The European Commission is exploring an animal welfare food labelling scheme based around the behaviour displayed by animals rather than the system they are reared under.
Speaking at the Royal Show, labelling expert Francis Fay said at the moment it was the production system that was classified, yet this was a rough and ready way to view things.
“You can have a free range system where the animals are treated quite abominably and on the other side you might have a slatted system where the animals are treated very well,” he said.
“Maybe we need something more sophisticated.”
Mr Fay, who works for the EU commission, said the issue would be covered in an animal welfare discussion paper to be published towards the end of the year.
This would be based around the findings of a research project due to end in October.
However, Mr Fay added that at this stage the subject was just under discussion and was not a policy proposal. The EU Commission was cautious about introducing new regulation which could not be justified.
If the idea progresses it could be that vets are involved in judging whether animals are displaying signs that they are ‘happy’ and experiencing high welfare conditions.
A proposal that is already on the table is one to improve country of origin labelling. The EU has suggested that introducing a ‘place of farming’ label on all agricultural products will satisfy the demands of both consumers and producers.