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What do our product labels tell us?

What do our product labels tell us?

In this article we explain the information that legislation currently

requires us to offer to consumers on the labels of our dairy produce.

However, rather than just listing this information, we also assess the

usefulness of each bit of data, the cost generated by  incorporating

new information on labels following new legal requirements and how

the veracity of the information offered to consumers is guaranteed.

Sometimes the amount of information on food labels is rather over-

whelming given that apart from telling consumers what food product

they are actually buying, many other details must be included. Below

we explain exactly what information is on the labels of Vista Alegre

Baserria pasteurized milk, natural yoghurts and cheeses and the

degree to which we feel this information is of use.

The information provided on a food label can be divided into four classes,according to the reasons for which it has become mandatory:


1. Name of the manufacturer

2. Contact details: postal address, phone number, website and "Country of Origin"

3. Brand name and/or logo

4. Product batch

Product Description:

5. Name of the product and/or legal description

6. Quantity of the product

7. Ingredients

8. Nutritional information

9. Allergy information

10. Date of expiry / best before date

Health control:

11.  Health register number

Production model:

12.  Organic logo (in our case)

13.  “Farm” produce

(to see our labels in detail we suggest copying, pasting and then

amplifying the images included in the present document).

1. Data related to traceability

Traceability is the means by which a food processor, consumer or a

monitoring body (normally a government agency) can retrace the

path taken by a given foodstuff from a customer’s kitchen back to

processing and supply of raw materials, in other words the opposite

direction to its production, distribution and sale. In our particular case

it means that if someone buys our pasteurized milk, yogurt or cheese

, they can use our labels to know that it has been our dairy (Vista

Alegre Baserria) that has processed the product and they can get

in touch with us using the phone number  (654145154) or the E-mail

( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) provided in our website

( in order to learn more about our

produce. As Vista Alegre Baserria is our marketing / brand name, we

are also required to include our legal name (César Valera Palenque y

Otros SC) on our labels. From 2018 the European Union requires food manufacturers to include a reference to the country in which each

is made. Lastly, each individual bag of milk, pot of

yoghurt or cheese has an additional label indicating its production


The label on a food product is, therefore, the first link for full trace-

ability. Additionally, however, every time we make a batch of yoghurt,

cheese or pasteurized milk, we fill in and file a “production card” for

that particular batch, the second step for full traceability. The third

step, which involves identifying all the raw materials and packaging

materials used to process and sell each product, is also included in

the production card or accessory data file. In the case of Vista

Alegre Baserria, the main raw material used is milk and as we only

use the milk from our own dairy herd, the traceability of our dairy

produce is 100%. 

Reference to “Country of Origin” on a foodstuff label is a way by

which the European Union hopes to clarify the source of both the

raw materials used to make a food product (in our case milk) and

the food product itself (in our case dairy products). In our case, as

both the raw material, milk and the final products, pasteurized milk

cheeses and natural yoghurt, are both from the same place we only

have to refer to the country of origin once. In fact, what we

actually put on our labels is “Basque Country, Spain” for an even

more precise geographical  reference to their source.

Thus, given the information provided on our labels a consumer may

get in touch with us, quote a batch number and we can then give

them any information they may require concerning the processing

of that particular bag of milk, pot of yoghurt or cheese.

This information is actually vital nowadays, given that most consumers

live in an economic and marketing system in which they have no direct

contact with the farmers who produce the raw materials for food or

with farmers that also use their own raw materials to process food


Traceability is periodically monitored by government agencies, in our

case the Department for Food Quality of the Basque Government.

Part of the inspection process includes an exhaustive monitoring

of labels.

2. Data related to product description

The first thing consumers wish to know when buying a food product

is, logically, what it is, in our case, “pasteurized milk”, “natural

yoghurt”, “fresh cheese”, “soft cheese”, “fine cheese” or “ripe

cheese”. However, the name used by a food processor does not

always coincide with the generic name required by law. Thus, for

example, our fine cheese is classified legally as “semi-ripe cheese”,

which also has to appear on its label.


On each bag of milk, yoghurt pot or cheese we have to state how

much it contains. We sell our pasteurized milk in litre bags and, thus,

one litre is printed on the bag itself. Our yoghurts are sold in 220g,

450g and 660g pots. However, as these are filled manually, the label

states that the content is approximate, as is the case of the fresh

cheese pots, which contain 450g approximately.

Given the way we make our other cheeses (soft, fine and ripe) their

weight cannot be printed on their labels and so the phrase “weighed

at purchase” is included. As can be seen in the following example, an

orange sticker is added to the underside of each ripe cheese stating

its weight.

A reference to the ingredients used to make a product must also be

included on its label. Our principal ingredient is, logically, our milk.

However, apart from stating the use of milk, we also have to state

whether or not it is pasteurized, whether or not it is homogenized

and whether or not it is full cream. Then any other ingredient must

be specified, in our case, yeast culture for yoghurts and yeast

cultures, rennets and salts for cheeses.

To comply by new European Union legislation, from December 2016

our product labels must include “nutrition information”. This is an

indication of the fat (and specifically saturated fat), carbohydrate

(specifically sugars), protein and salt content in our dairy products

and their energy value. This information is usually presented as the

equivalent per hundred grams. Although this information may be of

interest to consumers, it should be stressed that it is offered as a

guideline: although based on strict analyses in certified laboratories

(in our case by Gessyma), the composition of the main ingredient

of our produce, milk, varies slightly from cow to cow, from season

to season and according to the feed regime of the dairy herd. Thus

the nutrition content of our products will slightly alter accordingly.

However, this information does allow consumers to see the changes

in nutritional content between our different dairy products:

Leche pasteurizada / Esne pasteurizatua /Pasteurised milk

Información nutricional en

Por/per 100g

Nutrition information

Valor energético (kJ/kcal)


Energy (kJ/kcal)




: de las cuales saturados


: of which saturates

Hidratos de carbono



de los cuales azúcares


: of which sugars




Sal (NaCl)


Salt (NaCl)

Yogur natural / Jogur naturala / Natural yoghurt

Información nutricional

Por/per 100g

Nutrition information

Valor energético (kJ/kcal)


Energy (kJ/kcal)




de las cuales: ácidos grasos saturados


: of which saturates

Hidratos de carbono



de los cuales: azúcares


: of which sugars




Sal (NaCl)


Salt (NaCl)

Queso fresco / Gazta freskoa / Fresh cheese

Información nutricional

Por/per 100g

Nutrition information

Valor energético (kJ/kcal)


Energy (kJ/kcal)




: de las cuales saturados


: of which saturates

Hidratos de carbono



de los cuales azúcares


: of which sugars




Sal (NaCl)


Salt (NaCl)

Queso tierno / Gazta samurra / Soft cheese

Información nutricional en

Por/per 100g

Nutrition information

Valor energético (kJ/kcal)


Energy (kJ/kcal)




: de las cuales saturados


: of which saturates

Hidratos de carbono



de los cuales azúcares


: of which sugars




Sal (NaCl)


Salt (NaCl)

Queso afinado / Gazta findua / Fine cheese

Información nutricional en

Por/per 100g

Nutrition information

Valor energético (kJ/kcal)


Energy (kJ/kcal)




de las cuales saturados


: of which saturates

Hidratos de carbono



de los cuales azúcares


: of which sugars




Sal (NaCl)


Salt (NaCl)

Queso maduro / Gazta ondua / Mature cheese

Información nutricional en

Por/per 100g

Nutrition information

Valor energético (kJ/kcal)


Energy (kJ/kcal)




de las cuales saturados


: of which saturates

Hidratos de carbono



de los cuales azúcares


: of which sugars




Sal (NaCl)


Salt (NaCl)

A comparison of these tables reveals a higher concentration of fats

and protein in our cheeses than in milk and yoghurt, which reflects

the gradual reduction of the water content in milk during processing.

This is particularly so in the case of our ripe cheese given the longer

time between production and marketing as water is gradually lost

during maturing.

kJ/cal 100g

Fat %

Saturates  %



Sugars %

Prot. %

Salt %

















Fresh cheese








Soft cheese








Fine cheese








Ripe cheese








We have already incorporated nutrition tables in our pasteurized milk,

220g and 660g yoghurts, fresh cheese and fine cheese. We are legally

able to use up those labels that do not include this information, in our

case our 450g yoghurt, soft cheese and ripe cheese. However, should

we still have many such labels, we can opt to print an extra label with

just the relevant nutrition information to add to these three products.

Complying by new EU labeling legislation, in this case to incorporate

nutrition information in our dairy product labels, is expensive:

Firstly, we have to pay for analyses of each product, six in our case

(pasteurized milk, natural yoghurt, fresh cheese, soft cheese, fine

cheese and ripe cheese) in a certified laboratory in order to obtain

the nutrition information.

Secondly, we have to update the labels themselves which can involve

two to four new bills to pay:

* New designs for each label

* New printing plates for each label

* If the new information doesn’t fit in the original label, new printing

   dies (moulds) are needed.

* This usually leads to a new, higher price per label, particularly when

   the printing die is changed.

Thirdly, there are quite a few administrative costs involved as this

new information must be added to the product files in our Analysis

of Dangers and Critical Control Points (HACCP) document, some

laboratories charge for checking that the new information is correctly

inserted in labels, etc.

All in all, incorporation of nutrition value in Vista Alegre Baserria product

labels will have an approximate cost of 2500 euros, without taking into

account any increase in label price per unit.

These costs are identical for a small dairy producing, for example, 200

litres of yoghurt a week or for a large food industry producing 100.000

litres or more yoghurt a week, something those government bodies

claiming to promote small farm businesses through rural development

plans could perhaps bear in mind.

Adding new information to labels also has an environmental cost: we

have had to increase the size of various labels and are thus using

more paper and plastic per unit of produce.

New legislation also requires us to underline allergy information on our

labels given the problems a certain percent of the population suffers

with intolerance or allergies to lactose. In this case it means printing

the word “milk” in bold font type in the list of ingredients on each label.

Lastly, our labels must also include a reference to the date of expiry or

best before date as part of the description of the products we are

selling. The date of expiry indicates when a food product is no longer

considered safe to eat, whilst a best before date indicates when a

product starts to lose physical qualities such as smell or taste, but is

still safe to eat. In our case, we use dates of expiry for our pasteurized

milk and fresh cheese and best before dates for our natural yoghurts,

soft cheese, fine cheese and ripe cheese. Logically, as a different date

must be used for each batch of produce, these are not included on the

product label itself but rather on an additional specific label.



3. Health control

In order to market dairy products, our dairy has to be accepted in a

Health Register and given a Health Register number. This is another

of the bits of information we are required to include on our labels and

is the equivalent of a guarantee of the security of our produce. The

presence of this number on our labels thus tells consumers that our

dairy and our dairy products are passing periodical inspections by

Basque health inspectors.

4. Production model

This seems to us to be a vital aspect of food labeling as it tells

consumers not only how each product is made but also how each

individual ingredient of each foodstuff is made. It thus allows

consumers to deliberately decide to buy food produced in one

way or another.

Vista Alegre Baserria labels include the European Union (obligatory)

and Basque (optional) organic logos which certify not only the use

of organic livestock farming methods to produce our milk on the farm

but also that the salts, rennets and yeast cultures we buy are com-

patible with organic dairy production standards. For example, we buy

salt from the Salinas de Añana saltpans as they do not add the anti-

caking agents to their salt that are found in most salt brands and

which are not permitted in organic foodstuffs.


Organic certification guarantees, amongst other things, that no

genetically modified organisms, no chemicals and no antibiotics

are used on the farm or in our dairy and that the cleaning pro-

ducts we use are authorized by the Basque Organic Council


The presence of these logos on our product labels, once again,

guarantees that we pass the inspections conducted by, in this

case, the Basque Organic Council.

About two or three years ago we have had to remove the term

“farm produce” from our labelseven though our produce fulfills

existing legal requirements. Theproblem in this casewasis that

the Basque Government had not developed the norms concerning

exactly how the term should be used. We were unable to determine

the reasons for this delay but it was clearly not beneficial for small

farm-based dairies.

As such, consumers cannot tell from our labels if our dairy farm

has 20, 200 or more cows or if our dairy uses 300, 3000, 300.000

or 3 million litres of milk a week and thus decide whether or not

to buy our produce according to their personal views on farming.

This is one of the reasons for which we set up this website,

allowing people to find out as much as possible about our farm and

how we produce our milk, yoghurts and cheeses.

We could now, if we wished, apply to entered into a Register of

Farm Producers, as the norms for this Register are now available

and we could, thus, put "Farm Produce" back onto our labels...

but this obviously means spending more money on changing,

once again, our labels, something beyond us at present.

Label design

Existing legislation is also very strict regarding the size of labels in

comparison with the size of the products being sold, the size of the

letters used on the labels and even, in given cases, the exact co-

lours to be used (the EU organic label, for example).  This is another

reason for which we have had to change the printing dies of some

of our labels when adding nutrition information and some labels are

bigger than we would wish.

With regards to the particular material used to make our labels, we

have tried to make them as environmentally friendly as possible but

this is not always a clear cut matter.  Although it would seem more

environmentally friendly to use paper labels, these are actually hard

to recycle as many disintegrate when trying to remove them, whilst

plastic labels can be recycled but on the other hand are not made

from renewable raw materials.

Lastly, our experience is that some aspects of existing legislation are

applied quite arbitrarily. Thus, although all of our labels were originally

given the go ahead by different government departments, we have

later been obliged to change some by a different inspector or agency,

with the subsequent costs this involves for our dairy budget.

Existing labels for Vista Alegre Baserria pasteurized milk, natural yoghurt, and cheeses:

Small yoghurt
Medium yoghurt
Big yoghurt
Fresh cheese
Soft cheese
Fine cheese
Mature cheese
Pasteurized milk (front)
Pasteurized milk (back)


Special corner for schools: visit our special corner for schools for special information about our farm and the farm dairy. There are resource materials for teachers. In this corner you can find out how to arrange a class outing to our farm.

Copy left: With due regard to both constructive criticism and respect, the information posted on this website may be used freely for socially orientated and solidarity minded projects in order to further food sovereignty.