Farmers, processors, retailers and consumers can have their say when it comes to country of origin labelling rules to non-prepacked meat, the Department of Agriculture has announced.

Country of origin labelling is already provided for beef sold loose without packaging, but not for other meats, the Department says.

The move comes as the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, announced the launch of a public consultation process on the issue.

Minister Coveney said this is a further step in providing consumers with more practical information regarding the origin of the meat they consume.

“EU regulations for mandatory origin labelling refer only to pre-packed meat, but also allow Member States to go further and extend the same rules to ‘loose’ non-prepacked meat.

I believe this can be done at little extra cost, using existing traceability systems, and that it would be warmly welcomed by consumers.

“At the same time, it is important that stakeholders, including consumers, retailers, farmers and processors, have the opportunity to input to the development of these new rules and to identify any concerns they may have,” he said.

The Minister also encouraged all parties to contribute to the consultation process.

The Minister introduced new rules to provide for mandatory country of origin labelling on packaged meat in April of this year, at which time he signalled his intention to extend these rules to also cover non-prepacked meat sold loose through refrigerated counters in retail outlets, including butcher shops.

The proposed new rules would cover unprocessed meat from pigs, poultry, sheep and goats, and are being considered by the Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with the Department of Health.

These rules for loose meat would mean that consumers would be informed as to the EU Member State or third country where the animals concerned are reared and slaughtered, the Department said.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) is undertaking this consultation process on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, which will run until August 31. More information and details on the consultation process can be found on the FSAI website.