Importing meat

There are specific rules for importing meat intended for human consumption. Importers may only purchase meat from approved companies, which have to comply with European food safety requirements. Meat imported from a non-EU country is subject to mandatory inspections.

The Netherlands imports meat from different parts of the world, with major European suppliers including Germany, Belgium, and Poland. Non-EU countries such as Brazil, Thailand, New Zealand, Uruguay, and Argentina also regularly export meat to the Netherlands. This article goes into all the product requirements and rules for businesses importing meat.

Approved companies and countries

If you import meat from an EU country, your supplier must be an approved company and comply with European hygiene regulations. Only companies approved by local authorities may produce, prepare, store, trade, or transport foodstuffs in the EU. You can find a list of approved companies in every EU country on the website of the European Commission.

Outside the EU

You are only allowed to import meat from non-EU countries if the country in question has been approved by the EU for meat imports. Authorities in these countries perform physical inspections at business premises to check whether they meet EU requirements with regard to hygiene, animal health, and public health. These inspections are performed at slaughterhouses, carveries, game processing facilities, cold stores, and meat processing plants.

The European Commission has published lists of approved facilities in approved countries that may supply meat and meat products to customers in the EU. Please note that approved companies in Northern Ireland, Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland can be found in a different directory. Directories of approved companies in the UK can be found on the website of the UK government. Check to see if your supplier is listed. It is also important to take the specific import requirements for some foodstuffs from certain non-EU countries into account.

Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, NVWA

You can use the Online Veterinary Imports tool  (in Dutch) of the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) to check whether you are allowed to import foodstuffs of animal and non-animal origin from certain EU countries. The tool will also tell you which requirements the product has to meet.

Meat importers have to be registered or approved  (in Dutch) by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA). Whether you need to be registered or approved depends on several factors. If you deliver only to consumers, registration is sufficient and you do not need recognition. Do you supply the catering industry and do your activities consist of more than just transportation and storage? For example, because you make smaller portions of the meat and then package it? Then you need recognition. When in doubt, contact the NVWA (in Dutch).

Endangered species

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) regulates the global trade in protected animal species and plant species. Some species may not be traded or imported, while other species can only be traded or imported by licenced or certified businesses. CITES  (in Dutch) also applies to products of protected animal and plant species.

Product requirements

Meat is subject to general requirements that apply to all foodstuffs. First of all, it has to comply with European food legislation, which states that all foodstuffs intended for consumption must be traceable at all stages of production, processing and distribution. You have to know where your imported products came from and to whom you supplied them.

The article on Importing food & beverage products lists the general requirements for all foodstuffs, such as hygiene legislation and the presence of harmful substances. If your products are found to be unsafe, you have a duty to report (in Dutch) them to the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA).

Food hygiene

If you produce, process, transport, distribute, or store foodstuffs, you are required to have a food safety plan under European food & beverage hygiene legislation. This plan outlines how your company ensures that all food & beverages are handled safely and how you comply with HACCP principles. HACCP is short for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points. The HACCP system shows what can go wrong with food & beverages and how you can prevent this. Food of animal origin is also subject to an additional European Regulation with specific hygiene requirements.

Food contamination

Meat may contain chemicals and microorganisms that are harmful to consumers' health. These substances are called contaminants (in Dutch). The maximum acceptable levels for contaminants in foodstuffs are set out in a European Regulation. Furthermore, foodstuffs produced with hormones may not be imported and sold in the EU.

Pesticides can also be harmful to humans, which is why maximum permissible levels of pesticide residues in foodstuffs have been established.


The marketing of prepackaged food intended for final consumers is subject to legal labelling requirementssuch as a list of ingredients and a best-before date. For a detailed explanation of your legal obligations with regard to labelling pre-packaged food & beverages, download the Food Labelling Handbook (in Dutch) created by the NVWA. The European Commission also provides information on the labeling requirements for foodstuffs.

Organic meat

Importers of organic meat have to meet additional requirements, such as company certification. Organic foodstuffs from non-EU countries must meet standards equivalent to those applicable to organic foodstuffs produced in the EU.

National legislation

In addition to European legislation, meat is also subject to national legislation. Below are some laws, decrees, and regulations that also apply to meat.

More information

Access2Markets is a website run by the European Commission that contains information on product requirements and import procedures for products imported from outside the EU. A brief tutorial on using this database:

  • Fill in the 'Product name or HS code' field. A HS code is a commodity code used by customs worldwide to classify products. Each product has its own HS code. The HS code of slaughtered, unprepared meat usually begins with 02 (in Dutch). Meat that has undergone some form of processing usually has a HS code starting with 16.
  • In the 'Country of Origin' field, select the country from which you are importing the meat.
  • In the ‘Country of Destination' field, select the country in which you are importing the product (the Netherlands, for example).
  • Click ‘search’ and click + to scroll down the list of commodities until you find a description that matches your product and the commodity code behind it.
  • Click on the commodity code for your product.
  • This will take you to the ‘Rates’ tab, where you can find the import duties that apply to your product. For information on product requirements and import procedures, click on ‘Import regulations' in the overview on the left. On the ‘Specific’ tab, you will find rules that apply specifically to the import product.

Video: Want to know the rules when importing? Use Access2Markets

Product liability

Legally speaking, you are considered the producer:

  • If you import meat from countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) (in Dutch).
  • If you source meat within the EEA, and attach your own label or brand name to it.

You are liable for injuries and damages caused by a defect in your products.

Importing goods from EU countries

There is free movement of goods in the EU, which means that you do not have to pay import duties when importing meat from another EU member state. You will not have to declare the goods to Dutch Customs either, but they are subject to VAT.

Import step-by-step plan

If you want to import, you will make arrangements with your foreign supplier about such things as transportation and payment. You can start importing successfully if you have sufficient knowledge of the import process. The Import step-by-step plan will help you do just that. From market research to concluding a contract.

Importing goods from non-EU countries

When you import meat from a non-EU country, you have to file an import declaration with Dutch Customs. Your forwarder or customs broker will usually file this import declaration on your behalf for a fee, as well as advancing any import duties and VAT that may be due. You will also need an EORI number when dealing with Dutch Customs.

Import duties

If you import meat from a non-EU country, you have to pay import duties. Import duty rates are linked to the commodity code (HS code, or TARIC code) of the meat you are importing. You can find the commodity codes and corresponding import duty rates in the Tariff Manual of the Customs Administration of the Netherlands. It is not always easy to determine the correct commodity code for meat. Unprepared slaughtered meat usually has a commodity code starting with 02 (in Dutch) Meat that has undergone some form of processing usually has a commodity code beginning with 16 (in Dutch).

A logistics service provider specialising in meat entry or a customs consulting firm can help you find the right commodity code for your product.

Import duty is linked to the customs value of the product, which is the purchase price of your products plus shipping and insurance costs up to the EU border or port of entry.

Trade agreements and lower import duties

If you directly import goods from countries with which the EU has a trade agreement, you may be eligible for import duty relief. This is known as tariff preference. The products have to be produced in the treaty country and qualify for preferential origin from that country. You can demonstrate that your products meet the rules of preferential origin with a preferential certificate or declaration of origin like a EUR.1 certificate, invoice declaration, or other certificate of origin. Which certificate or declaration of origin you need depends on the treaty country.

Tariff quotas and import duty relief

Sometimes you can take advantage of a tariff quota. This means that you can import meat from certain countries for a certain quantity with reduction or exemption of import duties. Once the quantity is reached, the tariff quota is exhausted and you pay the normal rate of import duties again. Are you using a tariff quota? Then you need an import certificate. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO provides information (in Dutch) on tariff quota applications for beef, pork and poultry.


When you import goods into the Netherlands, you pay Dutch VAT. You are allowed to deduct this VAT as input tax in your VAT return if you are entitled to deduct VAT. If you regularly import goods, you can apply for anarticle 23 permit from the Tax Administration to avoid having to pay for VAT at the time of import. Instead, you can report the VAT in your VAT return, which will benefit your liquidity. The Dutch VAT rate for meat intended for human consumption is 9%.

Meat inspections

You are only allowed to import meat from non-EU countries via an approved Border Control Post (BCP). This is where border controlstake place. The purpose of these veterinary controls is to prevent animal products that are harmful to public health from entering the country and to curb the spread of animal diseases. You have to register your shipment by submitting a Common Health Entry Document, CHED (Gemeenschappelijk Gezondheidsdocument van Binnenkomst, GGB). Veterinary border controls are not required if you import meat from Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, or Liechtenstein.

In the Netherlands, veterinary controls are performed by the NVWA and Dutch Customs. These controls consist of checking (in Dutch) all documents present and, optionally, a physical product inspection. Please note that NVWA charges a fee (in Dutch) for its services.

Health Certificate

When you import goods, you need import documents such as your supplier's invoice, a packing slip, and a transportation document. On top of that, you also need a veterinary certificate to import meat from non-EU countries. Inspection bodies in approved non-EU countries issue these certificates for export shipments of meat to the EU, declaring that the products are healthy and free of harmful organisms. The foreign exporter - your supplier - should apply for the health certificate from a local inspection authority.

Import assistance

If possible, work with a forwarder or logistics service provider who is familiar with the inspection process and has previous experience with clearing meat.