equine meat labelling

Equine meat labelling

Equine meat should be labelled for Country of Origin and welfare information.

Equine meat should be labelled for Country of Origin and welfare information.

We believe it is vital to include equine meat labelling in the new EU animal welfare labelling scheme in order to transmit value through the whole food chain and ensure consumers can make informed food choices at the time of purchasing.

Thousands of horses are slaughtered for human consumption yearly in the European Union. Horse meat is commonly eaten in many EU countries such as Italy, France, Spain and Belgium, among others. In some of those countries, horses are bred and fattened in the same location, while in other horses are bred in one location, and then transported to another location for fattening and slaughter. These various movements make it difficult to identify the provenance and location during the lifetime of a horse, making the traceability of equine meat complicated.

World Horse Welfare conducted consumer research in Italy to better understand the drivers and motivations in purchasing and consuming horse meat. Results showed that equine welfare was linked with the quality and the healthiness of the consumed meat. In the same research, the majority of respondents would like to be informed about the health and welfare of the animal. However, currently there is still a lack of knowledge on the origin and welfare status of equines from which their meat is produced. The health and welfare of horses destined for slaughter – especially their transport – were highlighted as the main issues regarding horse meat production. Research participants all assumed the horse meat they ate came from Italian horses because it was labelled as an Italian product, despite the vast majority of this meat being from horses transported into Italy for slaughter. They said knowing the origin of the meat would affect their purchasing decisions. By developing an animal welfare label for meat products, including equine meat, consumers´ awareness and expectations on animal welfare could be better fulfilled.

We also attended various horse fairs for people involved in the production of horses intended for human consumption where the owners took great pride in the health and condition of their horses. An equine welfare label should allow them to highlight the good conditions in which their horses were bred and raised. Producers were seeking for a way to show the good work and unique system they were performing, and the good lives horses had.

As currently there is no equine meat welfare labelling scheme in the EU, there is the need to develop one and the future launch of an animal welfare label in the EU is a great opportunity to do so. Full traceability of equines, and their conditions of birth, rearing and slaughter, is essential to inform consumers and to ensure integrity of the food chain.

We believe, for the equine welfare labelling to be efficient and achieve its goals, it should include:

  • The country of origin (or breeding country) and breeding conditions for horses destined for equine meat and equine meat products
  • The country of breeding
  • The rearing system e.g., at pasture, stabled, etc.
  • The country where the equine was slaughtered

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