Belpork paves the way for new Belgian animal welfare standard

Staggered levels will soon ensure transparency for consumers

Belpork, The Belgian standard owner of the BePork quality scheme for pork, has developed an animal welfare standard for the Belgian pork sector.

BePork is a guarantee for high-quality Belgian pork. The standard includes a set of norms that are more stringent than Belgian legislation. It focuses on animal health, animal welfare, sustainability, food safety and traceability and has been designed for the entire supply chain of pork production, going from the level of livestock farmers over transport companies to slaughterhouses and cutting plants.

The new top-up for animal welfare builds on the generic BePork standard and implies far-reaching extralegal norms that are solely aimed at improving animal welfare. In addition to the primary sector, the slaughterhouses are also covered. The transport stage is already extensively covered in the BePork specifications and is therefore not dealt with separately in this module. 

This cross-stage approach to animal welfare is not commonplace in international comparison, as many other animal welfare systems at home and abroad are mainly limited to the stage of the primary sector.

Belpork examined the criteria on farming level of other international quality schemes in advance to this initiative and came to the conclusion that the new Belgian animal welfare module is in no way inferior to other systems. Thanks to BePork's complete, cross-stage traceability system, customers could find out at the point of sale which animal welfare criteria the product meets and thus make a conscious purchasing decision.

The Belgian module is not a rigid system. Thus - analogous to the systems in other countries - higher husbandry levels are possible in addition to the entry level. The module offers sufficient opportunity for food retailers to distinguish themselves by means of their own accents.

Animal welfare in Belgium is the responsibility of the three regions of Flanders, Wallonia and the Brussels-Capital Region. However, the new module is open to the whole of Belgium. This is a good and important signal. In addition, under the leadership of the Flemish Minister for Agriculture, Hilde Crevits, the politicians are planning to pave the way for all other farm animal species to join the voluntary system in the future. This will take time, but the most important thing is that the framework is in place', says Liesbet Pluym, Belpork coordinator.

The animal welfare module, from which the livestock farmers expect better profits, is almost fully operational. There are still some bureaucratic hurdles to overcome before the new transparent Belgian animal welfare label can be officially launched, but 'The light at the end of the tunnel can already be seen', assures the coordinator.