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Marketing Standards – Labelling of Poultry Meat in the EU

19 December 2011, at 12:00am

The current status and likely developments in labelling are reviewed by avec, the Association of Poultry Processors and Poultry Trade in the EU Countries, in its annual report for 2011.


Regulation 543/2008 implements the marketing standards for poultry as laid down in Regulation 1234/2007.

For avec, the following issues are important: interpretation of ‘meat product’ and ‘meat preparation’, the chilling method and water content and the definition of different cuts, especially breast fillet. avec is encouraging the Commission to draft the appropriate amendments for the Regulation 543/2008 but also amendments of the Regulation 1234/2007 might be needed, where the Commission is lacking the legal competence to implement today.

The interpretation of ‘meat product/meat preparation’ according to the marketing standards is connected to the definitions in the Hygiene Regulation 853/2004 annex I. The Commission has presented for discussion a first reflection paper about the definitions and the categorisation of different products, i.e. meat preparations and processed products.

avec has explained to the Commission that the crucial criterion to distinguish between a meat product and a meat preparation is whether the cut surface shows that the product no longer or still has the characteristics of fresh meat. A ‘meat preparation’ has undergone a process that is insufficient to modify the internal muscle fibre structure of the meat and should for this reason be cooked before consumption whereas a ‘meat product’ is a product that is fully cooked and ready to eat. Misunderstandings that risk harming consumer health should be avoided.

The Commission has launched an evaluation of the allowed maximum water:protein ratio in poultry cuts with respect to the technically unavoidable water uptake during the cooling process since this might have been changed due to genetically and or physiological changes in broilers.

avec has recommended to the Commission to include in the study the possible consequences of the outcome of the evaluation for the analytical protocol to determine chicken or added water content and collagen-based proteins in chicken breast products as laid down in Commission Recommendation 2005/175/EC.

avec is discussing whether immersion chilled poultry should be mandatorily frozen and labelled before it is presented to consumers.

Food Information to Consumers

The proposal COM (2008) 40 combines existing rules on food labelling and nutritional information into one Regulation and contains both mandatory and voluntary labelling. The second version based on the Council's document from February was endorsed by the Parliament in July. Depending on the Commission's and Council's final approval the Regulation can be published in October 2011.

avec has contacted the Commission, the Parliament and the COREPER with its position: ‘Mandatory labelling indicating the place of farming by mentioning EU mandatory followed by the name of the Member State or mandatorily mentioning non EU followed by the name of the country’. However, both the Parliament and the Council agree that ‘origin labelling or place of provenance’ should be compulsory for fresh meat including poultry meat. Furthermore it is mandatory to label fat, saturates, salt, protein and carbohydrates content on the back of the pack.

Extension of the mandatory origin labelling for meats used in processed foods will be subject to implementing rules following an impact assessment by the Commission within two years. Furthermore, it is suggested that minimum durability or use by date should also be accompanied by date of first freezing, if frozen more than once. The indication of stunning method is not included in the Parliament document but a study may be considered. Finally, water content must be labelled in case of uncooked cured meat in the case of added water making up more than 10 per cent of the weight. avec will closely follow the next steps.

Labelling of Animal Welfare

avec has actively promoted an ‘EU farming label’. Such a label indicates that the EU is one market and that the same legislation ensures consumers the highest poultry meat and food safety standards.

Consumers are more and more concerned about the welfare of animals for food production. This perception is not always reflected in rational buying behaviour.

Many different labelling schemes exist and a harmonised, consistent approach is needed. The Parliament has called on the Commission to publish at the latest in 2012 a proposal for general animal welfare legislation. During its plenary session in July 2011, Commissioner Dalli promised the Parliament to work on a legislative proposal which may introduce mandatory labelling of the stunning method. The Commission is expected to publish its animal welfare action plan 2011-2015 with some delay in December 2011. At WTO level, no progress has been made on the labelling of animal welfare.

Agricultural Product Quality

The Commission published its legislative proposal COM (2010) 7333 including the recommendation to maintain the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) schemes in December 2010. In 2010, it was suggested to merge the schemes but this has been abandoned based on input from a consultation held in 2010. Furthermore quantitative restrictions required by the producers have not been included. Third countries may register PDO or PGI as well. The proposal includes labelling of origin in the current marketing standards. Some overlap could occur since the ‘Food information to consumers’ as it stands today suggests country of origin or place of provenance.

The Commission continues to promote the small scale production during trade missions. avec has reminded the Commission that the conventional production represents 95 per cent of the EU poultry meat production and feeds the majority of EU citizens. Therefore, promotion of European conventional production should get fair, non-discriminating attention.

December 2011