Every product made and sold in Germany will soon have to show the conditions under which the animals were kept, according to plans presented by German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir on Tuesday (June 7). EURACTIV Germany Reports.
Producers will have to introduce the new measures step by step over the next two years.
“Breeding in Germany can only be adapted to the future if it does justice to animal welfare,” Özdemir stressed during a press conference where he presented a reference document to implement a national labeling system for animal farms.
Already in the coalition agreement, the three ruling parties had set themselves the goal of introducing a mandatory animal welfare label. Shortly after taking office in December, Özdemir then announced that it would be launched before the end of the year, at least for certain product groups.
According to the minister, the label should help make farmers’ investments in animal welfare more visible while creating more transparency for consumers.
Customers “want to know how the animal whose meat they are buying has lived, and they also want to express their future expectations with their purchase decision, as far as possible”, underlined the Minister of Agriculture.
Germany currently does not have a state-mandated label for animal products.
Last year, former Conservative Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner’s plan to introduce a state-run but voluntary label failed due to opposition from the Social Democrats (SPD), then a partner of Coalition. At the time, the SPD wanted a mandatory label instead.
Five breeding levels
Just as eggs must be labeled with a number indicating how the laying hens are raised, Özdemir’s plans for animal products include a “clearly visible” indication of the animals’ living conditions.
Five different types of farming can be distinguished, ranging from indoor farming without outdoor runs and without fresh air to outdoor farming, with organic production as a separate category.
Mandatory labeling will apply to all foods containing animal products, including processed products, such as frozen pepperoni pizza or salads prepared with chicken strips.
Products packaged in the supermarket and products at the food counter, online retail and supermarket must also be labelled.
For now, however, all this remains for the future, as the first step will be to subject only fresh pork sold chilled or frozen to the labeling obligation, which will then be gradually extended.
Ecologists and animal rights activists therefore still see room for improvement.
In a statement, Greenpeace pointed out that ham, processed frozen products and beef and poultry meat were not covered at this time.
The breeding method behind the label also creates “virtually no guidance on the actual welfare of the animals”, explained Greenpeace expert Martin Hofstetter.
The organization Foodwatch expressed similar opinions, with its expert, Annemarie Botzki, explaining that the breeding method alone “says nothing about the actual health of the animals”.
Meanwhile, the German Farmers’ Association (DBV) assessed the concept presented by Özdemir as an “important first step”, but which still leaves “considerable gaps”.
As long as there is no precise timetable for the extension of the labeling obligation to processed products and meat other than pork, “there will be no guiding effect and the concept risks ‘be undermined in the market,’ DBV chairman Joachim Rukwied said in a statement. A declaration.
Funding as a bone of contention
Farmers’ associations and animal rights activists have also stressed that labeling must be integrated into a broader concept of restructuring livestock farming.
For example, it must be “accompanied by changes to the building law and a viable long-term financing concept”, Rukwied explained, while Greenpeace’s Hofstetter stressed that the government must provide enough money to finance the restructuring.
Yet this labeling is only the first of four building blocks that the German government wants to implement for the future of animal husbandry, Özdemir explained.
“Agricultural animal husbandry in Germany can only be sustainable if it offers farmers a perspective that also allows them to earn a good income,” said the Minister for the Greens.
In addition to the mandatory label, the ministry also wants to present changes to the Animal Welfare Act, adjustments to the Building and Licensing Act and, above all, a financing concept for the longer-term conversion to stables more animal-friendly, he added.
However, the latter could prove difficult within the coalition. The Liberal Democrats (FDP), for example, have recently voiced their opposition to a proposed animal welfare levy on livestock products, and the coalition has yet to be able to s agree on a funding concept.
[Edited by Oliver Noyan/ Daniel Eck/Alice Taylor]