woman in meat section of supermarket

An animal welfare label that works for consumers

An 'animal welfare' food labelling system is a critical initiative that addresses the pressing ethical, environmental, and health concerns associated with animal agriculture.


You are what you eat, they say. Well, most people who buy animal-derived products at supermarkets don’t know what they are in for.

In times where most animals raised for human consumption are kept in intensive production systems and are submitted to long supply chains for breeding, fattening, transport, and slaughter, it is almost impossible for consumers to know what the animals have been through. 

No harmonised animal welfare label yet

Unlike other nutritional labels that provide clear information about ingredients, calories, and nutritional values, there is no consistent or harmonised system to indicate the welfare standards applied in the production of animal products. The labels that do exist are unevenly distributed across the EU and largely depend on voluntary private initiatives following various approaches and using different interpretations of the term ‘animal welfare’. 

As a result, consumers are left to navigate a sea of vague claims, marketing jargon, and confusing symbols, making it difficult for them to differentiate between products that align with their ethical values and those that do not. 

The problem

The complex supply chains in the food industry can obscure the journey of a product from farm to table. Consumers often have little insight into the specific farm or facility where the animals were raised, which makes it nearly impossible to gauge the conditions they were subjected to. The lack of traceability also limits the ability to address issues related to food safety, animal health, and environmental impact effectively. 

From a health perspective, the welfare of animals directly impacts the quality and safety of the food we consume. Animals subjected to stress, overcrowded living conditions, and poor nutrition are more prone to disease and may require antibiotics to stay healthy. These antibiotics can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, posing a serious threat to human health. By choosing products from animals raised in higher welfare conditions, consumers can decrease their exposure to potential health risks and encourage a more responsible use of antibiotics in the agricultural sector. 

The absence of detailed information also hinders consumers' ability to make informed choices about the environmental impact of the food they consume. Industrial animal agriculture is a major driver of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and water pollution. However, without clear labelling on the environmental footprint of animal products, consumers may unwittingly support practices that contribute to climate change and environmental degradation. 

calves in factory farm

Dairy calves confined in individual pens

chickens being handled and thrown into crates

Broiler chickens being collected for slaughter in Spain. 

What citizens want

The findings of a European Commission study on animal welfare labelling confirm that Europeans are looking for more transparency and clarity on animal welfare and would appreciate a clear labelling system that aids them in making conscious choices. According to the study, two thirds of Europeans feel like they have insufficient information on the conditions farm animals are kept and treated. Over 40% of Europeans want to have more information on slaughter conditions and adequate feeding and 35% want to know if animals had outdoor access. 

As part of the fitness check on EU animal welfare legislation, the Commission considered options for labelling in the survey to the inception impact assessment. The vast majority of respondents (90% of all respondents, i.e. 53 128 out of 59 281) of the public consultation clearly pointed out that an EU AW-label is a useful tool to inform consumers about animal welfare. 

To this end, FOUR PAWS calls for the European Commission to formulate an EU-wide labelling scheme within the upcoming Animal Welfare legislative proposals that: 

  • Is mandatory and multi-tiered
  • Includes labels on all farm animal production standards ranging from minimum EU-legislation to premium level 
  • Includes retailing and out-of-home consumption to provide most transparency and to increase label awareness and knowledge 
  • Is simple and easy to understand for consumers 
  • Incorporates an independent and reliable control and certification system 

An 'animal welfare' food labelling system is a critical initiative that addresses the pressing ethical, environmental, and health concerns associated with animal agriculture. The current industrialized food production system often prioritizes profit over the well-being of animals, leading to inhumane practices and the suffering of billions of animals each year. Implementing a comprehensive animal welfare food labelling system is necessary to empower consumers with information about how the animals were raised and treated throughout their lives. 

Morgane Speeckaert

Morgane Speeckaert

EU Communications Coordinator


+32 2 74 00 888

+39 331 365 4110

Rue Ducale 29, 1000 Brussels


European Policy Office

Share now!