European Commission gives green light for a comprehensive labelling system displaying the well-being of animals over the whole animal food production cycle


European Commission gives green light for a comprehensive labelling system displaying the well-being of animals over the whole animal food production cycle

7 July 2021
Today, the European Commission’s Subgroup on Animal Welfare Labelling published its final recommendations giving green light for an EU-wide label on animal welfare which will create greater transparency, better opportunities for farmers and a progression framework to improve animal welfare. In order for the labelling system to be effective, it is, however, important the European Commission commits to a mandatory Method Of Production + (MOP+) label which guarantees a harmonised uptake across food industries in the EU.

MOP+ is the most transparent, progressive and fair labelling method. It gives clear and transparent messaging to consumers about how animals are reared as well as allowing for a benchmarking platform amongst existing labels. It also allows for a progression on animal welfare standards by stimulating improvements on animal welfare and providing a full range of products with different levels of welfare to the consumers. On top of that, it provides farmers with a transparent way of demonstrating their achievements on animal welfare, allowing for a fair compensation of their efforts.

The conclusions foresee the labelling to start off as voluntary and state that the possibility of becoming mandatory should be evaluated at a later stage. They also state that a voluntary label represents a great risk to the impact of the label, since not only could the uptake be low but it would also be likely to only be adopted by producers already committed to higher animal welfare standards. The impact of a voluntary label on animal welfare would therefore be lower than of a mandatory label. This would not serve the purpose of providing full transparency to consumers and a fair level playing field for farmers and certainly would not serve the purpose of improving animal welfare across the EU.

Further to that, the recommendations do not mention the coverage of the label in terms of range of production systems. It states animal welfare labels should cover as many individuals as possible. Eurogroup for Animals asks for the scope to be from minimum EU standards to premium standards, also clearly indicating products that do not comply with the minimum EU animal welfare standards, to guarantee the label’s effectiveness. 

Other positive key points of the recommendations:

  • EU animal welfare label should also protect the use of terms and claims indicating a better welfare for animals.
  • The scope should include not only the rearing but also the slaughter and transport phase. Standards used in animals that are directly involved in the production as sows or cleaner fish should also be included in the label.
  • Besides fresh products, processed products or products used in food services should also be covered.
  • The EU label should help harmonise and take existing labels into consideration, helping the consumer gain more clarity on those. 
  • Active participation of all stakeholders is necessary in the creation of an EU wide animal welfare related label and its development should be monitored and evaluated.
  • Animal welfare is an important part of sustainability, but in case of labelling integration, animal welfare can never be diluted.
Currently, there are a dozen different labelling schemes that include farm animal welfare criteria in at least six European countries, risking the Single Market to becoming fragmented.The European Commission aims to counter this trend and is expected to put forward a proposal for a harmonised food labelling scheme in the context of its Farm to Fork strategy (F2F). At the end of last year, the Council of the European Union on Agriculture and Fisheries also adopted Council Conclusions which had called for an EU-wide animal welfare label aimed at improving animal welfare for as many food producing animals as possible.