Meat labelling rules agreed in Brussels

Following lengthy negotiations, EU member states have reached agreement on details of new rules on country of origin labelling for sheep, goat, poultry and pig meat.

Meat from pigs born, reared and slaughtered in one country can be labelled as “Origin: Member State name”. Where this is not the case, meat will need to be labelled with the countries of rearing and slaughter.

For the former, the name of a single country can only be used if the pig has spent a substantial part of its life there, defined differently depending on the age and weight of the animal.

Therefore, for pigs more than six-months old, food companies will be obliged to indicate the member country or third country in which the last four months of fattening took place.

For pigs less than six months and more than 80kg liveweight, food companies will indicate the member country or third country where the animal was reared from a liveweight of 30kg until slaughter, and for pigs less than six months and less than 80kg, the country in which the whole rearing period since birth took place will have to be mentioned.

Otherwise, the meat will be labelled as “Reared in several Member States”, “Reared in several non-EU countries” or, voluntarily, “Reared in: list of Member States (or third countries)”.

BPEX reports that last year more than 18 million weaners were traded from one EU member state to another, and some would have been affected by the new rules had they been in force. A further nine million pigs were exported for slaughter, meaning they would have had different countries of rearing and slaughter on labels.

The new rules will apply to all unprocessed meat products except minced meat, where there will be the option to use “Reared in the EU” or “Slaughtered in the EU” (or equivalents for non-EU countries). Once the rules are formally approved by the European Commission, they will be published in the Official Journal of the EU and will come into force from April 1, 2015.

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