Restaurants, pubs and cafes should volunteer information about the welfare credentials of the meat, fish, eggs, poultry and dairy ingredients they source. So say 63 per cent of respondents to a new survey.
But it appears that many of us are too reticent to ask. One in four of those surveyed say they would be too embarrassed to quiz their waiter about the welfare standards of farms their products come from. And instead of the younger 18-24 age group being more confident, the results show they are the most reticent, with nearly half (42%) saying they would be too embarrassed to ask.
To help bashful diners, the RSPCA’s Freedom Food has now launched postcards that customers can discreetly leave behind at the end of their meal.
It is the latest move by the charity to harness customer power to encourage restaurants, cafes and pubs to source from farms rearing livestock to higher welfare standards. They can be ordered free of charge from www.freedomfood.co.uk/simplyask/getinvolved
Charity spokesperson Caroline Gauntlett said: “We want people to ‘Simply Ask’ when they eat out. The more that ask about the source of the food they order, the more restaurants, pubs and cafes are likely to consider switching to higher welfare ingredients.
“But we do appreciate that British reserve means that many may shy away from the direct approach. So this is an easy way to take the pain out of getting the message across.
“The message on the postcards encourages restaurants to sign up to the Simply Ask campaign, as it’s a great way of providing customers with precisely the information they are seeking. It highlights the good welfare choices restaurants are making, starting with using only eggs from either barn, free-range or organic hens. But it also extends to other products from Freedom Food approved farms, such as salmon or beef. Restaurants can also include chicken from Freedom Food approved indoor farms, as well as Freedom Food free-range or other free-range producers.
“This means that joining Simply Ask is not just the premise of restaurants at the more expensive end of the spectrum, but will also encourage more cost-conscious outlets to switch to higher welfare sources”.
Eligible restaurants, cafes or pubs are listed on the ‘Simply Ask’ restaurant finder where customers can search for restaurants serving higher welfare ingredients before they reserve a table.
In response to the new research, leading chefs Peter Gordon, Paul Merrett, Thomasina Miers and Antony Worrall Thompson issued a joint statement saying:
“A good restaurant, cafe or pub should be happy to tell you where they get their eggs, meat, fish and poultry from – and how the animal it came from was reared
“With so many more people eating out over the Christmas season we would like to encourage our customers not to be embarrassed and to ask – we are proud to be able to answer.”
Henrietta Green, food campaigner and founder of FoodLoversBritain.com, says:
“So many of us are choosing ethical products such as Freedom Food and Fairtrade when we shop – why should it be any different when we eat out? These postcards are a great way to encourage change in restaurants, pubs and cafes. Change will only come about if people ask – and the more people do ask, the more chefs will listen and reconsider what they put on their menus”.
Around two thirds of all eggs used in restaurants, pubs and cafes, whether whole, or in liquid form in products such as quiches and cakes, are still sourced from hens kept in battery cages. This compares to less than half of whole eggs produced for boxes sold in supermarkets that come from caged hens.