Federal theories are once again enjoying renewed interest within European Union studies, where they potentially have multiple uses, including shedding more light on the enduringly puzzling issue of task allocation. Yet their overtly rationalist nature means that they may underestimate the contingent and socially constructed nature of integration principles and norms. One recent theory that tries to adopt a more socially nuanced explanation of task allocation is cryptofederalism. This article further develops its central arguments by adding insights drawn from social constructivism, then applying them to the animal welfare sector – a deeply controversial policy area where task allocation has always proven difficult to explain. It reveals that, once ‘retooled’, cryptofederalism adds a new but incomplete dimension to federal accounts of task allocation. Several scenarios of the potential future relationship between federalism and constructivism are then explored with respect to the changing ‘mosaic’ of European integration theory.