When buying schnitzel or bratwurst, customers increasingly want to pay attention to how the animals once lived. But how easy is it to see that? An official logo is now on the way.

After years of discussions, a new attempt is being made for state animal husbandry labeling for meat and sausages.

Federal Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) wants to present the cornerstones of a system today that is intended to bring more transparency to supermarket customers about the conditions in the stables. The traffic light coalition has agreed on mandatory labeling in order to promote a change towards more animal welfare. At the same time, secure financing is to be organized so that farmers are not left with billions in costs for investments and additional expenses.

The new marking

Özdemir wants to get the legal regulations in place this year. Specifically, there is to be a system that distinguishes and displays several forms of husbandry – the range extends from the legal minimum requirements to more space and activity material in the stable to outdoor exercise and organic. The labeling should start with pork in the first step.

The top dog

Many customers are already familiar with similar logos on packs, but these are not regulated by the state. Since 2019, supermarket chains have been labeled with the imprint “Hunging form”, which includes pork, poultry and beef meat. It has four levels: from the legal standard in level 1 called “Stable housing”, through level 2 “Stable housing plus” and level 3 “Outdoor climate” to level 4 “Premium” with outdoor exercise, which also includes organic meat. This marking should also remain in place for some time in parallel with the state one, especially since it already exists for several animal species.

The history

How the state logo should look exactly is still open. It is clear that we are now talking about a different approach than the one that has been discussed for a long time: namely, mandatory labeling for all forms of husbandry – instead of a voluntary seal only for better forms of husbandry. Most recently, Özdemir’s predecessor Julia Klöckner (CDU) wanted to put such an animal welfare logo on the shelves with requirements above the legal standard. But the plans failed.

The design

Customers should be able to reliably see from the planned labeling how the animals were once kept. This transparency should also enable a more conscious purchase decision. It’s similar with eggs, which are given a numerical code for the type of husbandry – from 0 for organic to 3 for cage husbandry. The meat labeling of the trade has the numbers 1 to 4 for the four different levels on the labels and the respective colors red, light blue, orange and green.

The funding

Secured financing should be added to the label so that farmers are not left alone with investments in barn conversions and higher running costs. According to the recommendations of a commission of experts, a higher VAT rate or an “animal welfare tax” on animal products are under discussion. A surcharge of 40 cents per kilogram of meat would be conceivable. In the coalition, however, it crunched recently. The FDP made it clear that, in view of the currently high inflation, it rejects price surcharges for consumers.

The coalition partner

From the point of view of the agricultural policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group, Gero Hocker, the already known proposals are “only to be understood as a first working basis”. In order to really give the consumer more transparency and clear assistance in promoting more animal welfare through their shopping behavior, a husbandry label must be based on the labels that can already be found in the store. “With the dogmatic insistence on an extra level for organic products, where the husbandry is often worse than in conventional stables, the Ministry of Agriculture is threatening to cause the project to fail through clientele politics.”

The critics

Environmental and consumer advocates complain that there is too little animal protection. “The criteria for the new legal animal husbandry label are not sufficient to fundamentally improve animal welfare,” said Greenpeace expert Martin Hofstetter of the Funke media group. The new label only defines forms of housing for pigs in stables from which fresh meat is obtained and which is sold in the food trade. The organization Foodwatch also calls for stricter criteria: “Numerous studies show that in all forms of husbandry – from small crates to organic farms – many animals suffer from diseases and injuries,” said Managing Director Chris Methmann.