Your Higher-Welfare Christmas Sorted

The holiday period is here! With so many festive events going on and holiday treats to share, it can be tricky to know how to join in the fun while still making higher-welfare choices. The good news is, we’re here to help; for the many Australians who care about farm animal welfare, shopping – and cooking consciously is high on their priority list.   

To help, here’s our guide for how to choose higher welfare when it comes to some of the most common animal-based products, if you do choose to include meat, eggs, or fish in your holiday plans.  

Choose RSPCA Approved  

If your festive menu includes ham, turkey, chicken, salmon, or eggs, we advise looking for products with RSPCA Approved certification. RSPCA Approved Producers rear their animals to the RSPCA’s detailed animal welfare standards, ensuring they are provided a higher-welfare environment and all the creature comforts necessary for a better quality of life. Animals reared by these Producers are given the space to move freely and ability to express their natural behaviours, enrichment to exercise their minds and bodies, and quality bedding or litter to rest on – and much more, with hundreds of animal-specific standards that Producers must adhere to maintain RSPCA Approved certification. 

Importantly, Producers with RSPCA Approved certification are regularly assessed as part of our robust certification process – so you can have confidence that the standards are being met.   

By choosing products with the RSPCA Approved logo, you’ll be supporting Australian farmers dedicated to animal welfare. And importantly, your choice will continue to show industry and major retailers that better animal welfare is a priority when you shop for groceries.  

If you’re visiting one of the two major supermarkets and looking for RSPCA Approved chicken, turkey, pork or salmon, our handy guide is here to help:  

Additional ways to shop consciously  

While we always recommend looking for products with RSPCA Approved certification where possible, we understand that these products aren’t always available. If you’re shopping with animal welfare in mind and cannot find a product with the RSPCA Approved logo here are some helpful tips to choose better welfare. 

Pork: All fresh pork sold in Australia comes from pigs that are farmed in Australia, however many pork products such as deli meats, processed ham and pre-cooked pork are imported from overseas. Welfare standards for pigs vary greatly between countries and pigs are often not raised to the same standard overseas as they are in Australia.   

Although Australian conventional production of pork isn’t entirely good for pig welfare, there have been some positive steps such as the phase out of sow stalls in the majority of Australian farms. However, the vast majority of Australian pork comes from pigs who were born to sows confined in a farrowing crate.  

To be sure you aren’t buying pork from a system that uses farrowing crates, look for outdoor-bred or free-range pork.   

Seafood: Fish, like any vertebrate animal, have the ability to feel pain. So, if your Christmas feast includes farmed fish, be sure to purchase from suppliers that have farmed to higher-welfare standards and have been audited regularly, such as RSPCA Approved salmon.    

If buying wild-caught fish, know that most commercially-caught wild fish that are alive when landed die either from being left to suffocate in air, or by a combination of suffocation and evisceration (gutting) during processing. These methods take from minutes to hours to induce insensibility, can cause significant suffering and are not regarded as humane.  

Higher welfare practices are also important for crustaceans. Crustaceans have multiple nerve centres throughout their bodies and suffer when not stunned before slaughter.   

If your menu includes lobsters, crabs, or similar species, never buy them live – always dead. Like fish, they should be handled carefully and stunned prior to slaughter. The act should be carried out by skilled professionals using specialised equipment, and never at home or in a restaurant.  

Dairy: Many Christmas parties often begin with the ever-favourite cheese board and end with a dessert including or accompanied by cream, custard, or other forms of dairy. As with other farming systems in Australia, there are welfare concerns for dairy cattle.   

Dairy calves are subject to painful procedures such as disbudding or dehorning, and though the percentage of farmers opting to use pain relief has increased, it is not yet mandatory. The treatment of bobby calves is also a concern, with many receiving a lower standard of care and stressful separations from their mothers.   

Other welfare issues for dairy cows include lameness and mastitis from poor conditions on farm. Where possible, look for products from brands that are transparent about their farming practices in their animal welfare policy, such as the amount of time cows have access to pasture, is there a lameness prevention program and how much contact is allowed between cows and their calves. Find out what questions to ask here.   

From all of us at RSPCA Approved, we wish you a safe and joyful holiday season 

While you enjoy this time with family and friends, remember the choices we make at the checkout can always be a vote for better farm animal welfare. If your festive plans include animal-based products these holidays, make sure to select from brands who source from farmers that farm to higher-welfare standards – and ideally certified RSPCA Approved, for an animal welfare conscious Christmas to feel good about.   

Interested in reading more?  
What labels to look for on pork  
8 higher welfare products and where to find them this holiday season  

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