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Meat labelling should include birthplace, say farming bodies

Date: December 13, 2013

Category: Industry news

Two farming organisations have argued that newly agreed European rules on meat labelling could actually mislead British shoppers rather than inform them due to the omission of the animal's birthplace.

However, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) and National Pig Industry (NPA) have said that the birthplace of the animal should also be included, and that not doing so could leave consumers in the dark about whether or not their meat is truly 100% British.

Lizzie Press, acting general manager of the NPA, said:

“Considering country of origin labelling was supposed to provide transparency and simplification in order to help consumers make an informed choice when shopping, the agreed proposal is now more confusing than ever and will require a great deal of explanation."

Press went on to say that the process classed as “rearing” can take less than three months for pigs, so failing to point out the birthplace of the animal could lead a consumer to believe that it spent most of its life in Britain when this might not be the case.

The NFU, meanwhile, has expressed concern about lax rules on labelling being taking advantage of to give consumers a false idea of items. It cited the use of British flags on non-UK born animal products – something that 78% of Brits agree to be misleading, according to a YouGov survey it commissioned – as an example of possible hoodwinking.

Calls for tougher labelling of food and traceability, particularly with meat, have been rife throughout 2013 after the year began with controversy over horsemeat being found in products sold as beef. The UK meat industry was affected by this, but the fact that most cases of mislabelling were from overseas reflected well on British farmers and producers.