Is France a pioneer and a spur in the labeling of food products? It is very likely. In 2017, under the leadership of Santé Publique France, it invented the Nutri-Score which, despite the denials of manufacturers, is spreading in several European countries. So much so that the European Commission could make it the standard for the labeling of food products, destined to become mandatory by the end of 2022.
2017 is also the year when the project for an “animal welfare” label was launched in the chicken sector, with the maneuver of three animal protection associations, namely Compassion in World Farming France (CIWF France) , the Animal Law, Ethics and Science Foundation (LFDA) and the Oeuvre d’assistance aux abattoirs (OABA) association and the distributor Casino.
Five years later, ten producer and processor organizations (Arrivé, Cooperl, Galliance, Janzé, Loué, etc.) and six distributors in addition to Casino (Carrefour, Franprix, Intermarché, Lidl, Monoprix, Système U) have joined the ‘initiative.
In 2021, labeling concerned 90 million chickens, including 60 million free-range chickens (Label Rouge or organic) and nearly 3,000 breeders, according to the Animal Welfare Label Association (AEBEA). Its application to the pig industry is expected by the end of this year.
European regulation expected by the end of 2023
As it happens, as part of the Farm to fork strategy, the European Commission is planning, by the end of 2023, the establishment of a European label or labeling system, with a view to increasing transparency on the conditions breeding, transport and slaughter of animals, all against a background of harmonization of rules between the Member States.
According to the European Parliament, there are 24 labeling systems relating to animal welfare conditions. And according to AEBEA, “ French labeling is the best system in Europe “, as its president Louis Schweitzer declared, during a press conference on May 10th.
The arguments of the animal welfare label
According to the AEBEA, the Animal Welfare Label meets all the requirements of the Commission’s specifications, starting with its collegial approach, involving representatives of the sector, from producers to distribution, including animal protection NGOs.
Its scale by level (from the minimum standard E to the higher requirements A), in addition to the summary information it provides, also makes it possible to improve all the links in the sector, each structure being audited at least once a year by independent bodies
According to its promoters, the Animal Welfare Label standard combines obligations of means but also of results, with direct observations on the animal. The method also has the advantage of allowing the systems and standards already in place in the various Member States to be taken into account.
In addition, the system can be applied to as many animals and sectors as possible, with a technical reference system specific to each species. The field of observation covers the entire life of the animal: birth, breeding, collection but also transport and slaughter. It includes the evaluation of the parents, one of the Commission’s requirements. And finally, the AEBEA standard covers all products, including processed ones, and is intended to be used by out-of-home catering players.