welfare.

According to the Farm Animal Welfare Council, good farm animal welfare is based on ‘Five Freedoms’:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst.
  • Freedom from discomfort.
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease.
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour.
  • Freedom from fear and distress.

Each section in the guide also includes issues that are specific to that product. For instance, you may have seen the terms ‘outdoor bred’ and ‘outdoor reared’ on pork products or ‘pasture reared’ on beef ­– the guide explains all of these and more.

Although animal welfare is only one aspect of a farming system, the benefits can reach much further than the animal’s wellbeing. Factory farming, often responsible for raising animals in intensive conditions, is also dependent on vast quantities of resources, many of which have damaging impacts on our health and the environment. These, however, are not factored into the cost of the produce that you see on the shelf.

As is often the case, buying higher welfare food can be more expensive, which is why this guide is intended to show the differences between the labels. This way you can make an informed choice that suits your budget. Visit www.ciwf.org.uk to download your free copy.

Photograph: Steph French

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