Food: What do the new meat labels mean?

When buying meat in supermarkets and butchers, customers should have more clarity - namely where chops and schnitzels come from and how the pigs were once raised.

Food: What do the new meat labels mean?

When buying meat in supermarkets and butchers, customers should have more clarity - namely where chops and schnitzels come from and how the pigs were once raised.

Federal Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) has introduced two new labels into the legal gazette, and practical implementation should now follow. From February 1st, extended mandatory information about the country of origin will apply in the refrigerated counters. And there is a timetable up to 2025 for the future state animal husbandry logo.

Various labels and seals can already be seen on packages. Many consumers are very interested in the conditions under which food is produced. 85 percent consider information about the conditions in which animals are kept to be important or very important, according to a recently presented survey commissioned by the ministry. Information about the origin of products, for example by country or region, was given by 82 percent.

The extended labeling of origin

Information about the country of origin of the animals is now mandatory for more meat products. Özdemir is taking care of this nationally after a promised EU-wide solution failed to materialize. Consumers could also support regional value creation and high environmental and animal protection standards, the Green politician said when the regulation was approved in the Federal Council in the summer.

- In supermarkets, butchers, farm shops and weekly markets, mandatory labeling of the country of origin will also be extended to unpackaged meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry. This applies to packaged goods, as well as to unpackaged beef.

- The country of rearing and slaughter must be indicated using small signs on the goods or on screens. So for example: "Raised in: France. Slaughtered in: Germany," as the ministry explained. If birth, rearing and slaughter were in a single country, it can be said “Origin: Germany”.

- If meat of the same origin is predominantly sold, a general note in the store is sufficient. So, for example, a clearly visible notice: "All of our pork in the counter comes from Germany."

- The ministry is also considering a national expansion of origin labeling in restaurants and pubs, as a spokesman said. The federal government is therefore planning to vote on a draft in spring 2024.

The mandatory animal husbandry logo

Since 2019, there has been a widespread voluntary labeling of the living conditions of animals by the large supermarket chains with the imprint “keeping form”. It also already includes meat from cattle, pigs and poultry. In the future, there will also be a state logo, which will be gradually expanded.

- The law provides for mandatory labeling for domestic products. It will initially start with pork in the trade. There will be a system with five categories when piglets are fattened after being reared. It starts with the “stable” type of housing with the legal minimum requirements. The “Stable Space” level provides 12.5 percent more space, while the “Fresh Air Stable” level provides contact with the outside climate. There are also the “run/pasture” and “organic” levels.

- The timetable stipulates that animal owners have one year after the law comes into force to inform the responsible authorities about their housing facilities - i.e. until the end of August 2024. The labeling of products will then become mandatory from September 2025 after a two-year transition period, as the ministry explained.

- The logo should look objective and sober: a white, rounded rectangle with “animal husbandry” written in a black frame. The posture form then shows a smaller rectangle filled in black - with five small rectangles for the five categories.

- A variant with a mint green background can also be used if it is more visible. A guide also sets out uniform requirements, for example in terms of readability. Depending on the pack size, the font must be at least 0.9 or 1.2 millimeters high.

- For mixed products such as minced meat or large packs with meat from multiple husbandry systems, percentages can be written in the small rectangles: for example "70% stable" and "30% stable space".

- Özdemir has already announced that the labeling rules will be expanded quickly: The next step in the new year will be, among other things, out-of-home catering in the catering industry.