The labelling scheme would put more responsibilities on companies to ensure they are getting their supplies from approved sources.
The proposed food label is part of a five-year EU plan to promote animal welfare. The proposal was made by the European Commission in an action plan, published last week, on its plans to increase the protection and welfare of animals.
The proposed EU animal welfare label for food is expected to help consumers make informed choices.
"The protection and welfare of animals is crucial, not least for ethical and moral reasons but also to ensure animal health and the quality of food," stated Markos Kyprianou, the commissioner for health and consumer protection.
Among the proposals in the action plan, published in January 2006, is an "EU animal welfare label" for better promotion of products, such as chicken, which are produced respecting animal welfare requirements.
"An EU label for animal welfare would allow for the better promotion of products which have been produced in line with animal welfare requirements, and a differentiation between those obtained with basic mandatory animal welfare standards and those with higher standards," Kyprianou stated. "It would also compensate to some extent for the competitive pressures faced by EU producers in the increasingly globalised agricultural market, where animal welfare obligations are extremely divergent."
A clear label identifying the level of welfare applied could prove an effective marketing tool for companies and improve the information available to consumers in the EU and internationally when making purchase choices.
An Internet survey by the Commission last year found that 43 per cent of the EU's citizens say they consider animal welfare when buying meat. About 75 per cent of those surveyed believe they can influence the animal welfare through what they choose to buy.
The survey also found that citizens have a hard time understanding what animal welfare friendly production systems mean. Hence, the Commission's proposals on a labelling system.
The animal welfare plan, requested by the bloc's parliament and the Executive Council, aims to clarify existing EU legislation on animal welfare and puts forward proposals for areas where actions are currently lacking. In it the Commission sets out five main areas of action on animal welfare from now until 2010.
The proposals would upgrading the minimum standards for animal welfare, promote research and alternative approaches to animal testing, introduce standardised animal welfare indicators and better informing animal handlers and the general public on animal welfare issues.