Industry body sabotages consumer confidence in free-range produce
As awareness of the horrid conditions of intensively farmed animal products is expanding, consumer demand is shifting to free-range produce. Yet the absence of national standards or guidelines has led to rife consumer deception and some producers defining the term to suit themselves.
The pork industry, in particular, has recently been outed. Despite calls for national industry guidelines for free-range production that would remove consumer deception, Australian Pork Limited, the peak industry body for pork producers, remains firmly behind the eight-ball.
Not only have APL denied repeated requests from free-range pork farmers to develop the guidelines, but they also appear to be blatantly avoiding any involvement in free-range production, having removed from their website a descriptor defining the term ‘free-range’. Worse, even though APL demands a levy from all pork farmers for each pig entering the food market, even those produced on free-range farms, there is still no Quality Assurance within the industry for outdoor pig production.
Free-range farmers have now turned to Humane Society International’s Humane Choice QA scheme, which is independently audited by AUS-QUAL Pty Ltd, and provides the only alternative enabling them to meet QA requirements at NSW abattoirs.
“Clearly, the development of guidelines for free-range pork production falls fairly and squarely within the remit of the APL,” said Verna Simpson, HSI Director. “Legitimate free-range producers who are running ethical businesses in the interests of humane animal husbandry and consumer awareness literally have nowhere to go. They are up against high-volume intensive producers that are exploiting the demand for free-range products by engaging in deceptive labelling, and an industry body that refuses to support them.”
“Until there is a legally defined standard, consumer deception will continue, and free-range producers will continue to be subjugated. There is no option - APL must act on this as a matter of absolute priority.”
HSI is calling for a reform of all federal, state and territory legislation and regulations applying to food labelling, branding and marketing of meat, fish and dairy products, that must ensure the terms used on product labels are limited and clearly defined, and linked to consistent national standards which include those for animal welfare. HSI is also making an application to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), to progress the development of standards relating to the labelling of animal-derived products, and amend the current labelling regime.
Read the Opinion piece by Lee McCosker of the Free Range Pork Farmers Association in the Weekly Times at: http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/article/2009/03/06/59351_opinion-news.html
Further information on Humane Choice is available at: http://humanechoice.com.au/