Origin of meat still not unveiled

December 2013 was a busy month for country of origin labelling. However, there is still a long way to go before complete origin information will appear on meat packaging across the EU.

Birth, rearing and slaughter

On December 5th, Member States backed new labelling rules proposed by the European Commission regarding fresh pork, sheep, goat and poultry meat. Ten days later, the Commission published its long-awaited report on the possibility of compulsory meat origin labelling when used in processed products such as lasagne, sausages, etc.

The adoption of the new origin labelling rules for fresh meat was a welcome, but incomplete, move as they only make it compulsory to indicate in which country the animal was reared and slaughtered, ousting the birth country. Beef meat is currently the only type of fresh meat for which the origin has to be labelled and all three stages of the animal’s life must be mentioned. BEUC then questions why the ‘beef model’ cannot be applied to other types of meat, bearing in mind 90% of consumers want to know where their meat comes from.

However, there is still a glimmer of hope for the birth country to be indicated also on pork, poultry, sheep and goat meat as the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Safety will vote next January 22nd on the topic. Origin information will be displayed on fresh meat packages as of April 2015 – with or without the birthplace mentioned.

Processed meat report published

December 17th saw the publication of a much talked-about report on the feasibility of labelling the country of origin of processed meat. The report stacked the arguments against compulsory origin labelling including a potential price hike that would eventually hit consumers’ pockets. Such estimates raised eyebrows as they contradict the findings of our member UFC - Que choisir published last December. It came out from the French organisation’s survey that labelling the origin of meat would on average increase prices by 0.7%, representing a €0.015 increase on a pack of frozen beef lasagne.

We also wonder whether the consultants behind the Commission’s report actually visited supermarkets to get a picture of how many country flags and other national tokens are already on shelves. Since horsemeat was found in supposedly beef lasagne last year, numerous manufacturers switched to a more transparent attitude to regain their customers’ trust, by indicating the country of origin of meat in their foods. If a few can do it, why not the others?