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TAS Country : January 13th 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011 Tasmanian Country 11 Opinion Pay-off time for HGP-free status IN THE PINK: Tasmanian cattle have worn the HGP-free pink tailtag for 12 years. One of the issues for Tasmanian producers could be to identify just how much HGP- free beef being sold by Coles is actually sourced from Tasmanian cattle farmers. ' OVER the FENCE John Rich THE publicity surrounding the decision by Coles supermarkets to source and sell only beef free of hormone growth promotants (HGP) from Australian cattle producers has been interesting. Coles claims it wants to provide customers with the best-quality fresh food. There are several issues surrounding HGPs and it can often be difficult to sort out fact from fiction and/or emotion. A government and red-meat industry partnership called SAFEMEAT, states that ''HGPs are supplements of naturally occurring hormones that are found in most animal and plant life. They are slow-release implants that contain natural or synthetic hormones are used to improve growth rates and feed efficiency in the cattle industry. These hormones are naturally present in all meat. HGPs cause no harm to the animal being implanted and research has shown that meat treated with HGPs is safe for human consumption.'' HGPs come in the form of implants placed under the skin on the back of the ear of cattle that continuously release low doses of hormones. The use of HGPs means beef can be produced more quickly and efficiently, making individual producers and the Australian beef industry more competitive on the international markets. Treated cattle do not suffer any discomfort and they gain weight faster with less feed. There is an argument that the improvement in feed efficiency can reduce costs to the consumer. Coles media statements claim that a range of scientific studies has confirmed that HGPs can adversely affect the eating quality of beef. I saw a Woolworths representative on television categorically denying this claim. Woolworths appeared to focus on the Coles HGP-free status as little more than a grab for publicity. Coles did not elaborate on its scientific reference. It should also be noted that Tasmania has legislation that bans the use of HGPs. As far as I can ascertain, this ban was enacted in 1998, about 20 years after HGPs were introduced to the cattle industry in 1979. A search for information about the science (or any other reasons) behind the Tasmanian ban of HGPs has not been successful. There is reference to the ban being of benefit in the market place. The DPIWE states: ''this unique competitive advantage assists positioning Tasmania in domestic and export markets.'' It would be interesting to see what competitive advantage has flowed to Tasmanian beef producers since 1998. It is estimated that about 40 per cent of Australia's beef comes from cattle treated with HGPs. Growth promotants add $210 million to the Australian beef industry each year in production gains, (source NSW DPI 2008). Growth rates are increased in the range of 10-30 per cent and feed conversion efficiencies are improved by 5-15 per cent. HGPs are registered for use in many countries, including Australia, USA, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and Japan. The European Union, driven by consumer demands, banned the use of HGPs, including in imported meat, in 1988. The World Trade Organisation in 1998 found that the EU ban was not supported by science and was inconsistent with its WTO obligations. Reviews and evaluations by leading world health authorities, including the World Health Organisation of the UN and Australia's Department of Health and Ageing have found no evidence that would support the EU ban. Tasmanian Greens Kim Booth has welcomed the Coles decision to cease selling HGP-treated beef on the basis that ''this supports the Greens long-held belief that HGP-free meat is better for human and animal health while also providing a marketing edge for producers''. Mr Booth is critical of the Labor Government's failure to implement a paddock-to-plate certification scheme to prove state-of-origin and authenticity of HGP-free status. Maybe the time is right for Kim Booth and the Greens to make sure the State Government listens to and immediately acts on their policy. One of the issues for Tasmanian producers could be to identify just how much HGP-free beef being sold by Coles is actually sourced from Tasmanian cattle farmers. I wonder why the HGP-free status of Tasmanian beef has not been really prominent in advertising by government and industry since 1998. We can claim to produce possibly the best beef in the world. Some of the claims can include the following: hormone-free, antibiotic-free, GMO-free and fed on clean natural grasses. Coles states it has been working with producers for the past 18 months to build a dedicated hormone-free supply chain. I hope they have made a policy decision to fully support beef producers in Tasmania who have been raising HGP- free cattle for more than 12 years. Coles advertising states that no added hormones will be at no added cost to the consumer. It says it will absorb any additional production costs that arise from moving to HGP-free status. It would be interesting to see the calculations on this topic because it acknowledges that producers of HGP- free beef cattle should receive a better price than cattle raised with HGPs. I think the new opportunity for Tasmanian beef producers (and the Government) is to now loudly and proudly proclaim that all of the beef produced locally is HGP-free and challenge those who are concerned about additives in food and livestock and animal welfare practices to insist on buying only Tasmanian beef . Do you need help to live independently at home? * Calls from mobile phones are charged at applicable rates Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres are here to help. A Centre can: • Provide you with information on local aged & community care services available to suit your needs • Arrange help for carers to take a break from their caring role (respite) To contact your local Centre call Freecall 1800 052 222* To find your nearest shopfront visit www.commcarelink.health.gov.au For emergency respite outside business hours call Freecall 1800 059 059* Carer Advisory and Counselling Service For family carer support and counselling you can contact your state or territory Carers Association on 1800 242 636* adcorp11868
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