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Our Advice Sheets

Weights & measures for butchers

Rules for butchers that sell products loose as well as prepacked

This guidance is for England and Wales

There is a number of legislative requirements that butchers need to be aware of, including price marking, weight control and weight marking of products sold loose or prepacked by retail sale. For example, prepacked items must be marked with a statement of net weight in metric units, and non-prepacked items can be sold either by net weight or in certain circumstances by gross weight.

The customer must be informed of the weight before paying for and receiving the goods. In general, all foods, whether prepacked or non-prepacked, must be priced. Customers must be able to see the price indication without asking for assistance.

In the guide

Which legislation applies to butchers?

This guide contains a summary of the main requirements of weights and measures and pricing legislation enforced by the trading standards service, as applicable to butchers. Other legislation that applies to butchers covers labelling and compositional requirements for meat and meat products - please see 'Labelling of prepacked foods', 'Labelling of beef' and 'Composition of meat products' for further information.

Please also see 'Weighing equipment in use for trade', which gives guidance on the controls over the scales you use.

Weights and measures requirements

Weights and measures law applies to meat (that is, any part of cattle, sheep or swine) and poultry of any sort, whether it is fresh, chilled, frozen, salted, cooked, or processed. It also applies to items that, although they contain other food, consist substantially of meat or poultry. In general, meat and poultry must be sold by weight - that is, by the kilogram (kg) and/or gram (g).

Prepacked items must be marked with a statement of net weight in metric units. This requirement does not apply to bath chaps, meat or poultry puddings, pies and flans, sausage rolls (where the pack is marked with the number or this is obvious without opening the pack), or products weighing less than 5g.

Non-prepacked items can be sold either by net weight or gross weight if the container is no more than the permitted weight in the table below. This requirement does not apply to bath chaps, meat or poultry pies, puddings, flans and sausage rolls, cooked poultry, single cooked sausages in natural casings, or single sausage-meat products weighing less than 500g.

'Net weight' means the weight of the goods alone, without the wrapper or container. 'Gross weight' means the weight of the goods, plus the weight of any wrapper or container.

Gross weight Permitted weight of container
Not exceeding 500g 5g
Exceeding 500g A weight at the rate of 10g per kg of the gross weight

The scales used must be accurate and approved for trade use - please see 'Weighing equipment in use for trade'.

The customer must be informed of the weight before paying for and receiving the goods. This can be done by any of the following methods:

  • weighing the goods in front of the customer, so that he has a clear, unobstructed view of the weighing and the weight indication on the scales
  • marking the weight on the wrapper (if prepacked) or on a separate ticket (if non-prepacked)
  • making a verbal statement of the weight

If the customer does not take the goods 'there and then', you must give a written statement of the weight of the goods, either before or at the time of delivery. In the case of trimmed / boned meat and dressed poultry, experience has shown that customers often do not understand that the purchase price may be based on the unprepared weight of the goods and, mistakenly, think they have been given 'short weight', so you should be careful to explain this at the time of purchase.

If the customer asks for the goods to be prepared before they are weighed, it is the prepared weight that must be made known.

Note: these notes cover sales carried out under the minimum weight system. If you produce packs to a pre-determined constant quantity, made up in advance in a securely closed container (for example, 250g bacon or 500g sausages), it is possible to pack to the average weight system. Please see 'Packaged goods - average quantity' or you may also wish to seek specific advice from your local trading standards service.

Price marking requirements - meat and poultry

In general, all foods, whether prepacked or non-prepacked, must be priced.

The price indication must be in writing, unambiguous, easily identifiable and clearly legible and in proximity to the items. Customers must be able to see the price indication without asking for assistance.

Prepacked items must be marked with the selling price. In addition, the unit price - that is, the price for one kilogram - must be indicated either on or near the goods, or on a price list. (The selling price must be calculated by reference to the unit price and the weight.)

For non-prepacked items, the unit price must be indicated either on or near the goods, or on a price list.

However, there are exceptions. The main ones are as follows:

(a) non-prepacked meat and poultry, and meat and poultry prepacked in variable quantities - there is no requirement to indicate the unit price for:

  • goods that are not required to be sold by weight - for example, non-prepacked pheasants, rabbits, cooked poultry, etc
  • an assortment of different items sold as a single pack - for example, 'steak and kidney pack', 'barbecue packs', etc
  • any product where the unit price is identical to the selling price
  • meat sold at reduced prices on account of the danger of its deterioration
  • portions of meat cut at the request of a purchaser and in her presence

(b) Meat prepacked in pre-established quantities and displayed for sale - there is no requirement to indicate the unit price for:

  • any such products if the shop's sales and display area is less than 280m2
  • meat sold at a reduced price on account of the danger of its deterioration

The unit price must be in metric, generally the price per kg. You may, in addition, show the unit price per lb, but the metric marking should be first and more prominent. Sales must be made with reference to the metric quantity.

Products whose unit price must be indicated per 100g are:

  • cooked / ready to eat meat (including game and poultry)
  • pies, pasties, sausage rolls, puddings and flans which are being sold by net quantity (for example, pie slices from a deli counter)

Key legislation

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law. Any legislation referred to, while still current, may have been amended from the form in which it was originally enacted. Please contact us for further information.

Last reviewed/updated: June 2013

       

 

 
 

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This page was last edited on 26/09/14