The UK government has launched proposals to make food labelling more transparent to “ensure British farmers’ products get the recognition they deserve”.

The plans, initially hinted at a conference in Oxford in January by Environment Secretary Steve Barclay, are set to produce “fairer food labelling” which will help “consumers make decisions that align with their values”, according to the government.

The government’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) said the UK-wide eight-week consultation – which will finish on 7 May – will look at how to improve country-of-origin labelling, including how and where the information is displayed and what products should be included in the proposal.

It also sets out proposals to require ‘method of production’ labelling on pork, chicken and eggs. These include a mandatory five-tier label for both domestic and imported products which would differentiate between those that fall below, meet and exceed baseline UK animal welfare regulations.

For example, the five tiers for pigs would be: stocking density; enrichment; outdoor access; assessment and management of welfare outcomes; and tail docking, a Defra spokesperson told Just Food.

Barclay said: “This government backs British farmers, who work hard to produce food to world-leading standards and maintain our nation’s food security. British consumers want to buy their produce, but too often products made to lower standards abroad aren’t clearly labelled to tell them apart.

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“That is why I want to make labelling showing where and how food is produced fairer and easier to understand – empowering consumers to make informed choices and rewarding our British farmers for producing high-quality, high-welfare food.”

The consultation is also seeking views on whether it should be a mandatory requirement to state the origin of meat, seafood and dairy products in out-of-home settings, like on menus in cafés and restaurants.

In response to the proposals, the National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales’ deputy president David Exwood said the farming body “would look closely at this consultation and seek the views of our members before responding”.

He added: “Food labels must be clear, simple and contain accurate information, including country of origin, to give shoppers easy access to the information they want and for those that want to, select products produced by British farmers and growers which they know are traceable, safe and produced to high animal welfare and environmental standards. Those eating out-of-home should also understand the provenance and standards with which their food is produced.

“However, labelling on its own is not the answer to safeguarding our own high standards from imports that are produced under conditions that would be illegal in the UK. That is why one of our asks in our election manifesto calls on the next government to enshrine a set of core environmental and animal welfare standards in law for all agri-food imports.”

The consultation was welcomed by UK retailer Waitrose. “Everyone deserves to know where their food comes from,” executive director James Bailey said.

“Better information boosts demand for higher standards, as we’ve seen with mandatory egg labelling. Extending this to more products benefits shoppers, farmers, and animals.

“We support the government’s efforts to improve transparency and ensure shoppers aren’t misled, while giving farmers recognition for their commitment to animal welfare.”

Just Food has contacted the Food and Drink Federation for comment.