Below is the legislation that applies to butcher shops. You must ensure you are familiar with this legislation and the requirements that apply to your business. Links are given to available guidance on the legislation.

General hygiene rules

Specific hygiene rules for foods of animal origin

Specified risk material (SRM)

Animal by-products (ABP)

Microbiological testing
Food additives

Information to be provided to or displayed for customers

Enforcement of legislation

General hygiene rules

Regulation (EC) No 852/2004

This legislation sets out rules on food hygiene, both specific rules and more general requirements, including:

  • registration of the food business 
  • a food safety management system based on the principles of HACCP
  • premises layout
  • temperature control
  • transport
  • equipment
  • waste
  • personal hygiene
  • training

You must register your food business with the local environmental health office before you start operating. The environmental health officer will be your inspector.

Specific hygiene rules for foods of animal origin

Regulation (EC) No 853/2004  

This regulation sets out additional, specific hygiene rules for businesses handling and/or processing foods of animal origin including requirements for approval (where relevant) before commencing business.

Butchers shops selling only to the final consumer are exempt from most parts of these regulations.

If you are supplying other food businesses then you may require approval. You should discuss this with your environmental health officer to make sure you are complying with legislation.

If you handle shellfish or other fishery products there are some requirements which apply to retails sales (See Regulation 853/2004/EC Annex II Chapters V, VI, VIII and IX, and point 3 of Chapter VII for bivalve mollusc and/or Chapter III, Parts A, C and D, Chapter IV and Chapter V for fishery products).

Marginal, localised and restricted activities (MLR)

Health (Definition of Marginal, Localised and Restricted Activity) (Butcher Shop) Regulations 2010 (S.I. 340 of 2010

If you supply foods of animal origin to other retail premises e.g. cafes, restaurants, hotels you may still be exempt from the requirements of this regulation if such supply is within the criteria for marginal, localised and restricted (MLR) sales. See our section on MLR for more information.

Specified risk material

The definition of bovine SRM for Ireland has changed which means that butcher shops no longer need to remove vertebral column from beef before sale to the consumer of wholesale.

This change came about because in 2021, following Ireland’s re-categorisation by OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) as negligible BSE risk, the EU Commission issued Decision (EU) 2021/1321 amending the Annex to Decision 2007/453/EC as regards the BSE status of Ireland.

This Decision changed Ireland’s BSE status from a controlled BSE risk to a negligible BSE risk. This reduces the level of controls that must be applied to products of bovine origin (beef) to protect human health.

Ireland’s listing as a negligible BSE risk country

Animal by-products

Regulation (EC) No. 1069/2009 and Regulation (EU) No.142/2011

‘animal by-products’ are defined as entire bodies or parts of animals, products of animal origin or other products obtained from animals, which are not intended for human consumption. Once the decision has been made that foods of animal origin are not intended to be used for human consumption, these materials become ABPs and these materials cannot be recategorised as food fit for human consumption.

You must make sure that ABPs are clearly and correctly identified as such, effectively segregated from food intended for human consumption and safely disposed of in accordance with the relevant ABP rules.

ABPs are classified as Category 1, 2 or 3.

  • Category 1 Includes Specified Risk Material
  • Category 2 Includes materials which don’t fall into Category 1 or 3 e.g., manure and gut content
  • Category 3 Includes which materials which were fit for human consumption, but which, for commercial reasons, are being disposed of as ABP

There are specific processes for dealing with waste in each category as well as exemptions for Category 3 waste disposal. See our section on Waste Disposal below for more information.

In general, it is likely that butcher shops will generate Category 3 ABP only.

Waste of animal origin (ABP – animal by-products)

Category 3 ABP materials must be sent to approved Category 3 plants for processing.

There are exceptions:

1. where the volume of ABP generated in the shop waste is under 20kg per week or and
2. where this Category 3 material is supplied to customers as pet food on the spot, in the shop.

Store ABP:

  • separate from food intended for human consumption and from other waste
  • in a leak-proof container clearly marked Category 3 or Cat 3 and ‘goods not for human consumption’
  • in a designated area of the cold room or external ABP bin, until collected

Each consignment of ABP must be accompanied by a commercial document and evidence must be retained showing that the material was received by the processing plant. Copies must be kept for 2 years after dispatch from your premises.

You must use an approved ABP carrier for removal of this material. A list of approved carriers is available from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

If you wish to become a registered ABP carrier you can apply through DAFM.
See DAFM guidance on butchers’ ABP material

Microbiological testing

Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005 on microbiological criteria for foodstuffs

This legislation sets out microbiological criteria (i.e. tests for certain bacteria and limits for these bacteria) that must be met for certain foods.

You must make sure that the food you handle, supply or process complies with any relevant microbiological criteria set out in this legislation. The legislation has most impact on food businesses that produce, manufacture or package food for which there is a relevant criterion set in the legislation.

The steps a butcher must take in order to comply will vary depending on the activities they carry out. Some food businesses will need to sample and test food at the frequency set out in the Regulation. Others will simply need to maintain good hygiene practice and adequate temperature control.

Details on the requirements of this legislation and minimum sampling frequencies and derogations are provided for in this legislation and the following guidance: Minimum sampling frequencies for butchers shops

Providing cooking instructions for some foods

This legislation also requires butchers to label minced meat, meat preparations and meat products, from all animal species other than poultry, intended to be eaten cooked, with cooking instructions. How this is provided by the butcher will depend on whether the product is sold loose or prepacked.

Get more information and guidance on microbiological testing

Food additives

Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008 on food additives

This legislation details the food additives that are permitted for defined food categories e.g. additives authorised in meat preparations like breakfast sausages.

See guidance on use and labelling of food additives in butcher shops

Information to be provided to or displayed for customers

Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers

This legislation sets out the food information that must be provided to your customers.

EU (Provision of Food Information to Consumers) Regulations 2014 (S.I. No. 556 of 2014)

This legislation outlines that the food business operator is guilty of an offence if he/she supplies, advertises and presents food that is misleading, inaccurate and not easy to understand.

It outlines how the food information must be made available and presented, what is need for distance selling (e.g. online, by phone), language particulars and nutrition information.

Go to the section on labelling for more detailed information

Provision of allergen information for loose food

Health (Provision of Food Allergen Information to Consumers in respect of Non-Prepacked Food) Regulations 2014 (S.I. No. 489 of 2014)

This legislation details how food allergen information is to be provided/presented to the consumer for loose food.

See guidance on allergen labelling

Exemption from nutrition labelling

European Union (provision of food information to consumers)(Amendment)(No. 2) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 559/2016)

Most prepacked food must display nutrition information but there are some exemptions if the conditions set out in this legislation can be met.

See section on exemption from nutrition labelling

Use of the term 'gluten free'

Regulation (EU) No. 828/2014 on the requirements for the provision of information to consumers on the absence or reduced presence of gluten in food.

The term ‘gluten-free’ can only be used for a food which contains no more than 20 mg/kg of gluten.

The term ‘very low gluten’ may only be used where food consisting of or containing one or more ingredients made from wheat, rye, barley, oats or their crossbred varieties which have been specially processed to reduce the gluten content to no more than 100 mg/kg of gluten in the food as sold to the final consumer.

See our Guidance Note No. 24 for more information on this

Country of origin labelling for fresh, chilled and frozen meat of pigs, sheep, goats and poultry

Regulation (EU) No 1337/2013 laying down rules for the application of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 as regards the indication of the country of origin or place of provenance for fresh, chilled and frozen meat of swine, sheep, goats and poultry

European Union (Origin Labelling of meat) Regulations 2015 S.I. 113 of 2015

See labelling section for more information

Labelling of beef and beef products

Regulation (EC) No 1760/2000 establishing a system for the identification and registration of bovine animals and regarding the labelling of beef and beef products

Regulation (EC) No 1825/2000 laying down detailed rules for the application of Regulation (EC) No 1760/2000 as regards the labelling of beef and beef products

 European Communities (Labelling of Beef and Beef Products) Regulations, 2000 (S.I. No. 435 of 2000) and its amendment S.I. No. 485 of 2002

The requirements apply to all fresh or frozen beef, either carcasses, de-boned meat, cut meat or minced meat, which are marketed in the EU.

Butchers must record certain information and provide this on a label, or display the information to customers, regarding the origin of the beef to ensure proper traceability of beef throughout the food chain.

See labelling section for details

Labelling of Fish

Regulation (EU) No 1379/2013 is applicable where fish, shellfish and crustaceans (e.g. crabs) are being sold from your premises.

They can be live, fresh, chilled and/or frozen. It also includes those that are dried, salted, smoked or in brine e.g. anchovies, crustaceans, molluscs, seaweed and algae. These products can be pre-packed or sold loose.

See labelling section for details

Enforcement of legislation

It is your responsibility to make sure you are complying with legislation.

Environmental Health Officers will carry out inspections periodically to check you are complying with the relevant legislation. They have various enforcement actions they can take if they come across issues with your business.

Read more on enforcement actions

Last reviewed: 18/11/2021

Approved Food Establishments 


Food Labelling