New regulations to ensure welfare of animals in NSW abattoirs

New South Wales has unveiled new regulations in state abattoirs to ensure the wellbeing and welfare of animals.

The new legislation will require a designated Animal Welfare Officer to be on the premises of any abattoir to oversee and be accountable for the welfare of animals.

Yesterday the NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson the new “animal welfare package” will significant improve the treatment of animals in abattoirs and Animal Welfare Officers will be required to undergo thorough training.

“Only employees that have undertaken specific animal welfare officer training will be eligible to be designated”, she said.

By 1 January 2013, all domestic abattoirs will be required to have a trained Animal Welfare Officer on the premises while processing is occurring.

The appointment of Animal Welfare Officers is part of a range of changes being implemented by the NSW government.

The treatment of pregnant sheep has been widely criticised, and the use of gestational pens has been slammed by welfare advocates.

Many operators have already begun phasing out the gestational crates, and the industry had pledged to have their use completely stopped by 2017.

Despite calls from Animals Australia to bring the changes forward, a spokesperson from Australian Pork Limited told Food Magazine it is “not as simple as walking into a room and turning off the light.”

“And for producers to make changes within their own infrastructure, they need authority approval, from local councils and state regulatory services, and that takes time,” the spokesperson said,

“Then they need finances to undertake the changes.”

Other conditions to be imposed on domestic abattoirs include all NSW domestic abattoirs complying with the mandatory adoption of Section 2 of the “Industry Animal Welfare Standards for Livestock Processing Establishments preparing meat for human consumption”, 2nd Edition.

All relevant employees will also be required to complete training in the “stunning, sticking and shackling” code set out by the Australian Meat Industry.

Several abattoirs have hit headlines in the past year over allegations of cruelty and mistreatment of animals.

The Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors has been ordered to pay $5 200 and will be placed on the Food Authority’s Name & Shame register after a NSW government investigation found the abattoir was breaching its licence conditions.

In February the state government launched a full investigation into operations at the meat processor located in Wilberforce, following the release of footage showing pigs being beaten with metal bars and sheep being skinned while still conscious.

The RSPCA investigation into alleged mistreatment of animals is still ongoing.

The revelations followed the discovery of an illegal slaughterhouse in Victoria  which led to criminal charges, as well as a broiler farm that was found to be underfeeding chickens causing them removed from the premises.

There is also much debate about the increase in meat being produced to meet Jewish and Muslim requirements, both in Australia and overseas, with opponents saying the slitting of the animal’s throat without stunning to comply with religious beliefs is cruel.

But Dr Shuja Shafi, deputy general-secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, said earlier this month that there is a "lot of confusion" over Halal meat.

He said animals can be stunned before slaughter and still be labelled Halal.

"Over 90 per cent of Halal meat is stunned before slaughter," he said.

In October, Australian agriculture ministers failed to resolve discussions over ritual slaughters, meaning exemptions that allow some Australian abattoirs to conduct slaughter without prior stunning will continue.

There are 12 abattoirs in Australia that are exempt from the regulations that say animals for consumption must be stunned before they are slaughtered.

The exemptions are on religious or cultural grounds, but animal welfare groups want to practice stopped altogether.

The council released a statement following the meeting, saying ministers have reviewed the results of a two-year consultation process with stakeholders and have considered the science involved and the views of religious groups, but could not reach a conclusion.

Up to 250,000 animals are killed without prior stunning in Australia every year under the religious slaughter exemptions and the RSPCA has rejected claims that stunning is not allowed on religious grounds, saying stunning is accepted by the Islamic community and Jewish community and no reason existed for un-stunned slaughter to continue.

The new measures in New South Wales will ensure the meat industry is heading in the right direction, Hodgkinson said.

“These tough new measures are being introduced to foster a culture in which abattoir management and employees fully understand and implement procedures that consistently comply with animal welfare standards.

“The NSW Government will also introduce an additional annual audit specifically focussing on animal welfare compliance and develop a sanctions policy to address any non-compliance with these requirements.”

 “This Government has listened to community concern about animal welfare standards in domestic abattoirs following the incident at Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors in February this year, and now we’re acting to ensure animal welfare standards in domestic abattoirs are improved”, Hodgkinson said.

Are Coles and Woollies bullying the major TV networks too?

While everyone in the Australian food manufacturing industry is aware of the bullying behaviour of the major supermarkets, it seems they are also now impacting Australian TV networks, which are declining to screen ads criticising Coles and Woolworths’ stake in pokie machines, but refusing to say why.

The advertisement, which point out that Coles and Woolworths own “more dangerous pokie machines than the five largest Las Vegas casinos,” shows a woman unwittingly spending excess money at the supermarket checkout, which has been changed to look like one of the gaming machines.

It also targets the “Fresh Food People,” slogan, changing it to “The Pokies People,” and also uses the Woolworths Everyday Rewards logo, which it launches today.

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The advertisement, created by GetUp! is not being screened by the major TV networks in Australia, but none of the stations have explained why.

A spokesperson from the advocacy organisation told Mumbrella they have not been given a reason why they won’t show the ad.

Food Magazine has contacted Channels 7, 9 and 10 this morning, but nobody was able to provide any answers.

As the Senate Inquiry into the impact of Coles and Woolworths’ anti-competitive behaviour is having on the food industry struggles to get witnesses to comment, for fear of being punished, it seems the major supermarkets are throwing their weight around in an increasing number of sectors.

Calls to Coles and Woolworths have not been returned.

The far-reaching impact of Coles and Woolworths has long been documented, and many are highly critical of the stake they have in various sectors.

The Senate Inquiry is slowly gaining some information about the issue, but most food companies are still too afraid to comment on the actions of the supermarkets.

Do we need a Royal Commission into the power of the major supermarkets in Australia?

Undeclared “meat glue” used in countless American products

First it was “pink slime” horrifying consumers in the US, now it’s emerged that millions of Americans are also consuming “meat glue” each week.

The additive is used to produce not only meats found in fast food outlets, but also supermarkets, local delis and restaurants.

Even vegetarian foods have been found to contain “meat glue.”

The two main types of "meat glue"

The “meat glue” is made up two major types, the first transglutaminase Activa, a white powder form of a natural coagulant-like enzyme called transglutaminase.

The other type is Fibrimex, which is made of enzymes extracted from pig or beef blood by a process developed in the Netherlands.

According to the companies who make the “meat glue” they were designed to bond pieces of protein or irregularly shaped meat so it can be cut and cooked evenly by the food-service industry.

Food scientists told Scripps News Network the two cold-binding agents are used to reduce the use of sodium phosphate, sodium alginate, carrageenan, sodium caseinate and other chemicals that had been used for decades to form and mold meat.

Despite US laws requiring labelling to disclose the inclusion of the two brands of protein adhesive are apparently being ignored, according to an investigation by Scripps Howard News Service, which found almost none of the companies tested declared the additive.

Over five months, Scripps examined over 130 meats and deli products in Seattle, Milwaukee, Omaha and Denver which food scientists found contained the adhesive mixtures, but only four of them had the word “enzymes” on the ingredients list.

No companies would discuss the use of the additive, but it is estimated by food scientists that it is found in up to 35 per cent of all sliced ham, beef, chicken, fish, pizza toppings and other deli meats.

Cold cut processors and fast food outlets including McDonald’s and Arby’s were contacted by Scripps to discuss the use of the additive, but all declined to comment, on whether they use transglutaminase or blood-extract products,  raising concerns over the use of processing products.

While the government regulates that the use of the product should be included on a product’s ingredient list, producers can use a loophole which defines binders as a “processing aid.”

Is this the next "pink slime?"

Similarly to the “pink slime,” which is used as a cheap ground-beef filler, meat glue is not considered a health risk by federal food watchdogs, but consumers are disgusted and frightened by the inclusion of such additives.

After much publicity in 2011 and 2012, the use of pink slime has fallen in the US, although there are reports it is still being used in school lunches.

Experts say the US food industry needs to be accountable for it’s actions and be more transparent with consumers.

“For decades, the meat industry has conveniently operated in the dark, not sharing the dirty details of their practices with the public, while the federal government looked the other way,” Michele Simon, a policy consultant for the Center for Food Safety, told Scripps.

“But now, consumers are demanding to know the truth about what they are.

"We need more transparency in a food system that puts profits before people.”

The impact on religion and diet

The undeclared use of Activa and Fibrimex can cause issues for people with beliefs or dietary restrictions.

Jewish or Muslim consumers could be eating pork products chicken or fish pieces without being aware and vegetarians could be unknowingly consuming meat in their apparently “meat-free” products.

“There may be economic adulteration going on here, and the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) or the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) needs to look at whether laws are being violated,” Tony Corbo, legislative representative for the national consumer group Food & Water Watch said.

“We are especially appalled that certain consumers’ religious beliefs may be unknowingly violated because food manufacturers are hiding what goes into the production of these binding agents.”

The Australian standards

A spokesperson from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) told Food Magazine in a statement that the use of the enzyme, transglutaminase, as a processing aid is permitted under the Processing Aids of the food standards Code.

“Like all processing aids, the safety and function of this enzyme was thoroughly assessed before it was permitted to be included in the Code,” the spokesperson said.

Clause 6 of the Meat and Meat Products of the Code states that “Where raw meat has been formed or joined in the semblance of a cut of meat using a binding system without the application of heat, whether coated or not, a declaration that the meat is either formed or joined, in conjunction with cooking instructions indicating how the microbiological safety of the product can be achieved must be included on the label; or if the food is not required to be labelled, must be provided to the purchaser."

“This mandatory information requirement applies to all raw meat that has been formed or joined and is available for retail sale,” the spokesperson told Food Magazine.

“Where there may be compliance concerns, for example raw meat that is joined or formed being sold without the required labelling, consumers can approach the relevant enforcement agencies with their concerns.

“In addition, where the physical form of the formed or joined meat is labelled in a manner that implies the meat is a whole cut (for example, raw formed or joined meat labelled as ‘steak’), such representations could be considered deceptive or misleading to consumers and would fall under  Australian Consumer Law.

“This legislation is administered and enforced jointly by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the state and territory consumer protection agencies.”

What do you think of these kinds of additives? Are they necessary? Should there be more stringent labelling rules?

Visy accused of using Hell’s Angels for debt collections

Packaging company Visy has labelled reports that it uses Hells Angels bikie gang members as debt collectors as “nonsense.”

According to Victorian newspaper The Herald Sun, a whistle-blower has revealed a connection between the bikie gang and the packaging company.

Visy allegedly pays the Hells Angels a retainer to ensure bikies are available for the company to use as “problem solvers” when required.

The Herald Sun reports that the senior police sources detected the connection in police intelligence files and detectives are now investigating the ties.

Superintended Gerry Ryan, head of bikie gang Taskforce Echo wouldn’t comment on specific reports, but did say police are aware of some questionable activity since debt collector regulations in Victoria changed last year.

"We are monitoring this closely," he told The Herald Sun.

"Taskforce Echo has received recent intelligence of instances where members of outlaw motorcycle gangs have been used to collect debts from individuals and businesses.

"We are monitoring these activities closely and will act swiftly if offences are being committed, including the use of physical force, harassment and intimidation tactics."

Last year the Victorian government changes the regulations for debt collectors so that they don’t have to be officially registered to undertake the role.

The move has been widely criticised, with opponents saying that without monitoring or registration, individuals or companies could pose a significant threat to those in debt.

According to a former senior employee at Visy, the connection with Hell’s Angels has been in place for years and was personally approved by founder Richard Pratt, who died in 2009.

These links first emerged in the County Court in 2007.

The former employee alleges that Visy was owed significant sums of money by criminals connected to the fruit and vegetable industry, and when they refused to pay up, the packaging company decided it had to meet muscle with muscle.

"So Visy kind of had to find someone of equal status to the market heavies to collect what was owed by the sort of people who just ignore requests from traditional debt collectors," the whistleblower said.

"A senior Visy employee knew a couple of Hells Angels through a former job.

“He approached them and that's how the relationship started, with Richard Pratt's knowledge and approval."

Image: News Ltd.

Coles and Woollies not entirely to blame for supermarket wars, Dick Smith tells Inquiry

Dick Smith has warned against forcing the break-up of Coles and Woolworths, saying it would only further damage the food sector.

Speaking at the Senate Inquiry into the Australian food processing sector this morning, the entrepreneur also said government protection of the food industry, by enforcing a quota of Australian products, would be a positive move.

Industry protection funds, similar to those in the car industry, could be another viable option, he said.

In his submission to the Inquiry, Smith blamed the current supermarket climate, which is pushing Australian companies and farmers out of work, on rich foreign companies, namely ALDI.

He said dividing up Coles and Woolworths will not improve the situation “because I think they will just become uncompetitive when they become small with the internationals we allow them to compete with.”

Smith voiced his concern that the current “extreme capitalism” environment will lead to WalMart and Costco being the only supermarket companies in the world.

He told the Inquiry he does not believe the infamous milk price wars, which saw Coles drop the price of private-label milk to $1 a litre and Woolworths quickly follow suit, was either of their faults, but rather the blame is squarely at the feet of foreign-owned cheap food retailers.

''I think Coles and Woolworths were reacting to the situation that Aldi and Costco have come here,'' Smith said.

He also wants penalty rates in Australia looked at, and says a reduction in the rates would improve our competitiveness.

''Do we value our country towns?” he asked

“Which I do, do we want to go to these country towns and find them boarded up?

“Because our farmers are paying $20 an hour for labour, (and) will never be able to compete with people paying $5 an hour.

''But don't blame Coles and Woolworths for it, I think we are getting off the track…I think it is the fact consumers want the cheapest prices.''

Smith maintains Australians would readily pay slightly higher food prices if it ensured the future of the food industry.

Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that while most Australians say they would like to buy Australian produced and processed food, the main contributing factor is low price.

Similar rules to those in television broadcasting which impose a certain quota of locally-made content, would be effective in the supermarket sector, he said.

''One idea that I heard a number of days ago which could have potential is that we require Australian supermarkets to have a certain percentage of their sales, say 25 per cent, to be from Australian-owned processors and made and grown in Australia,'' Smith said.

''The advantage in doing that is it will create a level playing field.''

Last month Smith, along with Greg Cooper, chairman of Australia’s largest beer brewer started calling for a dedicated “Australian made” aisle in supermarkets to allow shoppers to easily understand which products are locally made and produced, and therefore keep local industries alive.

The current packaging and import regulations leave most consumers confused, they said.

Smith predicts that ALDI’S share in the supermarket sector, currently sitting at 8 per cent, will increase gradually over coming years.

 

Dick Smith fronts Senate Inquiry into food industry

Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith will front the Senate Inquiry into the food processing industry and supermarket dominance today.

The Inquiry has come up against problems getting people and companies to participate in the process, as the supermarkets bully them into silence through their market control.

Smith is one of the few who is openly critical about not only the anti-competitive practises of the supermarkets, but also the government policy that is ruining the entire Australian food industry.

The case against ALDI

He  has taken a slightly different angle in his submission to the Inquiry, effectively blaming foreign-owned supermarket ALDI for most of the problems in the supermarket sector.

“ALDI’s lower prices primarily come from having lower labour costs, that is, they employ less Australians,” Smith writes in his submission. 

“When Coles and Woolworths follow this particular trend, (as they will be forced to) where in a large supermarket you might only have one or two Australians employed our food prices may be slightly cheaper but in the long term our taxes will  very likely go up to pay for the social services of people who no longer have jobs.

“When ALDI stocked a limited range of products there was hope that the Australian owned retailers could survive because they could sell the other necessities that were required, place a higher price on those and obtain an extra margin to cover their extra staffing overheads. 

“The alternative was to go broke.

“That’s  now  all changed.  

“ALDI have announced that they are going to increase their product range so a typical Australian family can buy all of their products in an ALDI store. 

“This will result in Coles and Woolworths either following ALDI further on this lower cost, 90% private label, “lack of choice” model or losing substantial market share and eventually failing.”

Woolworths and Coles are already increasing their private-label products at a rapid pace, pushing Australian companies out of business and placing unfair demands on producers and transporters.

Supermarkets killing drivers

Yesterday the Transport Workers Union (TWU) accused the major supermarkets of causing road deaths by forcing truck drivers to drive for unsafe lengths of time and meet unrealistic deadlines.

"The union is saying very clearly to Coles and the other retailers that [their] practices have to change, that they are literally killing people on our roads because of the economic pressure," TWU federal president Tony Sheldon told ABC News.

"What happens with Coles and other major retailers with dominating the market at 32 per cent of road transport tasks, is that they say to manufacturers, they say to farmers and they say to transport operators that you've got to do this work the cheapest and the fastest way you possibly can.

"They're price takers, which means the trucking industry either makes the decision to do the work or they don't have a job."

Collapse of Australia's beetroot industry

Smith points towards the beetroot industry as a prime example of the damaging impact the ridiculously low prices have on Australia.

“As an example, for many decades, a simple can of Australian grown beetroot has sold for about $1.50 in our supermarkets and this has allowed a viable farming and  processing industry to exist,” he said in his submission to the Inquiry.

“The cost price of such a can is about 90 cents, the remainder being the supermarket overheads and profit margin. 

"Not at any time in the past few decades have I  heard of consumers complaining about the price of a can of beetroot. 

“In fact, it’s about half the price of a cup of coffee and I find it truly amazing that it could be so cheap, considering that Australian award wages and conditions are included in the price.

“Notwithstanding the lack of pressure on price, ALDI started to sell beetroot at 75 cents a can.   Immediately, Coles and Woolworths matched the price, as they had to.  

“ALDI proudly claimed that the beetroot they were selling was from Australia however they did not state that this would basically sound the death knell to our beetroot growing and processing industry.

“Within a short period of time, Heinz announced the closure of its beetroot processing plants in Australia, sacking hundreds of workers and Australian farmers were ploughing their beetroot crops back in the ground. 

“Heinz announced that their beetroot from now on will be grown and processed overseas.

“At the present time, there are still stocks of Australian beetroot at 75 cents a can, but it’s obvious that once these go, if the price is to remain the same, all beetroot in future will come from overseas. 

“We will have lost a complete industry, but this didn’t happen  because of pressure from consumers. 

"This is an important point. 

“It happened because one of the most astute examples of modern “extreme” capitalism, fully foreign owned ALDI, decided to flex its power.”

Smith said another differentiating factor between ALDI versus Coles and Woolworths is that the latter two are publically-listed companies, dependant on and accountable to shareholders, whereas ALDI is privately owned by a German company.

The “highly secretive” ALDI is therefore creating an uneven playing field, he said in his submission.

"Intentionally vague" labelling

He also takes aim at the labelling laws for country of origin, claiming they are deliberately misleading.

 “The current food labelling laws in Australia are intentionally vague so the requirements are accepted by the large multinational companies who  have political clout,” he said. 

“Although there have been campaigns such as the “Australian Made” mark, this was in reality an indication that the majority of the cost of production of a product was made up with Australian content. 

“For example, if the cost of a jar, a lid, label and an ingredient such as sugar represented greater than 50% of the total cost, but the primary ingredient (say, the strawberries in strawberry jam), was imported, the label could  still  state  “Australian Made”.

“In more recent times many labels bear the words “Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients”.  In this case, the local content may be very small.”

Smith’s own company, which produces food ‘as Australian as you can get” has felt the impact of the obsession with cheap, often imported food, and is personally watching his products getting pushed out of the market.

“Turnover peaked at $80 million per year in 2002 and has now dropped to $8million per annum as most Australians move to lower prices,” he said of his company, Dick Smith Foods.

“It’s interesting to note that the prime reason Coles have refused to stock our products is that  they are about 30 cents more expensive, and they believe Australian consumers will not  support this extra cost.”

A statement from Senator Richard Colbeck, the Liberal Senator for Tasmania who called for the Select Committee last year, said he is pleased that the Inquiry has secured both Coles and Woolworths to appear as witnesses at a subsequent meeting in Canberra next week.

The committee is due to release the findings of the Inquiry by 30 June.

Supermarket price wars are killing drivers: transport union

The supermarket price wars are claiming more victims than just food manufacturing facilities, with accusations from the Transport Workers Union (TWU) that the pressure is forcing truck drivers to drive unsafely, leading to road deaths.

TWU federal president Tony Sheldon told ABC News that the tight deadlines forced on drivers are unrealistic and forcing them to drive unsafely.

"The union is saying very clearly to Coles and the other retailers that [their] practices have to change, that they are literally killing people on our roads because of the economic pressure," he said.

"What happens with Coles and other major retailers with dominating the market at 32 per cent of road transport tasks, is that they say to manufacturers, they say to farmers and they say to transport operators that you've got to do this work the cheapest and the fastest way you possibly can.

"They're price takers, which means the trucking industry either makes the decision to do the work or they don't have a job."

In a bid to shine some light on the dangerous impacts of the major supermarkets on drivers, the union will begin a series of supermarket protests in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth today.

He said the larger transport industry is being impacted by the behaviour of the major supermarkets.

"When the two big gorillas make a decision, and particularly with the aggression of Coles, it means a knock-on effect occurs right across the market, right across industries above and beyond retail," he said.

Is Coles the ringleader?

It’s not the first time Coles has been identified as the main instigator of the anti-competitive and bullying behaviours currently plaguing the food industry, with many in the sector believing Woolworths simply has no choice but to match Coles’ prices and attitudes.

Last year, Coles was the first to drop the price of milk to $1 per litre in the now-infamous milk price wars, and earlier this year it slashed the price of produce in half.

The impact has significant flow-on effects for food manufacturers, growers and suppliers, who cannot maintain a business with prices so low.

Earlier this year national secretary for the food and confectionary division of the Australia Manufacturing Workers Union, Jennifer Dowell discussed the damage the supermarket price wars are doing to the Australian industry.

“The mistake that most people make in these Inquiries and things is that they look at Coles and Woollies as retailers, but they are food processors and they control the market,” she told Food Magazine.

“If a company like Nestle came out and said “we’re going to buy a stake in Coles, and dominate the shelves with our products,” there would be uproar, it would be a huge scandal, but when the supermarkets do it, it’s a non-issue.

“That just doesn’t make sense.”

Sheldon agrees, saying the systems in place to force drivers to arrive on time are unsafe and unfair.

"When you dominate the market to the degree they do, and have policies that actually say if you arrive outside a half-hour window you get fined; as an owner-driver or a transport company, if you come in within that half hour and we can't unload you, you could still waiting for a day for hours," he told the ABC.

"We've got plenty of examples of people having to stay a whole day or being called back the next day without any work, without appropriate breaks, and with fatigue and economic pressure that goes on the transport companies.

"[The policies] are a damnation of this industry and the retail industry – how it squeezes the road transport industry and leads to unsafe practices."

Speaking up is commercial suicide

The pressure Coles and Woolworths place on companies and workers are well-known in the industry, but almost all are too afraid to speak publically, for fear they will be pushed out of business for doing so.

A Senate Inquiry into the behaviours of the major supermarkets found people would only speak up on the basis of anonymity and most were still concerned that even under such conditions, they would be found out by the big two and punished.

But Australian Logistics Council chief executive Michael Kilgariff told the ABC the latest claims from the TWU need to be substantiated and he believes there is enough regulation in the industry.

"The Australian Logistics Council has a retail logistics supply chain code of practice which deals with these issues such as waiting times, and both the carriers and the supermarkets are very focused on making sure that we don't have these sorts of situations occurring,” he said.

"If Tony Sheldon and the TWU have any evidence that the law is actually being broken, then they have a legal responsibility to ensure that the authorities are aware of where this is occurring so that prosecutions can commence.

"The supermarkets are currently liable under chain of responsibility laws – as is everybody in the supply chain – for incidents that may occur anywhere else in the supply chain where it can be demonstrated that they somehow caused it to happen.

"[The] chain of responsibility… is about to become a national law from January 1, 2013, and so we're going to have a national focus on these issues, and again if the TWU knows that the law is being broken, then they have an obligation to ensure that the authorities are informed."

Coles denies claims

Coles and Woolworths both refused to speak to the ABC on the issue, but said in a statement that the claims are baseless and incorrect.

"We're disappointed the TWU continues to make unsubstantiated claims about our transport practices.

"We outsource our transport business to large and reputable providers, we take safe transport practices very seriously and in no way do our transport contracts force drivers into unsafe or illegal practices. 

"We require our transport providers to comply with all road safety laws and regulations and all our freight contracts include fatigue management programs.

"Contrary to the TWU's claims, Coles's delivery windows into our stores are two hours, which is aligned with retail industry practice, and there are no penalties for suppliers or carriers for missing a time slot into our [distribution centres] or stores. 

"Coles is a co-founder of and current signatory to the Australian Logistics Council's retail code of practice and takes chain of responsibility very seriously as being core to its operating practices".

The release of yesterday's Federal Budget didn't offer any immediate improvements for the industry either, with calls from the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) for a Supermarket Ombudsman ignored.

It  wanted the appointment of an Ombudsman, to oversee the anti-competitive and bullying behaviour of the major supermarkets to ensure a future for Australia’s food sector, to be included in the budget.

 

 

 

Victorian Shire wants CSG banned on agricultural land

A Victorian food region west of Melbourne has joined the list of shires and towns arguing against coal seam gas (CSG) exploration and development.

Colac Otway Shire says it wants to protect its position as a flourishing food bowl, and has joined forces with other local and state governments pushing for a moratorium on CSG.

At last week’s council meeting, the Western District Shire Council voted unanimously on a move to encourage the state government to conduct more research on the impacts of CSG on the environment and economy before allowing mining companies into their region.

The Bass Coast Shire moved a similar motion last month and has also held public meetings to address growing concern over the impacts of CSG and coal exploration on agricultural land, the environment and lifestyle.

In December one of Australia’s major CSG explorers defended the practice, saying it can coexist with food security and agriculture.

Chief executive of Santos, David Knox, told ABC Radio he supports further scientific research but drilling should continue while it is conducted.

A senate report concluded the CSG industry is moving too quickly and is not allowing for research to be conducted on the impact CSG projects have on groundwater and food security.

Knox has denied the moratorium on CSG exploration wanted by the government is necessary, saying the only way more information can be found is to conduct the drilling.

But the community concern over the impacts of CSG exploration and drilling continues to increase, and last year a moratorium on all new coal and CSG projects was implemented.

Colac Otway Shire Councillor Stuart Hart pointed to the experiences of Queensland and New South Wales landholders who are fighting with the mining companies as a reason they want the practise halted until further research is conducted.

“This industry (CSG) is a significant threat to the Shire,” he told Stock & Land.

“I consider this to be a pristine food bowl…we do not want mining companies pouring carcinogenic chemicals into our waterways.”

He explained that agriculture and tourism were the two main industries in the region, which stretches from Birregurra and Colac to the Great Ocean Road, and includes Apollo Bay.

Friends of the Earth has welcomed the Shire’s move and says more regional communities should be doing the same.

“While the state government continues to peddle the line that current laws are sufficient to protect landowners when it comes to coal and CSG, clearly regional communities are not buying it” Friends of the Earth campaigns co-ordinator Cam Walker said.

“This intervention by Colac Otway has special significance given that the state government Inquiry into Greenfields Mineral Exploration and Project Development in Victoria is due to report next week.

“The minerals industry has been lobbying for a ‘streamlined’ approvals process for minerals such as coal and CSG.

“The Minerals Council believes there is ‘enormous potential for a coal seam methane industry in Victoria.’

“Clearly rural communities do not share their vision of an expanded fossil fuel industry being rolled out across southern Victoria”.

Advertising in bottle shops encourages youth binge drinking

Point-of-sale alcohol advertising is creating a generation of binge drinkers, according to new research.

Researchers from Curtin University and the University of Wollongong’s Centre for Health Initiatives (CHI) looked at 24 different bottle shops throughout Sydney and Perth and found the POS advertising potentially damaging to young drinkers.

The report, published in the Drug and Alcohol Review, found that merchandise giveaways, discount offers and competitions to be “aggressive” in attempts to lure younger drinkers, who are more likely to respond to such advertising.

The POS methods are creating a pro-alcohol environment, focused largely on young consumers, who are more likely to buy cheap alcohol and engage in competitions, the researchers found.

“Many people may think cheaper alcohol is a good idea, but this is generally because they are not aware of the strength of the relationship between price and consumption among young people,” CHI Professor Dr Sandra Jones said.

“What we have found in other studies is that young people are influenced by these promotions.

“They purchase more in order to obtain the 'free gift' or the 'discount' and, in many cases, they consume what they purchased – that is, more than they would otherwise have drunk.”

It’s not the first time a study has examined the link between advertising of cheap alcohol on young people’s brains, and Jones referred to a 2011 study which found an average of 33 promotions per alcohol outlet in Sydney and Perth.

It also reported that shops attached to supermarkets had a higher number of promotions which required a large quantity of alcohol to be purchased to be eligible for competitions.

Injury Control Council of WA Chief Executive Officer Debroah Costello believes the large quantities of alcohol required to enter competitions and the delivery of POS advertising is concerning.

“This exploitative form of marketing targets ‘at risk’ groups of drinkers, particularly youth, creating positive associations with alcohol and encouraging higher levels of alcohol consumption.

“This is particularly concerning when the Alcohol and Beverages Advertising Code states that ‘advertisements must not encourage excessive consumption or abuse of alcohol’.”

“As with all alcohol advertising there needs to be stricter guidelines around the use of POS that considers the negative impact on the community and way it can clearly perpetuate are drinking culture,” she says.

The researchers believe restrictions need to be implemented to limit the POS promotions in bottle shops and liquor outlets.

Do you think advertising alcohol in bottle shops needs more regulation?

Calls for public register of foreign investment in Australian farming land

The peak farming representative group is calling for more transparency on the investments made in Australia by foreign investors.

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is calling for a compulsory national land register, to keep track of foreign interest in Australian agricultural land.

It would require any person or company not from Australia which acquire or transfer an interest in agricultural land to report the sale in a specified timeframe.

The NFF also wants the records to be made public.

“We are also calling for an annual report of the register findings to be published, summarising any changes to the holdings of agricultural land held by foreign interests,” president Jock Laurie said.

“This report will trigger an annual review of the policy settings around foreign investment, including the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) reporting threshold for agricultural land purchases by commercial interests.”

Earlier this year there were suggestions that Australians needed more transparency about modern farming practices, which were only fuelled by a Primary Industries Education Foundation research project, which found school children think yoghurt grows on trees and cotton socks are an animal product.

Laurie acknowledged the benefits foreign investment had provided for Australia’s agricultural industry, but said NFF members are concerned about the number of foreign interests in Australian farming land, which is ensuring food security for other countries and leaving us behind.

“At the core, the NFF supports foreign investment in Australian agriculture – provided that it does not negatively distort our resource allocations or outputs, does not undermine our farm gate prices, and is not undertaken with the intent of damaging competition in the marketplace,” Laurie said.

“While there have been some calls for the FIRB threshold to be lowered, we believe to do so at this point would be premature.

“This debate has long been described as a debate without data – and, in order to suggest a suitable FIRB threshold, we must first know what land is owned by whom- based on real data, not just a survey sample,” he added.

Do you agree with the suggested register? Do we need to know more about foreign farming interests in Australia?

More Australian pigs “born free”

Almost 18 months after pork producers agreed to ban steel pens, a third of pregnant sows are no longer confined to the small stalls.

More piglets have been “born free” since 2010, when pork producers agreed to voluntarily ban the use of sow stall use by 2017.

Figures from the peak pork industry group, Australian Pork Limited, show that one in three sows now spend their pregnancies outside gestation crates, but animal welfare activists say more can – and should – be done.

The 200 centimetre long and 60 centimetre wide metal-barred cratesare used to hold all sows for at least part of their 16-week pregnancy.

The increased hormone levels in pregnant sows can often lead to fighting between the female pigs, which can cause abortion and damage to the animal.

Housing them in the stalls allows them to be protected from other sows and to receive the proper nutrition they need during their pregnancy, which they might otherwise not receive due to hierarchy and fights over food.

The Australian Pork Limited findings showed that 67 per cent of pregnant sows were still housed in the stalls one to four weeks after mating, while the remainder where not in the stalls at any stage of pregnancy.

Animals Australia’s Lyn White, believes that while it is ”pleasing” that some pig producers are no longer confining the pigs to the cages, the ban should be introduced sooner than first decided.

”The two-thirds of pigs who remain subjected to the cruelty of sow stalls won’t be alive to receive the benefits in 2017,” she said.

”It is clearly within the ability of the pig industry to alleviate their suffering now.”

But a spokesperson from Australian Pork Limited told Food Magazine that many people don’t understand why the stalls are used and how it ensures the safety of the sows.

“As an agricultural group, we are looking at ways to please the consumers and also ensure the safety of the animals, because there are a lot of pictures out there that make it look bad, but in reality it is in the wellbeing of the animal and her piglets.

“But the agricultural industry is finding it hard to recruit workers, so we’re trying to source skilled labour sources from south-east asia.”

“Piggery workers have to undergo skills set training.”

In response to questions about the Animals Australia’s calls to introduce the ban sooner than 2017, the spokesperson said it is not as simple as some people think.

“The problem we have is you can’t liken this move to walking into a room and turning off a light, it’s far more complicated that that, and we always have the welfare of animals at heart.

“And for producers to make changes within their own infrastructure, they need authority approval, from local councils and state regulatory services, and that takes time.

“Then need finances to undertake the changes.”

The spokesperson explained that the readily available horror stories and images of animals housed in the stalls during pregnancy are not painting a realistic picture.

“People are under the false impression that every pig is in a cage, but these sow stalls are only relevant to pregnant pigs, and they are placed in there for safety reasons,” the spokesperson told Food Magazine.

“What it means is that they are mated and within 5 day period are moved to groups.

“Depending on the operation, each producer will decide the size and location of the group and when they’re nearly ready to give birth they are moved to a farrowing stall, a birthing stall, which is a spring-loaded contraption to prevent her suffocating the piglets by lying on them.

“This alone saves about 1 million babies per year.”

By 2014, Coles has pledged to only stock fresh pork meat supplied by producers who have abandoned sow stalls, and experience would indicate Woolworths would quickly follow suit.

“With regard to the retail sector, agreements like that are between producers and the retailer concerned, but as an industry group we are trying to ensure the welfare of animals while also pleasing consumers.

“About 65 to 70 per cent of all ham, bacon and small good products sold in Australia is made from imported pork.

“Different countries have different regulation in regards to sow stalls.

Ean Pollard, chairman of the NSW Farmers’ Association pork committee agreed that a fast-track on the ban would not be realistic for most farmers.
Australia’s biggest producer of fresh pork meat, Rivalea, began voluntarily phasing out sow stalls in 2007.

”We knew that, in terms of perceptions, it was going to be very difficult to defend [the use of sow stalls], so we did not want to end up in the situation in 10 years that we were left behind,” general manager of farming operations at Rivalea Australia, Kenton Shaw, said.

About 75 per cent of its 18,000 sow stalls have been replaced and by next year, Shaw expects there to be zero use of the stalls.

While Animals Australia has been critical of the transition process, the RSPCA has praised the pork industry’s commitment to change.

“It’s good to see this commitment by Australian pork producers and a third of sows already benefiting from a stall free environment,” RSPCA Australia CEO, Heather Neil, said.

“The RSPCA appreciates the significance of the commitment these pig producers have made and we look forward to monitoring the industry progress towards a complete end to the use of sow stalls in Australia.”

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Senator Joe Ludwig has also welcomed the action.

“The industry is making real progress towards phasing out sow stalls,” he said.

“I look forward to this level of commitment continuing as they work to achieve their end goal.”

1800kg coffee stolen

Thieves in Austria have made off with over 1800 kilograms of coffee worth more than $AU70 000.

According to local police, the offenders broke into the warehouse of a coffee-roaster and wholesaler east of Vienna, loaded a van with the coffee, along with two coffee machines, and sped off.

The culprits have not yet been caught.

Last week a man was arrested in Sydney when he stole the copper piping from the bottom of an industrial refrigerator, causing half a million dollars worth of damage to the food inside.

He was charged with break, enter and steal and is due to face Balmain local court on 20 April.

Govt should support creation of more abattoirs: Greens

A proposed abattoir in Darwin which would crate almost 300 jobs has been backed by Australia’s largest cattle company and the Australian Greens party.

If the abattoir goes ahead, it will create jobs for the region, alleviate animal cruelty and reduce live exports, according to the Greens, who have called on the federal government to support the development.

“The Gillard government should get behind a new Darwin abattoir proposed by the Australian Agricultural Company which is estimated to create 270 jobs,” Greens Senator and animal welfare spokesperson Lee Rhiannon said.

“By growing the Australian meat processing industry we can create an alternative to live exports as well as thousands of jobs.

The horrible treatment of animals exported live to Indonesia, exposed on the ABC’s Four Corners program, sparked national outcry and led to Gillard banning the practise until improvements could be made.

The Greens want live export banned, believing that sending the animals overseas is damaging to the local industry.

“Australian Bureau of Statistics data tracks the decline in the number of meat processing jobs in Australia, from between 40,000 to 48,000 workers in the 1970s to around 32,000 workers in 2009,” Rhiannon said.

“There were 475 abattoirs in Australia at the end of the 1970s, dropping to 315 abattoirs by 1995/96.

“The Greens will continue our campaign to ban live animal exports which would not only end the cruel suffering of animals, but see abattoirs re-opened, especially in northern Australia.

In April a departmental study found that the Western Australian economy would be significantly impacted if the state stopped live export of sheep.

The study by the Department of Agriculture and Food developed a sheep value supply chain model based on the three major sectors of the state: production, processing/wholesale and retailing/export.

The business earnings of almost 4200 businesses depend heavily on live exports to maintain their earning total of almost $160 million.

Do you support more local abattoirs and less live export?

Image: The ABC

Steggles defends “free to roam” claims still on products

Steggles chickens are still being advertised as “free to roam” despite the consumer watchdog labelling such claims by the company as misleading and deceptive last year.

In September the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced it was taking a number of chicken suppliers to the Federal Court, claiming they wrongly advertised chickens as free range.

According to the ACCC, national Steggles suppliers Baiada Poultry and Barttner Enterprises, La Iconica suppliers, Turi Foods and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation were misleading or deceptive in the promotion and supply of chicken products.

The ACCC said the impression that Steggles chickens are raised in barns with plenty of room to roam freely used in the advertisement and promotion greatly influence consumers, and in reality, most of the animals have a space no larger than an A4 sheet of paper.

Despite La Ionica’s decision to stop using the “free to roam” claim and pay the $100 000 penalty as a result of the court case, Steggles and Baiada are refusing to bow to pressure and are instead arguing against the ACCC’s claims.

John Camilleri, the managing director of Steggles’ owner Baiada Poultry yesterday told the Federal Court in Melbourne that he ordered the slogan ”free to roam in large barns” be removed from chicken packaging in August last year.

He said the differing rates at which products are stored and sold makes it impossible to eradicate any reference to “free to roam” claims overnight, and his objective is to have “hardly any” chicken with the slogan for sale by the end of April this year.

”What we don’t have control of is any stock that’s in obscure locations,” he said.

”Some of these products have a shelf life of 18 months.”

He said Baiada limits the density of chickens in its sheds to 36 kilograms per square metre, although the limit set by national poultry rearing regulations is 40 kilograms per square metre.

During the case, Camilleri vocalised what many in the industry already know about the storage and distribution protocol of the major supermarkets.

The ACCC’s counsel, Colin Golvan, SC, asked him to explain why a frozen chicken bought by a representative of the regulator last month in the Melbourne CBS still had “free to roam” on the packaging.

Camilleri explained that the product had old packaging, because ”God knows how long Coles have been storing that or where it’s been stored.”

The trial is continuing.