Guidance

Comply with the Compulsory Beef Labelling Scheme

You must batch and label the beef and veal you sell or supply according to specific rules, which vary from product to product.

The Compulsory Beef Labelling Scheme rules apply to anyone selling or supplying fresh or frozen beef or veal anywhere in the supply chain.

Every food business that sells or supplies these meats must set up a traceability system (also called a traceability control system). The records that make up the traceability system contain reference numbers linking the traceability information to the labels on the beef. This ensures that wherever beef or veal is sold, it can be traced back to where it originated.

Who the scheme applies to

The scheme rules apply to all:

  • abattoirs or slaughterhouses (regardless of the number of animals they slaughter)
  • cutting plants
  • cold stores
  • repackaging centres
  • butchers’ shops
  • mobile shops
  • market stalls
  • supermarkets
  • farm shops
  • suppliers to hotels, restaurants and other catering facilities

The rules don’t apply to businesses dealing solely in cooked beef.

Which products the rules apply to

You must apply the labelling rules to fresh and frozen beef products including:

  • whole carcases
  • carcase quarters
  • fresh or frozen bone-in/boneless beef cuts, including joints, steak and dice
  • mince (containing less than 1% salt)
  • uncooked beefburger patties with no added ingredients (like soya protein or cereal binder)
  • veal

The rules don’t apply to:

  • uncooked meat that has been seasoned either in depth or over the whole surface so that it can be seen by the naked eye or clearly tasted
  • beef and veal in processed products and offal – eg processed beefburgers and steak and kidney pies

What you must put on the labels

If you are labelling beef (except mince or trimmings) you must include these indications:

  1. a reference number or code
  2. the name of the member state or non-EU country in which the animal or group of animals were born
  3. the name of the member state or non-EU country in which the animal or group of animals were raised
  4. the words ‘Slaughtered in: [name of member state or non-EU country]’
  5. the licence number of the slaughterhouse – this doesn’t apply to beef sold loose over the counter
  6. the words ‘Cutting/cut in: [name of member state or non-EU country]’
  7. licence number(s) of the cutting plant(s) – this doesn’t apply to beef sold loose over the counter

You can download more detailed guidance about:

If you make any additional claims on your labels, you must make sure that any information added meets the requirements of the current food labelling legislation. You can find more information about this under ‘food labelling and packaging’.

Download examples of beef and veal labelling (PDF, 503KB, 5 pages) .

Where to put the labelling information

You must label pre-wrapped beef on its outermost packaging – either on each individual package of meat or on the outer carton, if you are selling more than one package in a carton.

If you are selling non-pre-wrapped beef you must display the labelling information clearly so that customers can see which information relates to which meat. You can do this in 1 of 4 ways:

  • on the meat
  • on a container holding the meat
  • in the shop – eg on a ticket near the meat
  • on a sign on a wall that your customers can see

As well as these specific labels, you must apply the Compulsory Beef Labelling Scheme rules to all written information about the meat that you give to customers at the point of sale, eg:

  • advertisements
  • posters
  • announcements
  • leaflets

Definitions

You must apply the beef labelling rules according to the definitions set out in EU law. Where a definition is specific to a type of product, it is given in the section about that product below. There are 4 more general definitions to be aware of. They are given here.

Batch

A batch is legally defined as meat, on the bone or boned eg carcases, quarters or boned pieces of meat, cut up, minced or packed together under practically identical conditions.

Cut meat

Cut meat is legally defined as meat that:

  • has been cut into small cubes, slices or other individual portions
  • doesn’t require further cutting by an operator before being bought by the final consumer
  • can be directly used by the final consumer

Retail

Retail is legally defined as the handling and/or processing of meat and its storage at the point of sale or delivery to the final consumer, including caterers, company canteens, institutional catering, restaurants and other similar food service operations, shops, supermarket distribution centres and wholesale outlets

The final consumer

The final consumer is legally defined as the ultimate consumer of cut meat who does not use it as part of a food business operation or activity

Pre-packed cut meat

Pre-packed (also known as pre-packaged) cut meat is legally defined as the individual pack offered unaltered to the final consumer or to an establishment engaged solely in retail sales, made up of cut meat and the packaging in which it was packed before being offered for sale, whether the packaging covers it fully or partially, but such that the content cannot be altered without opening or changing the packaging.

Batching rules

When producing cut meat, you are allowed to make up batches using meat from animals slaughtered at a maximum of 3 different abattoirs. You can also make batches from carcases cut up at a maximum of 3 different cutting plants.

Any batch of cut meat produced from up to 3 different abattoirs/cutting plants must go straight to retail packaging.

Labelling rules

When labelling pre-packed cut meat from up to 3 slaughterhouses or up to 3 cutting plants, you must include the:

  • reference number or code
  • name of the member state or non-EU country in which the animals were born
  • name(s) of the member state or non-EU country in which the animals were raised
  • words ‘Animals in the group slaughtered in: [name of member state or non-EU country of slaughter]’
  • licence number(s) of the slaughterhouse(s) concerned
  • words ‘Cutting of meat in batch in: [name of member state or non-EU country of cutting]’
  • licence number(s) of the cutting plant(s)

Non-pre-packed cut meat

Non-pre-packed cut meat is legally defined as cut meat displayed for sale non-pre-packaged in outlets for sale to the final consumer and all pieces of meat displayed for sale non pre-packaged in outlets for sale to the final consumer, intended to be cut at the request of the final consumer.

When displaying non-pre-packed cut meat you must keep the meat of animals born and/or raised and/or slaughtered in different countries clearly separated from each other.

You must label each group of meat with the country of:

  • birth
  • rearing (if the animals were reared in more than one country, you must list all countries)
  • slaughter
  • carcase cutting

If you sell non-pre-packed cut beef displayed together, each day you must record, with the date, the:

  • licence number(s) of the slaughterhouse(s)
  • licence number(s) of the cutting plant(s)

You must give this information to any customer who asks for it.

Minced beef

Minced meat is legally defined as any meat that:

  • Any boned meat that has been minced into fragments.
  • falls within one of the CN (combined nomenclature) codes referred to in Article 12 of Regulation (EC) 1760/2000
  • contains less than 1% salt

Batching rules

When mincing beef, you must clean the mincing machine between batches if the animals in the first batch were slaughtered in a different country from the animals in the second.

Each batch of mince must originate in only one country. You must not mix raw beef mince from two or more different countries of slaughter.

If you sell mixed minced meat and most of it is made up of beef – eg 60% beef and 40% pork – you must follow the compulsory minced beef labelling rules.

You are allowed to mix offal with a majority proportion of raw beef mince from the same country. If you do you must follow the labelling rules for minced beef.

Labelling rules

When labelling minced beef you must include, as a minimum, the:

  • reference number or code – a traceability reference number or code that links back to the source animal, group of animals or batches of beef used for mincing
  • member state or non-EU country of slaughter – you must include the words ‘Slaughtered in: [name of member state or non-EU country]’
  • member state or non-EU country of mincing – you must include the words ‘Minced in [name of member state or non-EU country]’
  • member state(s) or non-EU country (or countries) where the animal(s) lived from birth to slaughter, if different from the country of mincing – you must include the words ‘Origin: [name of member state and/or non-EU country]’, or ‘Origin: Non-EC’ if the country is outside the EU

In addition, if you want to you can also include the:

  • licence number(s) of the slaughterhouse(s)
  • words ‘Cutting/cut in: [name of member state or non-EU country]’
  • licence number(s) of the cutting plant(s)
  • date of mincing

Trimmings

Trimmings are legally defined as small pieces of meat recognised as fit for human consumption produced exclusively during trimming operations during the boning of carcases and/or the cutting up of meat.

When making up batches, you must treat trimmings in the same way as minced beef but you only need to follow the rule relating to a single country of slaughter.

When labelling trimmings you must include the:

  • reference number or code
  • name(s) of the country or countries in which the animals in the group were born and raised – you must include the words ‘Born and raised in: [names of the countries in which the animals were born and raised]’
  • name of the country of slaughter of the animals – you must include the words ‘Slaughtered in: [name of member state or non-EU country of slaughter]’; if the country of birth, rearing and slaughter is the same for all animals in the group you can use the words ‘Country of origin: [name of member state or non-EU country in which birth, rearing and slaughter took place]
  • name of the country of production of the trimmings – you must include the words ‘Produced in: [name of member state or non-EU country of production]’
  • approval number of the plant where the trimmings were produced

Meat from bovine animals aged less than 12 months

At the time of slaughter, you should classify all bovine animals aged less than 12 months into one of two categories:

  • Category V: bovine animals aged less than 8 months
  • Category Z: bovine animals aged from 8 months to less than 12 months – specifically bovines from the day they reach the age of 8 months until the day before they reach the age of 12 months

When making this decision, you should use the information in the animals’ passports. If this isn’t possible, you should use the data in the Cattle Tracing System.

Labelling rules for carcases

You must apply the category identification letters ‘V’ or ‘Z’ immediately after slaughter by labelling or stamping them onto the outside surface of the carcase.

The labels must be not less than 50 cm2 and the stamped letters not less than 2 cm high.

You must apply the labels or stamps to the hindquarters and the forequarters:

  • on the striploin at the level of the 4th lumbar vertebra
  • on the brisket between 10 cm and 30 cm from the cut edge of the sternum

Download examples of beef and veal labelling (PDF, 503KB, 5 pages) , including carcase labels.

Apply the permitted sales descriptions

At each stage of production and marketing, you must clearly label the meat to indicate the age of the animals when they were slaughtered, and its sales description. At the point of sale of the meat to the final consumer, you must present this information on the same label, and so that the consumer can see it all at once.

Before the meat reaches the customer you can use either category identification letters ‘V’ or ‘Z’, or one of two wordings:

  • ‘age on slaughter: less than 8 months’
  • ‘age on slaughter: from 8 months to less than 12 months’

When the meat is released to the final customer you must use the appropriate ‘age on slaughter’ wording, rather than the category identification letters.

For meat marketed in the UK, the EU sales descriptions are:

  • ‘veal’ for meat from animals slaughtered aged less than 8 months
  • ‘beef’ for meat from animals slaughtered aged from 8 months to less than 12 months

For other EU member states, you must label the meat with the relevant sales description for each member state where it is being marketed. Sales descriptions vary between member states. They are laid down in Part III of Annex VII to Regulation (EC) No 1308/2013.

This means that the meat could have two or more different labels at the same time covering the sales descriptions in different member states.

Rules on mixing meat from bovine animals 12 months or less

With the exception of offal, you are not allowed to mix meat from bovine animals aged less than 8 months and aged 8 to 12 months. The purpose of the rules is to separate the two types of meat by age into veal and beef. When these types of meat are in chillers, you don’t need to keep them separate.

You are allowed to mix batches of offal from bovine animals under 8 months and aged 8 to 12 months as long as you:

  • include both sales descriptions and age brackets on the label
  • identify the ages with either the category identification letters ‘V’ or ‘Z’ or the age descriptions at each stage of production and marketing – except on release to the final customer when descriptions must be used
  • use the wording ‘calves liver’ only for liver from animals aged less than 8 months

Download examples of beef and veal labelling (PDF, 503KB, 5 pages) , including display labels for meat from animals aged 12 months or less.

Add supplementary information to labels

If you want to use additional wording you must make sure that it meets the requirements of the current food labelling legislation. You can find more information about this under ‘food labelling and packaging’.

If you want to use the term ‘rosé veal’ your labels, check the current food labelling legislation to see what you need to do.

Beef imported from the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands

There is a special rule for the labelling of:

  • beef imported from the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands
  • beef from cattle born and raised in the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands but subsequently slaughtered in the UK

Although the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are not part of the UK, the EU recognises them as part of the UK member state for these purposes. Beef that falls into the above categories should therefore be labelled with ‘UK’ under the country of origin rules (PDF, 127KB, 4 pages) .

Beef imported from a non-EU country

If you are importing beef from a non-EU country and you do not have all the compulsory labelling information, you use must use the following words as a minimum:

  • ‘Origin: Non-EU’
  • ‘Slaughtered in [name of non-EU country]’

You should also supply a reference number or code when the beef is cut or repackaged after import.