Veal marketing rules changed

European agriculture ministers have agreed to clarify the rules on the marketing of veal.

The new rules will require the use of fixed labelling descriptions for meat from cattle aged under 12 months sold in EU countries.

The change comes in the wake of requests from industry and member states for clearer rules to reflect the different production systems of veal in different markets. "The aim is to improve market transparency and help consumers recognise what they are buying," said the Commission.

At the moment, there are two major production systems used to produce veal in Europe. In the first, they are fed mainly on milk or milk products and slaughtered before the age of eight months. In the second, they are fed almost exclusively on cereals supplemented with fodder and are slaughtered at the age of 10 months or above.

Under the current rules, meat from both these systems can be marketed under the single description of 'veal' on the main EU consumer markets. There is often no reference to the type of feed received by the animals or their age at the time of slaughter.

"Experience shows that this practice could disturb trade and encourage unfair competition. Consequently, it has a direct effect on the single market," said the Commission.

The new rules will require labelling to indicate the age cate-gory of the animals slaughtered - either one for animals slaughtered before eight months of age and another for animals slaughtered at 8-12 months of age. Meat in the first category will be labelled as 'veal', while meat in the second category will be labelled as 'beef' in the UK and 'rose veal' in Ireland.

The term 'veal' will be prohibited on the labelling of meat slaughtered over 12 months of age.