Brexit offers an "unprecedented opportunity" for British farmers to shift from volume to quality food production, animal welfarists have claimed.

According to the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, the British Government should now implement a 'method of production' food labelling system which will lead consumers away from cheap low-welfare imports.

CAWF co-founder Lorraine Platt explained: "Brexit offers an unprecedented opportunity to take back control of British food production. CAWF is calling for mandatory 'method of production' labelling of all meat and dairy products because this is the best way to level the playing field for higher welfare products and allow this important market to grow. By providing consumers with accurate farm system labelling we can help safeguard the future of British farming."

Trying to serve a market based primarily on volume production has been "presenting challenges" for the UK farming industry, said CAWF, and competing on price alone was forcing many farm businesses to close. The solution, it said, was for Britain to expand the welfare quality market at home, and help build a robust national brand based on those high-welfare values.

"Method of production labelling has proved itself to be an important tool for driving standards, and an excellent opportunity for farmers to add-value to their products," said CAWF. "When these labels are underpinned by independent assurance schemes, they also help enforce animal health and welfare rules, improving bio-security.

Ms Platt continued: "Where method of production labelling exists, as it does for shell eggs and UK pork, it is popular with farmers and with consumers. Labelling has meant that consumers can identify higher welfare products, allowing this higher value market to expand, and as a result many farmers have taken the chance to grow their businesses. Farmers producing chicken, beef and dairy should have the same opportunities to grow their businesses.

"Labels drive demand, and add value. They're the only real tool that we consumers have to communicate our preference for higher-welfare products to producers. Labels empower us to drive standards more effectively and to reward farmers who invest in better farm animal welfare."