Sourcing better meat, fish and dairy

Kale Yeah! Kitchens encourages caterers to source higher welfare meat, fish and dairy. Read our guide and find out what we mean by "Better" and "Best" standards and why they're important.

11 Oct 2021

Introduction

Kale Yeah! Kitchens has been designed to encourage caterers to serve less and source better meat, fish and dairy.   

As caterers move from Level 1 up to 5, they source progressivly greater proportions of "Better" and "Best" meat, fish and dairy. The further they go, the greater the benefits to the environment and farm animal welfare.

"Better" and "Best" standards

Friends of the Earth’s definitions of British and European accreditations are as follows:  

Best: 

  • Soil Association Organic 
  • EU Free Range 
  • EU Organic 
  • Organic Farmers & Growers 
  • Pasture for Life 
  • RSPCA Assured Free Range 
  • Red Tractor Free Range 
  • Label Rouge (chicken only) 
  • See below for fish standards.

Better: 

  • RSPCA Assured (indoor-produced) 
  • Pasture Promise (milk)
  • LEAF Marque 
  • Outdoor reared (pigs) 
  • Outdoor bred (pigs) 
  • Red Tractor Indoor Enhanced Welfare (chicken) 
  • See below for fish standards.

According to the RSPCA, there's ample supply of RSPCA Assured eggs, pork and trout. The RSPCA Assured team is happy to speak with caterers in confidence regarding suppliers and availability. Please let us know if you would like us to put you in touch.

For a detailed guide to sourcing better meat and dairy across eight impact areas, download Eating Better’s Sourcing Better Framework. 

Summary of Basic standards

Basic standards are the minimum standards that will be accepted for becoming a Level 1 Kale Yeah! Kitchen. Friends of the Earth does not endorse these labels or accept them as a guarantee of good environmental or animal welfare standards. 

  • Red Tractor Assured 
  • Farm Assured Welsh Livestock 
  • Quality Meat Scotland 
  • Farm Quality Assurance Scheme Northern Ireland 
  • AHDB Beef and Lamb 
  • British Poultry Council Duck Assurance Scheme 
  • SAI Global/EFSIS Assured Farm Venison Standard 
  • British Quality Assured Pork Standard 
  • Quality British Turkey. 

The problem with pork, chicken and fish

When it comes to meat, beef and lamb are often highlighted as the major contributors to environmental damage, due to how their methane emissions fuel climate breakdown. However globally, chickens and fish make up the vast majority of animals farmed for food, and pork has increased rapidly too. For environmental as well as animal welfare reasons, reducing the consumption of beef and lamb but eating more intensively produced chicken, pork and fish is not the answer. 

Chicken 

Chicken production is a cause of serious environmental problems including pollution, water scarcity and deforestation: 

  • Vast amounts of soya is imported into the UK and EU and fed to farmed chickens. This is fueling deforestation in the Cerrado and Amazon regions in South America.   
  • Industrial chicken production emits the highly potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide as well as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia. 
  • Greenhouse gas emissions per gram of protein from poultry are more than six times greater than for pulses such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas. 

More than 70% of chickens raised for meat globally are farmed in intensive systems. 

Fast-growing breeds are used, with the birds reaching slaughter weight in less than 6 weeks. This unnaturally rapid growth causes diseases, suffering and fatalities. 

  • Being raised in overcrowded, dimly lit sheds with no access to the outside denies chickens the ability to exhibit natural behaviours, which severely compromises their physical and mental welfare. 
  • They are subjected to mutilations such as beak-trimming in order to prevent injuries caused by aggressive pecking in cramped conditions. 
  • Catching, transport and the practice of shackling at slaughter also cause severe pain and distress. 

The Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) is a collaborative initiative launched by animal welfare organisations to improve the welfare of chickens farmed for meat by 2026. Caterers participating in Kale Yeah! Kitchens are required to sign up to the BCC and work with their suppliers to ensure standards are improved by the deadline. 

Pork

Although the direct climate impact of pork production is lower than that of beef and lamb, pig farming has other serious environmental, and human health, impacts: 

  • Untreated pig slurry contains high levels of dangerous toxins that kill wildlife and pollute air, water, and soil. 
  • Nitrates and phosphates can leach into waterways and be washed out to sea causing algal blooms, which choke the oxygen supply and asphyxiate all marine life.  
  • Factory farmed pigs are fed imported grains and soya, often GM, grown in areas cleared of Cerrado and forest in South America – devastating those ecosystems. 
  • Overuse of antibiotics in farms animals poses a severe risk to human health. 
  • Ammonia and hydrogen sulfide in the air put farm workers and local communities at risk of conditions including lung damage and respiratory problems, heart disease, diabetes, cognitive decline, lower birth rates and higher death rates.  

Intensive pig farming involves practices that cause immense suffering. 53% of pork consumed in the UK is imported from the EU, and 70% of that has been produced in conditions that would be illegal in the UK. 

  • A type of cage called the sow stall is used to restrict the movement of pregnant pigs, depriving them the ability to move or turn around. This causes severe physical and psychological damage. It is banned in the UK but in the EU, it can be used for the first four weeks of pregnancy and the week before giving birth. 
  • Mother pigs are put into another type of cage, the farrowing crate, shortly before they give birth and are kept in them for approximately four weeks after having their piglets. The sows can only stand up and lie down, they cannot turn, walk or nurse to their piglets freely. These cages are legal in the UK.  
  • Piglets are weaned before their immune systems are fully developed. Early weaning causes mother and piglets immense stress. 
  • Once taken away for fattening, piglets are often kept in barren, crowded conditions with no access to outdoors, fresh air or daylight.  
  • To minimise biting injuries caused by boredom, discomfort and frustration, it is common for piglets to have their teeth ground down or clipped and their tails docked without anaesthetic.  
  • Most male piglets in Europe and some in the UK/Ireland are castrated without anaesthetic.  
  • Approximately 25% of all antibiotics used in the UK are given to factory-farmed pigs to fight off infections and keep them alive. 

Fish

Over-consumption of fish is also causing problems. Industrial fishing is devastating the marine environment through destructive measures such as: 

  • Bottom trawling. The practice of dragging weighted nets across the sea floor to capture fish. Researchers have recently found that bottom trawling releases as much carbon as the entire aviation industry. 
  • Bycatch. Dolphins, turtles, sea birds and other animals are unintentionally caught and killed in the nets or thrown back injured and dying. 
  • Dynamite fishing. Using explosives to stun or kill schools of fish for easy collection, damaging coral reefs in the process. 
  • Irresponsible prawn and shrimp farming, which is destroying coastal mangrove forests. 
  • Discarded fishing nets that cause horrific injuries and slow, painful deaths to wildlife. 

Fish farming in the UK is the second largest area of farm animal production after chickens. Problems with farmed fish include: 

  • Overcrowding. Farmed fish are kept in over-crowded, dirty cages that prohibit natural behaviour. This causes mental and physical suffering. 
  • Antibiotics. In order to fight off infections and parasites, farmed fish are routinely treated with antibiotics.  
  • Infections transmission. Diseased fish can escape and transmit infections and parasites to wild populations. 
  • Algal blooms. Effluent from the cages seeps out into surrounding waters and causes algal blooms that result in dead zones devoid of marine life. 
  • Starvation. Farmed fish are often starved before transport or grading, sometimes for two weeks or more. 
  • Slaughter. The ways in which many farmed fish are slaughtered can cause immense suffering, such as gassing with carbon dioxide or cutting the gills without stunning. Some fish are left to suffocate in air or on ice and may be gutted alive. 

"Better" and "Best" certifications for fish 

Best: 

  • Organic 
  • Marine Conservation Society rated 1-3 (wild caught) 
  • Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) approved (wild caught) 
  • Locally-caught fish 

Better: 

  • Aquaculture Stewardship council (ASC) approved (farmed) 
  • RSPCA Assured trout (farmed) 
  • Global Aquaculture Alliance "Best Aquaculture Practices" (BAP) label 
  • GlobalGAP. 

Avoid:  

  • Any species on the Marine Conservation Society red (Fish to Avoid) list, 
  • Scottish farmed salmon (unless organic) due to its environmental impact. 

Why we include dairy products

Dairy production has similar environmental impacts to beef production. All bovines produce large amounts of methane, and dairy cows who are not raised on 100% pasture are given feed containing soya from South America. Dairy milk is much less sustainable than plant milks, although there's also some variation between plant milks: 

  • A 2018 study estimates dairy to be around three times more greenhouse gas emission-intensive than plant milks. 
  • The production of cow’s milk generally requires nine times more land than plant milks.  
  • The production of one litre of dairy milk requires 628 litres of water compared to 371 litres for almond milk, 48 litres for oat milk and 28 litres for soya milk. 

There are also serious animal welfare issues in the dairy industry: 

  • Modern dairy cows have been selectively bred to produce higher and higher milk yields at the expense of their health and wellbeing.  
  • Dairy cows are increasingly being kept indoors in "zero grazing" systems, which deny them a natural life outdoors.  
  • Lameness, a painful condition caused by prolonged standing on concrete floors and poor nutrition, is prevalent across the dairy industry. 
  • Mastitis is a painful bacterial infection of the udder, typically caused by contaminated milking equipment or bedding. Around 70% of the UK’s dairy herd could have it at any one time. 
  • Some male calves born into the dairy industry are shot at birth and others are exported to veal farms outside the UK. Early separation from their calves is a great source of distress to the mother cows. 

A note on eggs

The cheapest eggs typically come from caged hens. Conventional battery cages are banned in the UK and the EU although many countries are still not compliant. "Enriched" cages, which are permitted, provide only a very small amount more space than conventional cages.  

Just over half of UK egg production is from free range hens, just under half from caged hens, and approximately 1% from hens kept in barn systems (uncaged). 

Participation in Kale Yeah! Kitchens requires all shell and liquid eggs to be at least RSPCA Assured for Level 1 and free range/organic for all higher levels. 

Local and seasonal

We encourage caterers to buy directly from local farmers that adhere to high environmental and animal welfare standards where possible. This can boost the local economy and bouy the market for fresh, seasonal produce.

If sourcing from a local farm that is not certified by an official animal welfare scheme, in order for those products to count towards the Kale Yeah! Kitchen targets, the farm must operate to the same standards as one of the schemes listed in the Better/Best section and provide evidence of doing so. 

Sustainable Food Places has put together some useful information to help caterers source locally. 

See Eat the Seasons and the BBC’s food by month recipes for seasonal inspiration.

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