Ward Off Cruelty

Hospital meat, dairy and eggs

Hospitals in England spend a third of their food budget and £167 million of taxpayers’ money every year on meat, dairy products and eggs1.

Approximately one in every four pounds (23%) spent on hospital food in England is spent on meat, and approximately one in every ten pounds is spent on dairy (11%).

Why must hospital eggs, chicken and pork meet welfare standards?

The Campaign for Better Hospital Food is calling for mandatory standards to guarantee that hospitals serve only cage-free eggs and chicken and pork which meets RSPCA welfare standards.

The welfare of chicken, pigs and hens is an increasingly important issue for UK consumers2 and we believe hospital food should lead by example to reflect their concerns. Despite being better quality, cage-free eggs and RSPCA Freedom Food approved chicken and pork are affordable for hospital caterers working on a tight budget to buy.

What are RSPCA welfare standards?

RSPCA welfare standards are aimed at ensuring that farm animals are well cared for and enjoy a good quality of life3. For example, farm animals reared to RSPCA welfare standards are provided space to move around, comfortable places to rest, an interesting ‘enriched’ environment that allows them to express natural behaviours, good health care and ready access to appropriate feed and water. The standards cover large and small farms, and animals which are reared outside and indoors.

As you might have seen in the supermarket, all meat, dairy products and eggs which have been produced to RSPCA welfare standards are approved by the RSPCA’s Freedom Food assurance scheme, as shown by the logo on the packaging! Organic certification is also aimed at ensuring meat, dairy products and eggs have come from animals reared in a welfare-friendly way.

Why RSPCA welfare standards are good value

While cage-free eggs and RSPCA Freedom Food certified chicken and pork may cost more than alternatives produced from animals reared to no welfare standards, they remain affordable for hospitals to buy. In fact, figures from the retail sector show that cage-free eggs and RSPCA Freedom Food chicken and pork can sometimes be cheaper. For example:

  • RSPCA Freedom Food barn eggs from Sainsbury's cost the same as cage eggs from Tesco and ASDA,
  • Sainsbury's RSPCA Freedom Food chicken thighs and drumsticks are £1.22 cheaper per kilogram than Sainsbury's chicken and thighs which don't meet any animal welfare standards,
  • A Sainsbury's RSPCA Freedom Food pork shoulder joint is cheaper than pork shoulder joints from Sainsbury's, Tesco and ASDA which don't meet any animal welfare standards.

The overall picture shows that hospitals can expect to pay more for food which meets RSPCA Freedom Food standards, but not by as much as you might think. Ultimately, we believe that paying more money for a higher standard of welfare is a price worth paying.

More information

For more details about RSPCA welfare standards please visit www.rspca.org.uk/allaboutanimals/farm.

For more details about RSPCA Freedom Food please visit www.freedomfood.co.uk.



  1. Impact Assessment of 'Government Buying Standards' specifications food and food services, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, December 2010.
  2. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) found that 75% of UK households said that the animal welfare standard of egg and chicken meat production is an “important issue”. Defra, Attitudes and Behaviours around Sustainable Food Purchasing, April 2011.
  3. http://www.rspca.org.uk/sciencegroup/farmanimals/standards


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