The review will take place over coming months and expects to report its recommendations later in the year.
Its remit is to make recommendations to help ensure:
- Development of the RSPCA farm animal welfare standards- as applied under the Freedom Food scheme- is best organised to deliver significant improvements for farm animals
- The Freedom Food assurance certification process is robust and sustainable, and exerts positive influence for farm animal welfare on the farming industry, consumers, retailers, decision makers and the wider public, and
- Consumers can have confidence in the Freedom Food scheme.
Mike Tomlinson, Chairman of Freedom Food said: "The RSPCA's Freedom Food scheme makes a very real and practical difference to the lives of millions of UK farm animals.
"We are delighted to have such an expert independent panel to review the scheme. Their insights will help compassionate consumers support farmers, retailers and other aspects of the food industry that operate to our higher welfare standards to benefit the animals."
The three member expert review panel is chaired by the prominent London lawyer, Duncan McNair. The two other members are former Defra Secretary of State and Cabinet Minister, the Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, and Bristol University academic Dr David Main, former member of the Farm Animal Welfare Council, current member of Food Ethics Council and Soil Association Council.
The panel will be assisted by Chris Laurence MBE, previously the RSPCA's Chief Veterinary Officer and current member of both the RSPCA Trustee Council and Freedom Food Board.
The Panel will invite submissions and evidence from a range of parties involved in and concerned with food animal production.
Freedom Food is the only farm assurance scheme to be recognised at both UK and EU levels as a mark of higher animal welfare. The scheme currently covers over 46 million terrestrial farm animals in the UK, representing about four per cent of the total, with egg laying hens standing at around 40 per cent and pigs at about 30 per cent. The penetration of the Scottish farmed salmon industry is over 70 per cent.