Veal gets a makeover in the EU
and harmonise rules on what meat can be called "veal".
The decision was made in the wake of requests from industry and from member states for clearer rules to reflect the different production systems in different member states. It will serve to clarify the rules for processors who may source veal from a variety of EU countries with differing definitions. "The aim is to improve the transparency on the market and to help consumers to recognise precisely what they are buying," the Commission stated in announcing the changes. The new rules will require the use of fixed labelling descriptions for veal sold in the various member states and sets the marketing and production conditions for meat from bovine animals aged twelve months or less. The labelling will be coupled with an indication of the age category of the animals at slaughter. The change follows a lengthy consultation with industry and consumers about their understanding of the term 'veal'. There are two major types of production systems in use throughout the bloc. In some countries veal must come from animals fed mainly on milk and milk products and which are slaughtered before the age of eight months. In the other system, the animals are fed almost exclusively on cereals - primarily maize - supplemented with fodder, and are slaughtered at an age of ten months and above. While the first type of production exists in almost all member states, the second is in use in only a small number, mainly the Netherlands, Denmark and Spain On the main consumer markets in the EU, meat from these different production systems has until now generally been marketed under one single sales description - 'veal'. As a rule, no reference is made to the type of feed received by the animals or their age at the time of slaughter. "Experience shows that this practice could disturb trade and encourage unfair competition," the Commission stated. "Consequently, it has a direct effect on the proper functioning of the single market." At the retail level the difference can be about €2 to €2.50 per kilogram between meats produced under the two systems. In the Commission's public consultation, the majority of consumers said that the age of the animals and what they had been fed on were important criteria in determining the characteristics of their meat. Further studies have shown that the organoleptic characteristics of meat, such as tenderness, flavour and colour, change with the age of the animals from which it is obtained and the feed used, the Commission noted. This week the Agriculture Council, made up of the relevant ministers from member states, adopted the Commission proposal requiring labelling to indicate the age category of the animals on slaughter. One category would be for meat of animals up to eight months of age. The other would be for animals in the 8 to 12 month age range. When selecting sales descriptions, the new rules will take account as far as possible of customs and cultural traditions to help consumers make a choice in line with their expectations, the Commission stated. As a result, for meat in the first category, the sales description will be 'veal'. For those in the second category, the description will be 'beef' in the UK and "rosé veal" in Ireland. Similarly, the term "veal" or any new name deriving from the sales descriptions in the proposal may not be used on the labelling of meat from animals aged more than twelve months. Imported meat from outside the EU will also be subject to the provisions of the new regulation. The EU produces about 800,000 tonnes of veal per year. France produces 30 per cent of the total, the Netherlands 26 per cent, Italy 18 per cent, Belgium 7 per cent and Germany 6 per cent. France and Italy are the biggest consumers of veal, accounting for about 70 per cent of European consumption.