Norfolk farms among the most animal welfare-friendly in the UK, say RSPCA assessors
PUBLISHED: 13:21 07 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:30 07 November 2019
Norfolk has been hailed as one of the UK's most farm animal-friendly counties, hosting the second highest number of high-welfare RSPCA Assured businesses in the country.
The RSPCA's ethical farm assurance and food labelling scheme, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, has 391 members in Norfolk - second only to Yorkshire with 416, while Suffolk is in third place with 181.
Norfolk-based RSPCA Assured farm assessor Mark Robertson said the high proportion of assured farms should perhaps not come as a surprise in a county with such a strong agricultural heritage, but "nonetheless it's something to be really proud of".
"The standards our pig and poultry members in Norfolk have to meet to qualify for the RSPCA Assured scheme are really tough," he said. "And it is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our Norfolk farmers that the vast majority of UK free range and barn egg producers, and one fifth of pig farmers, are now RSPCA Assured certified."
North Norfolk pig farmer Andrew Summers has been a member of the RSPCA Assured scheme since it started 25 years ago, during which time his high-welfare herd of breeding sows has grown from 150 to 630 animals.
"The RSPCA standards help me to rear happy, healthy pigs and I firmly believe that if you look after pigs well, they will look after you," he said "At the end of the day you don't work in this business to make big money - you have to enjoy it. And seeing my pigs happy and thriving brings me pleasure every day."
RSPCA Assured says it now has nearly 1,300 different labelled products, with the amount of food meeting the animal welfare criteria of the scheme increasing by nearly 25% between 2016 and 2018.
Four years after it was re-branded from its previous name of Freedom Food, the RSPCA Assured brand has achieved 58% recognition amongst its target market of young professionals and families, according to the organisation's market research.
Mr Robertson added: "Despite a difficult political backdrop of uncertainty for the food and farming industry, these results continue to reflect the growing trend for ethical food in Norfolk and throughout the UK, and are further reassurance that people are standing firm by farm animal welfare.
"The RSPCA set the scheme up in 1994 with the aim of improving the welfare of as many farm animals as possible. 25 years on and with nearly 25 million animals - plus millions of fish - now being farmed under the RSPCA Assured scheme, we're really proud of what we've achieved."