Its chief advisor and head of pig production Erik Kam argued: “The new labelling will try to make the level of animal welfare clearer to consumers without the use of phrases.”
The new system is expected to be introduced in the summer 2017.
However, pig farms would need to adhere to stricter requirements than current statutory requirements in Denmark and in the EU to qualify under the new labelling system, which involves the award of one, two or three stars, said the Danish ministry of environment and food leading the initiative. Among these conditions are that “sows must be able to roam freely throughout the production process; pigs must have a curly tail, which means that they must have whole tails without tail docking and tail biting; 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”, said a ministry statement.
The more stars, the better the welfare, according to the ministry. One star indicates that the basic requirements of the label have been met – that free-range sows with curly tails benefit from more space and fresh straw. For two stars, these basic requirements are combined with more space for pigs. And to receive three stars, pigs should not only have more space, but also access to outdoor areas.
Other organisations developing the initiative include the Danish animal welfare society (Dyrenes Beskyttelse), the Danish agriculture and food council, Danish Crown, retailer Dansk Supermarked Group, De Samvirkende Købmænd [trade association for Danish grocers], Danske Slagtermestre [Danish butchers association] and grocery stores Lidl and Aldi.
The new label will add to costs. “The extra costs are expected to be paid for by the consumers who are willing to buy the labelled meat,” said Danish butchers association CEO Torsten Buhl. “For level one we have calculated an extra price for the consumer at about 20%,” he said.
The ministry agreed with this assessment, with a note saying “products with one star are new and can be produced at a reasonable additional charge of 15-20%.” Organic and free-range products [three stars] were currently available but they were only sold in small quantities because of their high price, it said.
In principle, the optional label is for domestically-produced pork and exports as well as for imported pork meat, said Buhl. And later on, it will be introduced for other livestock.