According to a recent Global Agricultural Information Network report, by the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), animal welfare labels for meat products have previously been introduced in German supermarkets, but take-up has been minimal.
The idea behind the alliance is that the food industry sets up a fund which financially rewards higher animal welfare standards.
The proposed improvements would go beyond legal requirements, with farmers able to join up voluntarily. A number of basic requirements will be mandatory, with farmers eligible to receive a €500 bonus, while additional payments could be made if farmers choose to meet extra requirements.
Retailers will put four euro cents from every per kilogram sold of meat or sausage into the fund – this will cover total sales rather than just sales from meat which has come from farms already offering higher animal welfare standards. According to the report, this could raise up to €65m a year for the fund, which would be reinvested in the production of animals to higher welfare standards.
The project is due to commence at the beginning of 2015, and will first target pork production, with poultry likely to be included further down the line.
However, the report noted a number of potential effects on trade from the formation of the new Initiative Tierwohl (Initiative Animal Welfare). "First, within the EU, implementation of national standards prior to the EU puts German farmers at a cost disadvantage. Germany’s pork and poultry industry has expanded dramatically in the past decade, fuelled by exports. The industry’s ability to mitigate costs while still meeting new standards poses a challenge," read the report.
"Secondly, longer-term, there is the real possibility that today’s animal rights standards will become tomorrow’s impediments to trade. Clearly, animal welfare has become an important political topic in Germany and, in the run-up to elections last autumn in 2013, the Green Party has made it a campaign issue. The Green Party’s main initiative is restricting large-scale animal operations, which are portrayed as having more animal welfare problems than smaller farms."