Animal welfare label coming to supermarkets in Flanders

Summary

A new quality label will benefit animals, consumers and food producers, says animal welfare minister Ben Weyts

Cruelty-free

Plans to develop a food label indicating the level of animal welfare involved in meat production in Flanders have been unveiled by the government. The aim is to improve conditions for farm animals, better inform consumers and support the food industry.

While consumer interest in animal welfare appears to be growing, little information is available in supermarkets about the conditions under which meat is produced. According to minister Ben Weyts, developing a regional animal welfare label would fill this gap, allowing people to make animal-friendly choices when they shop for meat.

“The label will also be good for our farmers,” insisted Weyts, responsible for animal welfare in the Flemish government. “It presents an opportunity for Flanders to position itself on the international market as a source of high quality meat, which is not only tasty and healthy, but also produced with an emphasis on animal welfare.”

A particular inspiration is the Dutch Beter Leven label, which operates a star system. Around 40% of all meat sold in the Netherlands already has this quality mark. It has also been extended to dairy products.

Single scheme

Weyts is also keen for Flanders to have a single, region-wide label. “Otherwise retailers will introduce their own labels, and that will only be confusing for the consumer,” he said.

The job of developing the label has been given to Piet Vanthemsche, a former head of the farmers’ union and of the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain. He will analyse the market, explore labels operating in other countries and investigate the benefits of such a system.

Vanthemsche will submit his report by the end of September. Implementing his recommendations will depend on Weyts’ successor in the new government.

Animal rights organisation Gaia welcomed the move. “We can only applaud this,” said Ann De Greef, Gaia’s director, in Het Nieuwsblad. “Such a system makes a difference for animals. Consumers will have to pay more, but right now it’s the animals that pay the price.”

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