Meat labels and seals from discounters – mess on the refrigerated shelf

Meat labels and seals from discounters - mess on the refrigerated shelf

Animal welfare and animal welfare are not what you first associate with fresh meat from the discounter. There is now a whole flood of labels, seals and labels on the meat packs of the discounters. We bring light into the dark with our market check.

Animal welfare and animal protection when buying fresh meat are much discussed. The problem: So far there has not been a state seal – that’s why the trade itself has now become active. The discounters have gradually launched their own fresh meat labels in recent months. Lidl was the first grocer to introduce a four-stage meat compass. Netto, Penny and Aldi followed with similar labeling initiatives.

In addition to the keeping label, various quality seals are also affixed to the fresh meat packs, but their criteria differ widely. An overview:

Overview in the seal jungle

Animal Welfare Initiative

At the ‘Initiative animal welfare’ it is a union of agriculture, the meat industry and the food trade (Rewe, Aldi, Netto, Penny, Edeka, Kaufland, Lidl and Wasgau).

The seal offers only a little more than the legal minimum requirements. The animals have 10 percent more space, and broilers and pigs are given toys to keep them busy. Farmers receive animal welfare fees that retailers pay into a fund (6.25 cents for every kilo of pork and poultry and sausage sold). The German Animal Welfare Association, which originally worked as a consultant for the Animal Welfare Initiative, has now quit and has founded its own label (‘For more animal protection’).

Problematic: Until April 2018, the consumer himself could not see whether the product came from a company that really participated in the ‘Animal Welfare Initiative’ and met the criteria. The seal only said that the company from which he was buying supported the initiative. This labeling has been criticized many times, since April the animal welfare initiative has been working with two customer information: The new yellow seal (picture on the right, above) may only be printed on products that come from a company of the animal welfare initiative. It is different with customer information (picture on the right, below). Here, the company does not have to adhere to the criteria, but only has to support the initiative financially. In the meantime, due to the newly introduced product seal, this customer information can hardly be found on the packaging.

Nevertheless: Even if the labeling has been improved, the criteria are too lax.

Further information:

For more animal protection

‘For more animal protection’ is the label of the German Animal Welfare Association for animal welfare, which is available in two stages.

  • Level 1: Here the animals have more space and employment opportunities. There is also a limit on how much weight animals can gain in a given period. The requirements for transport and slaughter are strict. This means that level 1 goes well beyond the legal minimum requirements. Nonetheless, this is "but not yet a very high level of animal protection", according to the judgment of .
  • Level 2 (premium level): This level includes exercise and free-range keeping for the animals. The verdict of the consumer advice center is: "The label of the premium level indicates a high level of animal protection compared to the legal standard."

The German Animal Welfare Association currently only awards the label for chicken meat as an entry level, for pork both levels are awarded.

Further information: 

Animal welfare controls

The label ‘Animal welfare controls’ of the association ‘Four Paws’ certified according to similar criteria as the label ‘For more animal protection’: There are also two levels (entry level and premium level). At the entry level, the animals have more employment opportunities, at the premium level they also have an outdoor run. In addition, the transport route to the slaughterhouse must not take longer than four hours.

Further information: 

Fair & Good

Aldi launched a new own brand in January 2018: Under the label ‚Fair & Good’ The discount store sells fresh meat "from improved animal husbandry", the company promises. The criteria adopted by the entry level of the label "For more animal protection" (see above) include: More space, straw in the barn, access to fresh air and feed without genetic engineering. Since the ‘Fair & Good products are not part of the standard range, they are not available in all Aldi branches.

Problematic: Although Aldi is’ Fair & With a wide range of good products, we found only two ‘Fair’ among a variety of conventional chicken products at our market check & Good ‘deals.

The animal welfare markings of the discounters

The discounters’ new animal welfare labels are not only similar visually, but also in terms of the evaluation criteria. They are all four levels and work with similar colors and names for the individual grades. The systems are based on how eggs are labeled. We find it confusing: The order is reversed, for the egg code the number 0 corresponds to the organic quality class (i.e. the highest level), while for the discounter’s compass, the number 1 stands for the lowest level.

We have critically examined the offer in the discounters. Our market sample showed: Levels 3 and 4 can only be found in isolated areas in the refrigerated counters.

Aldi: four-stage model of animal husbandry

Since August 2018, keeping transparency has been shown on the packaging of fresh meat products made from pork, poultry and beef. The corresponding labels look like this:

Level 1 (red): stabling: Regular housing according to legal requirements.

Level 2 (blue): Stable keeping plus: The animals have more space than required by law and receive employment material.

Level 3 (orange): outdoor climate: The animals have more space than in level 2, have a more varied environment and have access to outdoor climate areas.

Level 4 (green): Bio: The EU organic standard applies here.

By 2019, the company plans to raise half of its own products to at least the second level.

A lot of advertising – not much behind it (Utopia.de)

Result of the Utopia research *: In the refrigerated counters, there is only level 1 for pork, as well as for beef – with the exception of a single organic article. The poultry range offers the whole range from level 1 to 4. Minced meat is available in level 1 and level 4. The ‘fair & Gut’s range is advertised extensively, but we only found two chicken products.

Additional Information:

Lidl: posture compass

Lidl also works with a four-tier meat label. A compass shows how the animal grew up and was bred.

Level 1 (red): stabling: Meets legal standards.

Level 2 (blue): Stable keeping plus: Gives animals more space and activity material.

Level 3 (orange): Outside air: Gives animals additional space, the animals are fed GMO-free and have access to outdoor climate areas.

Level 4 (green): Bio: Meets the legal requirements for organic meat.

Lidl also has the goal of converting half of its fresh meat products to at least level 2.

A look into the Lidl freezer: the range of levels 3 and 4 is poor. (Photo: Utopia.de)

Result of the Utopia research *: In the refrigerated counters, as with Aldi, there is only level 1 for pork, as well as for beef – with the exception of an organic article. The poultry range offers the whole range from level 1 to 4. Minced meat is available with levels 1 and 4.

Additional Information:

Penny: attitude marking

Penny, the discounter, has also introduced fresh meat posture labeling. The labeling is similar to the criteria of the other discounters.

Level 1 (red): stabling: Animal husbandry according to legal requirements.

Level 2 (blue): Stable keeping plus: Animal husbandry with more freedom of movement.

Level 3 (orange): Animal welfare plus: Animal husbandry with additional area.

Level 4 (green): Bio: Animal husbandry according to EU organic regulation, animal husbandry with a run.

Result of the Utopia research *: In the refrigerated counters, there is only level 1 for pork and beef. All poultry items were marked with level 2. Overall, we found only one organic product. The steps were not advertised.

Additional Information:

Net: certificate of attitudes

Level 1 (red): Conventional housing: Meets legal standards.

Level 2 (blue): Sustainable animal husbandry (with ‘Initiative animal welfare’ seal): More space, employment material.

Level 3 (beige): outdoor climate (with ‘for more animal protection’ seal): feed without genetic engineering, access to an outdoor area, more space.

Level 4 (green): Bio-attitude: Meets the legal requirements for organic meat.

Rarity: At Netto there is also pork with level 3. (Photo: Utopia.de)

Result of the Utopia research *: In the refrigerated counters, we found – in contrast to the other discounters – pork, which was awarded level 3. Beef was marked with level 1, poultry meat was available in different levels.

Additional Information:

Kaufland: posture compass

The Kaufland compass is based on that of Lidl.

Level 1 (red): stabling: Meets the legal requirements.

Level 2 (blue): stabling plus: Gives animals more space than Tier 1 and activity materials; the labeled meat is proven to come from companies that meet these additional criteria.

Level 3 (orange): outdoor climate: Gives animals more space than level 2, animals are fed GMO-free and have access to outdoor climate areas.

Level 4 (green): Bio: Corresponds to the legal regulations for organic meat according to the EU organic regulation.

Additional Information:

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What to think about the labels?

The animal welfare debate fueled by the new seals and labels is important, albeit tough and difficult. The most important question in the discussion about the pros and cons of the labels is: Will animal welfare actually be improved by the new labeling?

What speaks for the labels

The approach is not wrong and better than nothing. "The state did not act, now the discounters have taken over," says Gerald Wehde, spokesman for Bioland, summarizing the lack of willingness to make decisions on the part of the state. Animal welfare and environmental organizations as well as the growing associations all agree: it is good that the discounters are taking action. "One point that is worth praising is the fact that the discounters are communicating level 1," says Gerald Wehde. However, he also points out that this is also a major problem: "Level 1 suggests animal welfare – in reality, however, the consumer gets ordinary stables, level 2 is not much better in this regard."

The German Animal Welfare Association can also gain something from the initiative of the discounters: "Conventional products that offer no added value compared to the legal standard can now be recognized as such."

What speaks against the labels

  1. Too many labels & markings! The very fact that every supermarket and discounter currently works with different labels is confusing.
  2. Too much level 1! Most of the products that we encountered during our research in the discounters only meet the minimum legal requirements. And they are far from even the grade "sufficient". The lower standards are too low to even speak of animal welfare.
  3. consumer deception! The assumption is obvious that the meat buyer sees a product with a label, buys the product without paying any attention to which label he has in front of him – and leaves the shop with a clear conscience. He has now done something for animal welfare and no longer has to think about it. "The animal welfare label suggests to the consumer to do something good", says Jutta Saumweber, head of department for food and nutrition from the Bavarian Consumer Center to Utopia.de: "Advertisements on shelves or in brochures with not comprehensible from the outside are not meaningful and unreliable Quality promises such as ‘species-appropriate husbandry, meat from Irish pasture cattle’, etc. Company statements on the Internet about future animal welfare strategies and the handling of animals should also be treated with caution. ”It is reasonable to assume that the retailers hope that the lowest entry level will keep them well To be able to pretend animals. "It has nothing to do with animal welfare!" Says the Consumer Center Bavaria. Bioland spokesman Gerald Wehde states: "If there is no animal welfare, it is consumer deception."
  4. Too little attention is paid to health! Matthias Wolfschmidt from foodwatch (veterinarian and author of the book "The Pig System") says: "Whether the food that comes from animals actually comes from an animal that has had a good and healthy life cannot be guaranteed by any of the labels presented so far. Because health doesn’t matter. It is essentially about space, bedding, outside access. It is absurdly not interesting whether the animals on the respective farm were actually in good – or bad – health. It’s not about what we want – for example, idyllic farms – but how it actually looks from the perspective of the individual animal. "

The majority of Germans want a uniform state label. (Photo: Colourbox.de)

Where is a state animal welfare label??

When it comes to meat consumption, most Germans agree: Almost 80 percent want a uniform state animal welfare label. They want to know how the turkey or the pig whose meat they have on their plate was kept. This is confirmed by a survey for the .

It will take a while until this wish comes true. Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner (CDU) plans to place the label in supermarkets by 2020/21. The following are already known:

  • It should be a three-tier label.
  • The criteria of the entry level should be significantly above the legal minimum standard.
  • Participation in the labeling should be voluntary.

The statutory minimum standard should continue to exist, but will then no longer be labeled as animal welfare. Julia Klöckner said: "We cannot label something that only meets the legal requirements, but only what is above it and contains more animal welfare."

More space for pigs, more time with the mother and less stress during transport and slaughter. The criteria…

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Criticism from all sides

State seal yes, everyone agrees. But no to point 3 – the Voluntary participation. This is met with harsh criticism from animal protection associations and cultivation associations. They all call for mandatory state labeling, comparable to that for eggs. Bioland spokesman Gerald Wehde emphasizes: "A state label must be mandatory".

The animal protection organization ‘Four Paws’ sharply criticizes Klöckner’s concept. In September 2018, the organization asked the agricultural ministers of the federal states to speak out against the planned state animal welfare label of the federal government and for a legally mandatory labeling of all animal products. "The animal welfare indicator in its current form will not change the pitiful situation of animals in factory farming, because it does not affect 80 percent of farm animals due to the voluntary nature," criticizes ‘Vier Pfoten Deutschland’.

Far from animal welfare: animal husbandry according to legal standards. (Photo: Four Paws – Fred Dott)

Labeling above the legal standard

The German Association for the Protection of Animals emphasizes: "The criteria for such labeling must be clearly above the legal standard." Bioland is important in designing the first (i.e. the lowest) level: "The animals must have at least 40 percent more space. And shortening the tails must be prohibited. "

The consumer advice center focuses on high standards for animal welfare and animal health. "In addition, politicians should advocate for Europe-wide mandatory meat labeling so that standards are binding for all member states and cannot be undermined," said Jutta Saumweber, head of the Food and Nutrition Unit at the Consumer Advice Center.

Julia Klöckner defends the planned seal

Julia Klöckner replied to the accusation that the planned requirements of the state seal were too lax: “It is useless to formulate conditions at fantastic heights for an animal welfare label if the breadth would not take part, and that is why it is, of course, clear that animal welfare associations say the best are the very highest standards. But that will lead to the fact that it will hardly be affordable, that above all nobody will participate, and then the animal will not be helped. ”

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What a government seal speaks for

For many customers, there is a desire for more sustainable consumption – all that is missing is the initial spark to turn this wish into reality and to act accordingly. A government seal could be a good approach here. A seal instead of many individual ones is urgently needed and would provide more clarity.

The debate on animal welfare and animal welfare should not only focus on fresh meat in supermarkets, says Gerald Wehde from Bioland: “Only half of the meat ends up in the trade, the other half in the catering trade. That must not be overlooked. "

Saving money when buying meat vs. Support animal welfare

What should not be forgotten in the discussion about labeling and seals: Surveys indicate that consumers are willing to spend more money on meat from animal-friendly production. But the truth is different: When it comes to cash, many people ultimately decide on the cheapest alternative. Two hearts beat in the chest of most consumers: one wants to do more for animal welfare, the other wants to spend as little money as possible.

Animal welfare is not for nothing: If animals should have more space in the barn and fresh air, this is reflected in the price. Otherwise the calculation does not work. Therefore, each of us is challenged not only to want animal welfare and animal protection, but also to act accordingly.

Which product and which labeling currently make sense?

Really good husbandry conditions only guarantee the organic and Naturland seals as well as the premium levels of ‘For more animal protection’ and ‘Animal protection controlled’ (see for these above). Good meat from animal welfare has its price, nothing will change. The principle of the German Animal Welfare Association puts it in a nutshell: "Meat avoidance is the best way to more animal protection". Sometimes less is simply more!

More and more seals are to signal to the consumer that there are differences between the products and that one can choose between better …

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* Research on October 18, 2018 in discounters in Munich. The result is a sample and not representative.

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