Coles head John Durkan has dismissed any prospect of the nation’s second largest supermarket group extending its current no-HGP ban in beef into other animal interventions like the use of antibiotics or rumen modifiers.
Before addressing the Australian Meat Industry Council conference on the Gold Coast this morning, Mr Durkan said there were no plans to extend the company’s current beef procurement policies in this area. Industry speculation has recently raised such moves as a possibility.
“The exclusion of added hormones from our beef is really something that our customers have talked with us about. But antibiotics and rumen modifiers are not issues of great concern among consumers, in the same way,” he said.
“So far as the use of antibiotics goes, we understand the need for their use in cattle in some circumstances and there is an important role for them, from an animal welfare perspective, alone.”
“We have no further plans at the moment to extend the no added hormones into other cattle management interventions. Having said that, hormone-free is part of a bigger agenda, which is all about provenance of food, quality of food, and customers trusting where their food comes from.”
That has been translated into Coles' policies in areas like sow-stall-free pork, free-range eggs, RSPCA ticks, and even in grocery lines like non-use of food colouring.
“It is part of a bigger picture to do with reducing additives, but the biggest issue in consumers’ minds in beef was the use of added hormones,” Mr Durkan said.
He acknowledged that there was evidence of a positive environmental impact attached to the use of HGPs, through more condensed production timeframes, reducing animal methane emissions and greater pasture utilisation.
“Global food security in terms of feeding a growing world population is a big issue on a global scale. But we see Coles’ taking such a small proportion of Australia’s annual beef cattle turnoff (500,000 cattle a year, out of a total national kill of around eight million) that our footprint is very small, in the context of the overall Australian beef industry. And we have not seen any other significant other end-users follow our policy, so it is not as if this trend is likely to greatly expand.”
“Also, the demand for good quality Australian beef looks like it is pretty insatiable.”
Mr Durkan claimed the company had enjoyed ‘double digit’ retail growth since its decision to implement its no-HGP policy in January.
More reports from the AMIC conference on Beef Central later today and tomorrow.
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