US and THEM - meat regulations in Europe vs. America

Headed abroad this year? Here’s some insight into the meat scene on other side of the pond. 


The European Union bans the use of growth hormones in farm animals. No hormones allowed to extend the milking period in mammals either. Since 1989. Which is when they banned U.S. meat imports. 

Why? The EU Scientific Committee investigated the potential risks to human health from hormone residues in meat and they concluded that these may induce DNA damage, tumor initiation and cancer formation in the people who eat it. 


Meat labeled organic in Europe does not always mean it’s free of antibiotics or other drugs.  Antibiotic use is regulated like this: animals must not be given antibiotics to prevent disease but they can be used for treatment when an animal is sick. 

Here in the USA, “organic” means hormone-free and free of growth-promoting antibiotics. By this definition, all EU meat qualifies as organic in the USA.

Only there’s a glitch: EU organic standards do not require that the feed given to animals is organically grown or free from pesticides. So animals may be fed non-organic grains and graze on pasture sprayed with synthetic pesticides. Also, there is no defined limit to the amount of non-organic feed that can be given to animals whose end products will be labeled “organic”.

The Americans score there since organic regulations in the US require that all animal feed be certified organic in order to label dairy and meat as “organic”.  However, the EU categorically prohibits the use of GMO grains. America obviously does not. So we’re down one again.

The bottom line is this: no matter where you go there are risks in the food supply. Buying meat and dairy in a supermarket setting anywhere is almost always the worst choice.

The best approach is to buy animal products from a farm raising animals in a humane, pastured environment allowing them access to grass and sunlight. Many farms like this still exist in Europe and many markets are acquainted with the farmers that provide their products. The quality of this food is exponentially better and the fun of buying it will enrich your travel experience.


Source: EC Regulation 889/2008  Annex V