The labeling of beef in Spain

Beef must display a label throughout its entire supply chain, from the farmer to the final consumer. On the one hand there is a traceability label that will remain in the hands of the butcher even when he has already sold the meat and, on the other hand, the commercial labeling. It is recommended to include all the information available on the sale ticket that is given to the consumer by serving the “cut” meat.
The labeling rules for beef are regulated by Royal Decree 1698/2003 of 12 December 2003 laying down detailed rules for the application of Community regulations on the beef labeling system. The current Community system for the labeling of beef is constituted by Regulation (EC) No 1760/2000 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 July 2000 establishing a system for the identification and registration of animals of the species Beef and veal and on the labeling of beef and beef products.


Knowing how to read labels to carry out traceability control is essential. Here we show an example of a slaughterhouse channel label. It shows the following information:
1-Crotal Number
It uniquely identifies the animal from which the meat comes. Start with the country’s initials followed by a maximum of 12 digits. This code refers to the SIMOGAN database, which is located in the Ministry of Agriculture, where all the data of cattle sold are collected. The crotal number is the key element in the traceability system, since it allows the tracking of a res from birth until it reaches the consumer. This code is sometimes replaced by a batch number assigned in the cutting plant, which makes it difficult to follow up.
2-Slaughterhouse number and cutting plant.
The identification of the slaughterhouse must include its health registration number. If a cutting plant has intervened, these data should also appear.
According to the regulations, the name of the animals to be included in the labeling is based on age and sex:
“White veal”: 0 to 8 months.
“Veal”: male or female from 8 to 12 months.
“Añojo”: male or female between 12 and 24 months.
“Novillo”: male or female between 24 and 48 months.
“Cebon”: castrated male of less than 48 months.
“Ox”: male castrated for more than 48 months.
“Cow”: female over 48 months.
“Bull”: male over 48 months, are only fighting.
First, there is the type of animal: calf, anojo, steer, ox, ox, cow and bull. In the traceability label, this classification usually appears as a combination of letters and numbers. The first letter refers to the type of animal, the second to the more or less muscular constitution and the number indicates the amount of fat.
Here is an example of labeling after cutting:

In relation to the cutting of the res, this can vary substantially, not existing a regulation on the matter, varying according to the country and its customs.
Business category: From highest to lowest quality the following commercial categories are distinguished “extra”, “1st A”, “1st B”, “2nd … The classification is based mainly on the greater or lesser amount of connective tissue (” nerves”). The cleaner, better looking pieces are classified in a higher category, although sometimes the meat is less juicy than in others of inferior category that also are cheaper.
Commercial name of the piece: The names listed below should be used, although at the moment there is no description or legal name of the pieces.

  • Iron or frying: Short cooking in an iron or frying pan requires a tender and juicy meat, so it is usually used pieces of extra category or 1A. To be tender, it should always be cut perpendicular to the muscle fiber. The most appropriate pieces, in order of commercial category, are: sirloin, loin, babilla, cap, cap, hip and also the needle and the stonecutter.
  • Roasting: To prepare in the oven, pieces are used that, due to their shape and size, provide a roast with good presentation, although sometimes they are not very juicy. The pieces most suitable for this use are: fin, contra, loin, fish, flat, round and hip corner.
  • Guisar: Meats can be economical, with plenty of connective tissue, because if kept at 60 ° C or 70 ° C for a sufficient time, the collagen gelatinizes giving rise to a tender and tender flesh. The pieces that are most suitable for this use are: fin, trowel, fish, morcillo and flat or nerve.
  • Broths: The appearance or tenderness of the meat does not have much importance, reason why is used pieces of 2ª, the cheaper ones. You can use the rib, the skirt, the trowel, the neck and the morcillo.
  • Chopping:  Usually used pieces of 2nd category or small pieces of noble pieces that can not be fillets. You can leave the fat to make it juicier. The most used pieces are: skirt, trowel, fin, quarry and shoulder.



Price: It will always be expressed in euros per kilo.

In addition to the labeling of traceability there are distinctions of quality that in Spain are the following:


In the case of cattle, several breeds of beef cattle from the humid, mountainous regions in the north of Spain are protected under quality distinctions, such as: Rubia Gallega, Asturiana de los Valles, Tudanca de Cantabria, Pyrenees of the Catalan Pyrenees, or the Beef of the Basque Country and Navarre. Also races coming from the driest parts of the center and south of the country, where the climate is more extreme, such as the Morucha de Salamanca and the Ternera de Aliste, Retinta de Extremadura, the Black Iberian Avialeña de Ávila or the Sierra de Madrid mountain range Guadarrama.

About the author

Montse Gonzalez