Section D: Voluntary beef labelling scheme
1. What is the beef labelling scheme?
The beef labelling scheme has been in place in the UK since 1997. It puts into practice EC legislation which requires beef labelling information, apart from compulsory labelling, to be approved by the authorities in the member state or states and checked by recognised verifiers.
2. What information needs to be approved?
The following are examples of information which needs to be approved. If you are not sure whether the information you want to use needs to be approved, please contact the Beef Labelling Section.
- region or local origin - where the animal was born and reared
- breed or cross breed (if you are labelling your beef with the name of the breed, your labelling must make clear whether the beef is from a pure-bred or cross-bred animal)
- age or sex of the animal
- method of production (for example, farm assured, grass-fed)
- method of slaughter (for example, halal, kosher)
- date of slaughter
- method or length of maturation
If you want to label your beef with this or similar information, you must make sure that the information you are providing is common to all animals and meat which the labelled product comes from. Unless you can guarantee this, we will not be able to approve your application. Terms must also be clear to your customers. For example, a term such as 'grass-fed' must mean that the animals concerned were fed mainly on grass or silage.
3. What information does not need to be approved?
Information that must be displayed as required by law, for example Compulsory labelling (section A), does not need approval under the voluntary beef labelling scheme. This information includes:
- the name of the product or cut (for example, brisket)
- the weight of the product
- the 'best before' or 'use by' date
- storage conditions or conditions of use (for example, keep refrigerated)
- instructions for use (for example, cooking instructions)
- the name and address of the manufacturer, packer or seller
- statements that the product has been packaged in a protective atmosphere
- statements in line with the carcass classification grid
- the health mark needed under the Fresh Meat Directive, and other similar veterinary approval
- Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) and approved Certificates of Specific Character (CSC)
If you are not sure whether the information you want to use has to be approved, please contact the Beef Labelling Section.
4. What rules must you follow under the beef labelling scheme?
You must prove the information you give to your customers is clear and not misleading. You must employ, at your expense, an independent verifier from our list of government-recognised beef-labelling verification organisations. We will send you a list of recognised verifiers with the application form, or you can ask for one from the Beef Labelling Section. The list is also available on our website.
The verifier will check that the labelling information you are giving to your customer is accurate. You must give the verifier access at all times to your premises and to your records. Before your premises are inspected, you must let the verifier know what information you are including on labels. You must have available copies of your approval document we have issued and the certificate issued by your verifier. Your verifier must carry out regular checks to prove that your labelling information is correct.
If you want your application to cover your beef when it is sold at outlets outside your business, you must list all these outlets in your application and update the list at least every year if it changes. You will need to employ your verifier to report on the outlet controls as well as yours. If the outlets are being verified for other claims, it may be convenient for the verifier to co-ordinate verification to reduce costs.
5. How to apply for beef labelling scheme approval
Please contact the Beef Labelling Section or our website to get an application pack. Your application must show the labelling information you want to give to your customers and explain how you can provide evidence (through your records) that the information is true. You should send your filled-in application form (BLS 2) to the Beef Labelling Section. If your business is in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you should apply to the appropriate department on their application form.
Rural Payments Agency (RPA)
Phone: 01228 640469
Welsh Assembly for Government Environment Planning and Countryside Department (EPC)
Phone: 0845 010 3300
Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) - Northern Ireland
Phone: 028 9052 4990
6. What happens next?
If we have any questions about your application, we will phone you or write to you. Once we have approved your application, you may use the appropriate approved information. As soon as you receive our approval letter, you should contact your independent verifier to arrange for an inspection to be carried out. Within six months of the date of your approval, you must send us a copy of your verifier's certificate based on an inspection report produced by the verifier. The report should explain the controls that the verifier has carried out and comment on the reliability of your labelling information. If, following this inspection, your verifier is satisfied with the standard of your traceability system, he or she will issue a certificate for a specific period. After the first report, you will need further reports every year or at other times decided by your verifier. We will review your approval in light of each certificate, or information from your verifier.
7. How will we use the information you give us?
We, and the other enforcement authorities, will use the information you give us to decide whether your application meets the rules of the beef labelling scheme. We may also use the information for other purposes, such as assessing the scheme. Any information we store electronically is covered by the Data Protection Act 1998.