There is plenty of interest in the packing label, and several operators in the Finnish food sector have possibilities to develop a label that ensures an animal welfare standard. A round of discussions with food sector experts revealed that various associations and the trade sector are also interested in labelling.
The project for developing a welfare label for food products of animal origin was kicked off with group discussions on the criteria for and possibilities of the label. In the discussions, experts from primary production, food industry, trade and associations as well as researchers deliberated over what the package labelling indicating the welfare of animals could be like.
”The experts presented different views regarding which animal welfare-improving measures should be required from products using the label. They deliberated for instance that the label could highlight the strengths already existing in Finnish land or whether it could be a labelling scheme which can indicate different levels of quality requirements”, says research professor Jarkko Niemi from Natural Resources Institute (Luke).
A label telling about animal welfare
“The discussions in groups were rewarding, but they also revealed challenges in implementing the label,” says Essi Wallenius, researcher and animal welfare consultant. “Setting criteria for the welfare of animals, implementing and controlling the welfare actions and communicating them will be a challenge to all parts of the chain from producers to consumers.”
The opinions of experts participating in the debate varied in relation to the implementation and the need for the label. Groups consisting of people in the same field or with the same background also had different opinions. For example, the question of whether labelled products should meet the same requirements, or whether the label could have subcategories which indicate different levels of quality requirements and thus help to satisfy differing needs of consumers, divided experts expressing their views. They also pondered that when developing the label, we should concentrate on strengths already existing in Finland.
Export efforts will also benefit from the label
There is an extensive pool of parties developing the Finnish animal welfare label. The project aims to develop a quality label, that guarantees a certain standard of animal welfare with products using the label, says Niemi.
Besides promoting the welfare of farm animals with concrete actions throughout the production chain, the aim of the label is also to improve the consumers’ possibilities of choice in supporting welfare-positive production. The label may also help with planning the criteria of public sector procurements as well as with the export marketing of high-quality, ethically Finnish animal products.
During the next year, the project will study what kind of a welfare label would best respond to the consumers’ needs, what requirements and costs it would create for primary production and food industry, and assess the profitability of labelling. The project will propose an action plan for implementing the welfare label in Finland. The plan can be used for promoting the welfare of animals, for productization and for marketing.
Animal welfare labelling to promote competitiveness and quality of livestock production is a three-year project funded by the Development Fund for Agriculture and Forestry. The project is implemented by the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and Pellervo Economic Research (PTT). The Finnish Centre for Animal Welfare of Luke is participating in the implementation. Several companies, associations and organisations are also contributing to the project.