Retailers have warned the government to take a cautious stance on labelling meat with welfare standards.

In their responses to the consultation on Defra's draft Animal Welfare Delivery Strategy, five of the multiples claimed that only a small number of consumers would be interested in a welfare-labelling scheme.

They also questioned the science behind such a scheme.

"I'm not sure the science is there to quantify the benefits of different husbandry measures to animals," said an Asda spokesman.

Defra had said it wanted consumers to have clear, consistent labels on food saying how well farm animals were looked after.

But it has now conceded that a scheme "may" only help welfare-minded consumers.

It said it would pay attention to retailers' concerns, but added that labelling schemes needed to be based on transparent measures.

"Labels need to be clear, simple and standardised," it said.