Life Eat & Drink ‘Country of origin’ labels on pork products aren’t clear, butchers say

‘Country of origin’ labels on pork products aren’t clear, butchers say

pork products label
There is no requirement to say which ingredients are in fact Australian. Photo: ABC
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New “country of origin” labels for pork products are not clear enough, pork producers say, as the products do not say where processed meat is from.

The new labelling laws came into force on July 1, with packets on products like bacon now including the kangaroo trademark and a graph, denoting the percentage of Australian content in the product.

Local producers said almost everything on the shelves gets to wear the “Made in Australia” kangaroo badge because the pork meat is imported, and then processed here.

The label can state the product is made from “at least 15 per cent Australian ingredients” without actually specifying what those ingredients are.

That Australian content, the butchers say, may just be smoke and water.

Marcus Boks, a third-generation butcher who smokes bacon in a factory in Hobart, uses only Tasmanian pork, or Victorian if supply is tight.

He would like to see the labelling changed to make clearer where the meat itself is from.

“I think people would be surprised … if they knew the local content wasn’t pork … but added water,” he said.

Australian Pork Limited, the representative group for the pork industry, agreed the labelling could be improved.

“I think we’ve made some progress but it could definitely still be clearer,” marketing manager Peter Haydon said.

Pork products label
Australia imports 3100 tonnes of pork into the country each week. Photo: ABC

Mr Haydon said it would be news to most Australians that 75 per cent of processed pork sold in Australia came from overseas.

Without better education on how pork labelling worked, he said, most consumers would remain in the dark.

Australia’s appetite for pork is staggering — 3100 tonnes is imported into the country each week, mostly from North America and Northern Europe.

Australians consume approximately 30 per cent more fresh pork now than in 2011 — a trend in part driven by the popularity of pulled pork and pork belly on cooking shows like Masterchef.

Hobart butcher Marcus Vermey, who has been working with meat for 30 years, said the extra appeal of pork as a protein choice was value.

“The other reason pork’s getting popular is climbing prices for traditional proteins like lamb and beef — it’s a cheaper alternative,” he said.

There’s a growing market for value-added Tasmanian produce both here and on the mainland and, increasingly, overseas.

Clearer labelling would also help consumers better understand comparative prices between pork products.

But Mr Boks said consumers were taking more interest in where their food comes from and wanted it to be clear why his product might cost more.

“The base, the main core of what it is — which is a meat product — should be labelled where it’s come from,” he said.