The meat of domestic ungulates (including beef, bison, pigs, sheep and goats, but also horses, donkeys and asses) all come under the provisions set out in Regulation (EC) 853/2004 laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin.
‘Fresh meat’ means meat that has not undergone any preserving process other than chilling, freezing or quick-freezing, including meat that is vacuum-wrapped or wrapped in a controlled atmosphere. The official controls over fresh meat are contained in Regulation (EC) 854/2004 and were covered in the document Traditional Foods: Meat - Introduction.
The provisions of Regulation (EC) 853/2004 apply to unprocessed and processed meat. In this context unprocessed means meat which has not undergone processing, and includes meat products that have been divided, parted, severed, sliced, boned, minced, skinned, ground, cut, cleaned, trimmed, chilled, frozen, deep-frozen or thawed.
The act of processing is any action that substantially alters the initial product, including heating, smoking, curing, maturing, drying, marinating, extraction, extrusion or any combination. The result of which is a processed product which may contain ingredients necessary for their manufacture or to give them specific characteristics.
Regulation (EC) 1760/2000 establishes a system for the identification and registration of bovine animals and the labelling of beef and beef products.
An operator is required to label beef (products falling within CN codes 0201, 0202, 0206 10 95 and 0206 29 91) at all stages of marketing and may label beef at the point of sale other than as required only in accordance with the prescribed compulsory and voluntary labelling systems.
The compulsory labelling ensures a link between, on the one hand, the identification of the carcass, quarter or pieces of meat and, on the other hand, the individual animal or, where this is sufficient to enable the accuracy of the information on the label to be checked, the group of animals concerned.
Operators marketing beef must label it with indications:
- A reference number or reference code ensuring the link between the meat and the animal or animals.
- The approval number of the slaughterhouse at which the animal or group of animals was slaughtered and the Member State or third country in which the slaughterhouse is established. The indication must read: ‘Slaughtered in (name of the Member State or third country) (approval number)’.
- The approval number of the cutting hall which performed the cutting operation on the carcass or group of carcases and the Member State or third country in which the hall is established. The indication must read: ‘Cutting in: (name of the Member State or third country) (approval number)’.
Operators must also indicate on the labels:
- The Member State or third country of birth.
- All Member States or third countries where fattening took place.
- The Member State or third country where slaughter took place.
- Where beef is derived from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the same Member State, the indication may be given as ‘Origin: (name of Member State)’ or, in the same third country, as ‘Origin: (name of third country).
The voluntary labelling system requires each operator to send a specification for approval by Defra, as the competent authority, which may establish specifications, provided their use is not compulsory, which must indicate:
- The information to be included on the label.
- The measures to be taken to ensure the accuracy of the information.
- The control system which will be applied at all stages of production and sale, including the controls to be carried out by an independent body recognised by the competent authority and designated by the operator or the organisation.
- In the case of an organisation, the measures to be taken in relation to any member which fails to comply with the specifications.
Member States may decide that controls by an independent body may be replaced by controls by a competent authority which, in this case, must have at its disposal the qualified staff and resources necessary to carry out the controls. The cost of controls is to be met by the operator using the labelling system.
Regulation (EC) 1234/2007 establishes a common organisation of agricultural markets and makes provision for certain agricultural products, including scales for the classification of carcases of adult bovine animals. The meat of bovine animals aged 12 months or less, without prejudice to the general provisions on the classification of carcases, must be classified on slaughter in one of the following two categories:
- Category V: bovine animals aged 8 months or less.
- Category Z: bovine animals aged more than 8 months but not more than 12 months.
The classification is determined on the basis of the information contained in the passport accompanying the animal or, failing this, data contained in the computerised database.
In this context, ‘meat’ means all carcases, meat on the bone or boned, and offal, whether or not cut, intended for human consumption, obtained from bovine animals aged 12 months or less, presented fresh, frozen or deep-frozen, whether or not wrapped or packed.
These requirements do not apply to the meat of bovine animals for which a protected designation of origin or geographical indication has been registered.
The meat of bovine animals aged 12 months or less can only be marketed in the UK under the following sales descriptions:
- Meat of bovine animals in category V: ‘veal’.
- Meat of bovine animals in category Z: ‘beef’.
The descriptions may be supplemented by an indication of the name or designation of the pieces of meat or offal concerned. The term ‘veal’ must not be used in a sales description or be indicated on the label of meat of bovine animals aged more than 12 months.
There are detailed rules governing the manner of labelling, recording of information and official checks which provide that, immediately after slaughter:
- The category identification letter (V or Z) must be indicated on the outside surface of the carcass by using labels or stamps.
- Labels must be not less than 50 cm2 and the category identification letter perfectly legible.
- Where stamps are used, the letter shall be not less than two centimetres in height and stamped directly on the surface of the meat using an indelible ink.
- Labels or stamps must be applied on the hindquarters on the striploin at the level of the fourth lumbar vertebra and on the forequarters, on the brisket between 10 and 30 cms from the cut edge of the sternum.
The indication of age and sales description must be presented in the same visual field and perfectly legible on the same label at each stage of production and marketing, and on release to the final consumer.
In order to guarantee the accuracy of labelling information, operators must, in particular, record the following information:
- The identification number and the date of birth of the animal, at slaughterhouse level only.
- A reference number making it possible to establish a link between, on the one hand, the identification of the animal from which the meat originates and, on the other hand, the sales description, age on slaughter and category identification letter given on the meat label.
- The date of arrival and departure of the animal and meat in the establishment, to ensure that a correlation between arrival and departure is established.
The record must also include the name and address of the operator responsible for the previous stage of marketing from whom they have been supplied with meat.
These labelling provisions are currently enforced under the provisions of The Beef and Veal Labelling Regulations 2010. A person guilty of an offence under the 2010 Regulations is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.
2.2 Minced Beef
The food information to consumers (FIC) Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 makes specific provision regarding the designation of ‘minced meat’. The composition criteria checked on the basis of a daily average must be as follows:
Collagen/Meat Protein Ratio*
Lean minced meat
≤ 7 %
≤ 12 %
Minced pure beef
≤ 20 %
≤ 15 %
Minced meat containing pig meat
≤ 30 %
≤ 18 %
Minced meat of other species
≤ 25 %
≤ 15 %
*The collagen/meat protein ratio is expressed as the percentage of collagen in meat protein. The collagen content means the hydroxyproline content multiplied by a factor of 8.
The labelling requirements laid down in Regulation (EC) 853/2004 require food business operators to ensure that packs intended for supply to the final consumer containing minced meat from poultry or solipeds, or meat preparations containing MSM must indicate that these products should be cooked before consumption if, and to the extent that, national rules so require.
In addition the following expressions must appear on the labelling:
‘percentage of fat content under …’
‘collagen/meat protein ratio under …’
Member States may allow the placing on their national market of minced meat which does not comply with the composition criteria under a national mark that cannot be confused with a health or identification mark.
The draft food information regulations prepared in connection with Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 contain provisions which permit minced meat that does not comply with the above compositional requirements to be placed on the market using the designation ‘minced meat’ where a specified mark on the labelling. The regulations are not yet, however, in force.
 Regulation (EC) 853/2004, Annex I, point 1.10
 Regulation (EC) 1760/2000, Articles 13, 14 and 15
 Ibid., Article 12
 Ibid., Title II, Sections I and II respectively.
 Regulation (EC) 1760/2000, Article 13(1)
 Ibid., Article 13(2)
 Regulation (EU) 1234/2007, Annex V, Part A
 Ibid., Article 113b
 Ibid., Article 42 and Annex V
 Regulation (EU) 1760/2007, Article 5
 Regulation (EC) 566/2008
 Regulation (EU) 1234/2007, Annex XIa, point VI
 Regulation (EU) 566/2008, Article 5
 SI 2010/983
 Ibid., r10
 Regulation (EU) 1169/2011, Article 17(5) and Annex VI, Part B
 Annex III, Section V, Chapter IV
 Regulation (EU) 2011/1169, Annex VI, Part B, point 2
 Ibid., Annex VI, Part B, point 3
 Regulation (EC) 853/2004, Article 5(1)