The standard includes a set of norms that are more stringent than Belgian legislation. Focusing on animal health, animal welfare, sustainability, food safety and traceability, the standard has been designed for the entire supply chain of pork production – including the slaughterhouses.
For the first time in Belgium, the animal welfare standard will be open to the whole country, rather than applying to a particular region – whether that be Flanders, Wallonia, or the Brussels-Capital Region.
‘One of the most regulated’ meat sectors
According to BelPork, which owns the BePork quality scheme and is responsible for the new standard, the meat sector in Belgium is one of the most regulated in the world.
“This is the result of a well-developed system of integrated chain monitoring and quality assurance,” said Belpork coordinator Liesbet Pluym.
“Every link in the production chain, from farm to fork, must comply with strict requirements. It is important to understand that the baseline is already at a high level. Now we have Belpork’s initiative on top of that.”
To develop the additional standard, Belpork set a benchmark that aligns with other standards implemented around Europe. “It offers the possibility to reach a level equivalent to the animal welfare initiatives in the Netherlands and Germany,” Pluym continued.
Responding to consumer demand
The initiative responds to growing consumer demand for higher animal welfare standards in Belgium.
“An ever-increasing number of consumers have an eye for animal welfare,” Pluym told FoodNavigator, adding that the standard allows shoppers to make ‘even more conscious' choices based on their food requirements.
This growing trend is reflected in a consumer survey conducted by the Belgian Meat Office (VLAM).
Particularly amongst younger (18-34 years) and female respondents, animal welfare was found to be a purchase criterion, we were told. Fifty-five percent of respondents say animal welfare is ‘important’ to ‘very important’ when buying meat.
‘Appearance’, ‘date’ and ‘price’ remain more important criteria than animal welfare, but animal welfare is almost equal to origin or the presence of other visible quality markets.
“The new standard allows retailers to offer local pork that is guaranteed to have been produced in accordance with far-reaching, extra-legal standards,” said Pluym.
“In addition to offering transparency to consumers, the standard also allows producers to differentiate themselves.”