European rules on the tagging of bovine animals and on voluntary labelling of beef products are set to change in the near future. In 2012 the European Commission proposed various amendments to Regulation 1760/2000 which, in the wake of the BSE crisis, established a system for the identification and registration of bovine animals and laid down rules on labelling of beef and beef products. The European Parliament has also made its own proposals for the amendment of Regulation 1760/2000.
The primary aim of the Commission proposal is to provide legal clarity to farmers and Member States which opt for electronic identification (EID) of bovine animals. EID involves the use of transponders that incorporate radio frequency to identify individual animals. EID transponders can be in the form of electronic eartags, transponders inserted into animals' stomachs or injected into animals' bodies. Since 2010, EID has been obligatory for sheep and goats.
The Commission has highlighted the benefits to farmers and the meat sector of greater use of EID. While the current traceability system based on conventional, plastic eartags is regarded as broadly effective, it does have certain weaknesses. These include the risk of error in reading eartags and delays in updating national herd databases due to the unavoidable time-lags in reporting animal movements. The current paperbased system of on-farm registers and animal passports was also singled out by an EU expert group as a significant administrative burden on farm businesses. In addition, special penalties exist under EU and Irish law for breaches of the requirements relating to bovine identification. Marts, assembly centres and slaughterhouses would also benefit from the logistical efficiencies offered by EID.
Unless Member States make EID compulsory within their territory, the Commission proposal would see EID introduced on an optional and incremental basis. Individual farmers would be entitled to adopt EID transponders if they feel it would have positive benefits for farm management. However, where EID is introduced, all animals would still be required to have one conventional plastic eartag.
Voluntary Beef Labelling
Of all foodstuffs, beef has one of the most complex and stringent set of laws relating to labelling. Regulation 1760/2000 contains certain compulsory rules in relation to beef labelling, such as information in relation to the countries of birth, fattening and slaughter...