Animal Welfare Standards in the EU Official Geographical Indications
Alice Di Concetto  1@  
1 : Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne  (UP1)  -  Site web
Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
12 place du Panthéon, 75231 Paris Cedex 05 -  France

On its face, the body of rules governing geographical indications in European Union (EU) law only regulates claims that inform consumers on the geographical provenance of a product. Yet, the act governing these rules, the Quality Scheme Regulation,[1] pertains to much more than just a “location-of-origin” food label. Rather, this regulation establishes a variety of standards related to the quality of food products, referred to in the act as “added value” or “value-adding attributes.”[2]

The Quality Scheme Regulation qualifies these value-adding attributes from the dual perspective of tradition and sustainability, as opposed to less sustainable, industrial production methods. The Legislature thus sets general standards that the specifications of an official geographical indication should comply with, leaving the details of these specifications for the producers to define. In doing so, the Quality Scheme Regulation pursue two goals: ensuring fair competition on the agricultural market and protecting consumers from misleading claims.

The Quality Scheme Regulation has, however, fallen short of ensuring high levels of consumer protection. While the regulation guarantees some of the inherent and external value-adding attributes of a product, such as its local origin and ingredients; it has largely neglected many other aspects related to the methods of production. One aspect that has become crucial to consumers is the treatment afforded of animals used in the making of a food product.

It is reasonable to think that quality schemes should include animal welfare standards that go beyond legal requirements given that consumers naturally associate high quality food standards with improved animal welfare. In fact, the Quality Scheme Regulation considers, in its recitals, that specifications improving the welfare of farm animals qualify as a value-adding attribute.[3] Among the EU quality schemes, the EU organic regulation even makes “high animal welfare standards” an objective. By contrast, very few of the official geographical specifications – Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and protected geographical indication (PGI) – contain animal welfare standards.

This omission potentially result in misleading consumers into buying products they likely consider to be more humane compared to non-certified products. Indeed, many investigations on certified farms revealed that the methods employed on farms supplying certified products, such as Jambon de Bayonne IGP, or Parmigiano Reggiano PDO – just to name a few – employed methods of production that were no different than those used in conventional systems.

This contribution will therefore show the limited extent to which high levels of animal welfare is taken into account in EU official geographical indications and the issues this poses to consumer protection in the EU. This contribution will then formulate recommendations for reform to inform the upcoming revision of the Quality Scheme Regulation, as well as the recently announced regulatory actions to improve consumer information related to farm animal welfare in the EU.

[1] Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 November 2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs, O.J. L 343/1-29, 2012.

[2] Id., e.g. Recitals 34, 46.

[3] Recital 23.

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