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Method of Production labelling fraught with challenges

14 November 2016

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has suggested that ‘method of production’ labelling would provide consumers with clear information on animal welfare, and could offer British farmers a unique selling point post-Brexit. 

However, calls for mandatory labelling of meat and dairy products could be fraught with challenges according to Tim Russ, a partner in the Roythornes Solicitors food and drink team. He says that the proposal could be difficult to police.

The BVA has argued that such labelling would be an extension of legislation that has been implemented already for shell eggs, which must legally be labelled either as ‘eggs from caged hens’, ‘barn eggs’, ‘free range’ or ‘organic’. 

“The reality of the modern food industry is that meat and dairy products are often sourced internationally. So it’s perfectly possible that a pack of chicken thighs may include poultry from several sources. Equally, a yogurt product may be made with milk from several sources and a sausage might include pork from several countries,” said Russ.

“While reputable companies will have full traceability for their ingredients, reproducing information about the welfare standards of all dairy and meat ingredients on a label would be time consuming and expensive. Food labelling is already a challenging issue for many businesses and additional obligations would add more complexity with little consumer benefit.

“Ultimately, a voluntary approach to method of production labelling may be better as it would provide brands with a way of differentiating their products as well as charging a premium,” concluded Russ.

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