24 June 2016
Denmark Introduces New Animal Welfare Label
Hong Kong’s foodstuffs exporters should be informed that, as from the summer of 2017, an animal welfare labelling scheme is to kick off in Denmark. The scheme will be introduced for pig meat first of all, and will later be extended to other livestock.
It was reported last month that the Danish Ministry for Environment and Food is establishing the new animal welfare label, which is also being backed by (among others) the Danish Animal Welfare Society, the Danish Agriculture & Food Council, the Dansk Supermarked Group, and well-known retailers Lidl and Aldi.
The purpose of the animal welfare label is to make it easier for consumers to support animal welfare. Livestock producers will have to meet certain requirements in order to obtain the label for their products. Consumers will be able to identify whether a product has the label, thereby recognising whether the livestock producer implements animal welfare policies or not.
The Danish Ministry for Environment and Food hopes that the animal welfare label will encourage meat producers to invest in animal welfare improvements. Additionally, according to the Danish Ministry for Environment and Food, retail trade will be better able to accommodate demands from consumers for improved animal welfare conditions. Moreover, the Danish Ministry for Environment and Food commented that animal welfare will become a new competitive parameter throughout the food chain, to the benefit of livestock, as well as encouraging innovation in the Danish food sector.
In order for the meat products to be labelled with an animal welfare label, the conditions for pigs must meet a number of requirements which are considerably stricter than the current statutory requirements in Denmark and in the European Union. Livestock producers are required to meet the following standards:
- Sows (female pigs) must be able to roam freely throughout the reproduction process;
- Pigs must have a ‘curly’ tail, which means that tail-docking and tail-biting is prohibited;
- Farmers must give pigs fresh straw every day;
- Pigs must have more space as they grow; and
- Pigs must not be transported for more than eight hours.
The animal welfare label is a voluntary scheme with three levels of stars, ranging from one to three stars. This will make it easier for Danish consumers to consider animal welfare and the efforts of producers. One star indicates that requirements regarding (i) free range sows, (ii) curly tail (no tail-docking or tail-biting) and (iii) fresh straw have been met. Two and three stars indicate that supplementary requirements regarding additional space and outdoor areas have also been met.
Currently, only 2-3% of Danish pig producers meet the requirements for two-stars and three-stars on their pork labels. As regards the total production supplied to the Danish market, only 15-20% would currently be eligible to receive animal welfare stars.
Hong Kong’s foodstuffs sellers should take note that products from outside of Denmark, that are imported to the Danish market, will also be able to receive an animal welfare label on their products, provided that the requirements are met.
Interestingly, some organisations are believed to not want to be a part of the new labelling scheme, as they would like to see even stricter requirements in place for the wellbeing of animals. However, any such stricter requirements would, it is felt, result in a more inflated price, which only a few consumers would be willing to fork out. Moreover, the increased welfare would, supposedly, benefit only a few animals.