Australian pork being squeezed out of the market

For pork farmers, butchers, smallgood manufactures and lovers of bacon sandwiches, this week marks the 2011 Australian Bacon Week; a celebration of all things bacon and a chance to recognise the quality of the homegrown pork industry.

Now in its second year, Australian Bacon Week is an event set up by Australian Pork Limited (APL) and which aims to promote and support the Australian-produced pork industry.

The fanfare, however, draws attention to a worrying trend appearing in the Australian pork industry, whereby high feed costs, strict regulations and increasing quantities of cheaper foreign frozen imports are squeezing Australian pork producers out of the market.

An estimated $10 million worth of imported frozen pork meat arrives in Australia every week, with the majority of that coming from countries such as Denmark and Canada, who have highly subsidised agricultural industries, which allows for the export of an enormous amount of frozen pork products.

The CEO of APL, Andrew Spencer, has commented on the current labelling of Australian bacon, stating that identifying the country of origin can be “very confusing and at times misleading”. “For example ‘Made in Australia’ does not mean the product is made from Australian grown pork”, says Mr. Spencer, “only that it has been manufactured here”.

Mr. Spencer says: “Our consumer research has shown 95 per cent of consumers who prefer to buy Australian, find the current labelling for bacon very confusing and at times misleading.

 “The harsh reality is that between 70 to 80 per cent of bacon is made from imported pork. This pork is imported frozen, thawed out and then manufactured into bacon in Australia. The only way to be really sure you’re buying bacon or indeed any type of smallgoods product made using Australian pork is to look for the pink Australian PorkMark as your guarantee of Australian origin.”

The PorkMark labelling programme has been set up by the APL in order to allow consumers to indentify genuine Australian produced pork, in amongst the increasing imports of frozen pork.

During the past year, the Australian pork industry has come under intense pressure from both Coles and animal welfare groups, over the use of gestation stalls – cages used for breeding sows. Coles’ new policy to only source Australian pork from gestation stall-free environments will come into effect by 2014. The pork industry has responded with its own pledge to phase out gestation stalls by 2017.

In reference to this decision, Mr. Spencer has said: “The phasing out of gestation stalls will come at a significant cost to farmers, with initial modelling estimated it will cost up to $95 million. To successfully achieve this outcome by 2017, pork famers will require support from regulators, political stakeholders, the retail sector, consumers and the general community.”

Despite this landmark decision to phase out gestation stalls, which happened last year, the Victorian Farmer’s Association (VFF), with the support of APL, has expressed its disappointment at what it calls “the double standard around Coles’ new policy to only source fresh Australian pork from gestation stall free environments”, when this policy does not apply to “overseas pig producers who provide Australia with 70% of its processed pork, such as bacon and ham.”

Australian Bacon Week

Given the recent pressure the Australian pork industry has been experiencing, Australian Bacon Week provides an opportunity to raise consumer awareness of Australian pork and also to raise awareness of the PorkMark logo.

During Australian Bacon Week, hundreds of licensees around the country will be conducting in-store promotions, which include bacon taste testing, price promotions as well as Australian bacon buy one get one free specials among other localised events.

As part of the festivities of Bacon Week, APL embarks on a search for Australia’s best bacon. This year, 97 bacons from 72 manufacturers were registered as part of the national Awards for Excellence, which were then judged on a variety of factors including appearance, aroma, texture, shrinkage and of course, taste.


Image courtesy of https://www.midlandpork.com.au

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