Current Supermarket Policies & The Soil Association
Whilst most dairy cows have some access to grazing, several supermarkets continue to source dairy from cows permanently housed indoors. Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Morrison’s are supermarkets for which all dairy cows have some access to pasture. Own label milk from Asda, M&S, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose are supermarkets taking care to rear on their male dairy calves in the UK for veal or beef.
Marks and Spencer (M&S) reward dairy farmers for higher welfare and all cattle have seasonal access to pasture. They encourage farmers to rear male calves for UK beef or veal, instead of exporting them or shooting them at birth. From 2008 M&S only sell UK rosé veal - calves reared in higher welfare British systems on straw.
Tesco’s own-label dairy farmers do not export male dairy calves as from 2008. Calves have to stay in the UK, many going to Tesco’s higher welfare calf-rearing units(8).
The Soil Association (SA) - Their standards for organic farming are designed to reduce stress to farmed livestock through a variety of management techniques. Dairy cows cannot be permanently housed, but must spend the majority of their lives outdoors. The cows must have appropriate bedding and adequate space when they are brought indoors during bad weather. The Soil Association does not allow the sale of male calves to continental style veal systems, or any other non-welfare friendly/intensive system. From 1st January 2008, SA registered dairy farmers are now required to explore options to rear all calves instead of shooting them. If the calf has been bred for dual purposes, milk and meat (such as using a native breed such as a Red Poll or Shorthorn), they are then much more saleable. When housed, calves must have access to good quality straw, hay or silage and fresh clean water. Calves should be kept outside in fields or in group housing with open fronted straw yards. The feeding of calves must be based on natural milk, preferably maternal milk for a minimum of three months and they cannot be weaned before this. A calf may only be weaned when it is taking adequate solid food to cater for its full nutritional requirements. If the farmer cannot rear the calves themselves or sell them to another organic farmer, then they can be sold to non organic farmers providing that a number of conditions are met on farm. These conditions include the ability for the calf to see and hear other calves or cattle; the ability to be able to completely turn around; sufficient bedding for dry, lying areas; access to solid food, including hay or silage, therefore there is no allowance for intensive veal systems(9).
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