Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Seventh Report

29 Marketing of beef and veal from young animals



COM(06) 487

Draft Council Regulation on the marketing of the meat of bovine animals aged twelve months or less

Legal baseArticle 37EC; consultation; QMV
Document originated8 September 2006
Deposited in Parliament15 September 2006
DepartmentEnvironment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of considerationEM of 3 October 2006
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilShortly
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


29.1 According to the Commission, meat sold from cattle aged 12 months or under is produced using two major types of system — one in which the animals are fed mainly on milk and milk products and slaughtered before eight months, and the other where they are fed almost exclusively on cereals and fodder, and slaughtered at around ten months. In this document, it has proposed that the meat in question should be labelled in such a way as to identify which of these two systems has been used.

The current proposal

29.2 In putting forward this proposal, the Commission suggests that consumers attach importance to the texture and flavour of meat, and to the age at which the animal from which it has come was slaughtered. However, it also points out that such meat is sold within the Community under a variety of different designations, which can have different meanings in different Member States, and that, within a given Member State, these do not as a rule refer to the type of feed used or to the animal's age at slaughter. As a result, it says that consumers tend to be confused and often misled.

29.3 It therefore believes that there should be a Community-wide system of sales descriptions for meat (including imports) from young cattle in each of the two main sub-categories, according to the age of slaughter. In particular, it proposes that:

  • meat from animals slaughtered at eight months or less should be identified by the letter "X", with those slaughtered between eight and twelve months being characterised by the letter "Y";
  • meat in each of these two categories should be given a sales description in each Member State (which would be "veal" and "beef" respectively in the UK and Ireland); and
  • the age of slaughter should be shown, described respectively as "[x] months or less" or "more than eight months but not more than [x] months".

The Government's view

29.4 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 3 October 2006, the Minister for Sustainable Farming and Food at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker) says that the UK supports this approach, which he describes as a pragmatic solution, needed as a result of the inability of Member States to agree a common definition of veal. He suggests that the proposal is unlikely to affect the UK to any great extent as the veal market here, especially for animals between eight and twelve months, is very small. He also points out that, although records would need to be kept at all stages of production and sale, this should not pose any problems as the information is readily available to all operators.


29.5 This proposal, which relates solely to the marketing of beef and veal, and not therefore to animal welfare or food safety, appears to have been put forward in response to a problem which is more prevalent in other Member States than in the UK. Consequently, although it is somewhat bureaucratic, and its impact has not been quantified by the Commission, the Government has told us that it is unlikely to affect the UK to any great degree, given the limited size of the veal market in this country. For that reason, and notwithstanding the reservations we have expressed, we are clearing it.

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Prepared 26 October 2006