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Meat, Fish & Egg Labelling: What does it mean?

We hear and read the terms organic and free range all the time- but do you actually know what they mean? Lots of us choose to buy free range and organic, although very few of us can explain what that means about the product!

Today, I want to provide a breakdown of what different terms used to describe meat, fish and egg products mean. And hopefully with this information, you can all make a more informed choice next time you buy any of these!


All fresh/frozen meat labelling must state the type of meat, country animal was reared, country animal was slaughtered and a reference number indicating animal from which the meat was derived.

Beef labelling must include:

  1. Reference number/code/group of animals from which beef was derived.

  2. Country of slaughter and approval number.

  3. Country of cutting hall and approval number.

  4. Country of origin.

Organic meat-

  • This means that animals spend a significant amount of their lifetime outdoors to free roam (E.G. for birds this must be at least 1/3 of their life).

  • They must be fed with organic feed, no growth hormones, no genetically modified (GM) feed and only given antibiotics when necessary ( prophylactic antibiotic use).

  • There are also regulations for the outdoor space provided for animals,including no use of fertilizers or chemical sprays on the land.

Housing area is restricted, so that there must be no more than:

Cattle (up to 100kg) 1/1.5sqm

Cattle (up to 350kg) 1/4sqm

Sheep/Goat 1/1.5sqm

Kid 1/0.35sqm

Pigs (up to 85kg) 1/1.1sqm

Turkey 1/10sqm

Ducks 1/4.5sqm

Geese 1/15sqm

Guinea Fowl 1/4sqm

Chickens 1/4sqm

Free Range meat-

  • This means that animals should be given plenty of time and space to free roam, but there are less regulations on other aspects of farming.

  • There is no restriction on feed type.

  • Regular use of antibiotics is permitted prophylactically.

Corn-fed (poultry)-

This label has nothing to do with animal welfare, but rather just refers to the type of feed the birds are given. The label may indicate the meat is also free-range, but corn-fed is not necessarily free-range.

Bord Bia Quality Assurance mark-

This indicates that farming standards meet requirements for animal health and welfare, traceability, water and feed, pasture management,environment management and farm safety. Farms are inspected to ensure that they comply with these standards.

*This is similar to the Red Tractor in the UK.


Egg labelling must state the packing centre code, a quality grading (E.G. class A), the weight grading, best before date and an indication for the eggs to be kept chilled after purchase.

Organic eggs-

  • Never have their beaks trimmed.

  • Fed with organic feed, which never contains GM feed.

  • No routine antibiotic use.

  • Must have outdoor access- number of access routes/doors is regulated by law.

  • Max flock size of 2000.

  • Outdoor space must allow 10sqm/hen and indoor space must allow 6sqm/hen.

Free range eggs-

  • May have their beaks trimmed.

  • Fed with standard feed, may include GM feed.

  • Routine antibiotic use allowed.

  • Must have outdoor access at least 1/3 of their lifetime.

  • Max flock size 10000 (indoors).

  • Outdoor space must allow 4sqm/hen and indoor space must allow no more than 9 hens/1sqm.

Caged/Battery eggs-

  • Never allowed outdoors.

  • May have their beaks trimmed (and they tend to be routinely trimmed).

  • Fed with standard food, may include GM feed.

  • Routine antibiotic use allowed.

  • Unlimited flock size.

  • Average space per hen=size of A4 page, meaning there are approximately 17hens/1sqm.

  • Remember that labelling will not advertise that eggs are from caged animals, it just will not say free range or organic.

Here's a breakdown of the different egg production methods:


Fish labelling must include:

  • Name of dish species.

  • Production method (E.G. caught/farmed/caught freshwater etc)

  • Area caught or farmed.

  • Category of fishing gear.

  • Whether fish defrosted already.

  • Best before date.

Organic fish-

  • Stock density is limited depending on species (E.G.salmon- 1% fish, 99% water).

  • Organic feed used.

  • Regulations control water quality, marine conservation and lots of other factors.

As you can see, there can be lots of differences between seemingly similar food products, so it is important to know what different labeling terms mean.

I hope this information helps you all make a more informed choice next time you buy meat, fish and eggs!

Lots of love,

Little O x

#meat #fish #eggs #labelling #foodlabelling #readingfoodlabels #organiceggs #freerangeeggs #organicmeat #organicfish #freerangemeat #knowyourlabels #nutrition #health

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