Compulsory country-of-origin food labelling came a step closer recently when MEPs voted in favour of the measure. Under the proposals, all pre-packed meat and meat product labels would have to show where livestock was born, reared and slaughtered.

The move was welcomed by National Federation of Meat & Food Traders president John Taylor, who said: "This is excellent news for British butchers, farmers and the great British meat-buying public. My Federation has pushed for this policy for many years and we are delighted that customers will now have much clearer information when choosing and comparing their meat purchases. A level playing field is in sight at last."

The vote was the latest stage in the long-running saga to update European-wide food labelling laws. There is still a long way to go and it is likely to be another three to five years before everything is in place.

Other measures voted on were also mainly positive for butchers. These included:

l Confirmation that loose sales (non pre-packed) would be exempt from most labelling requirements (as now)

l Allergen information can be provided orally for loose sales

l No mandatory traffic light labelling on nutrition for pre-packs

l No mandatory nutrition labelling at all for handcrafted products

l A requirement to label meat from animals slaughtered without pre-stunning (according to certain religious traditions).