Aussie Beef with Environmental Claims

AUSTRALIA - Queensland beef producers are increasingly frustrated at the use of misleading marketing claims about the environmental credentials of a number of competing food types.
calendar icon 9 May 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

AgForce Cattle board member and central Queensland beef producer Justin MacDonnell said many of the claims are not relevant to Australia or are based on dubious science and AgForce is therefore urging the red meat marketing group, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), to redress these misconceptions for consumers.

“Queensland cattle producers are annoyed that the environmental credentials of our beef are being wrongly criticised,” Mr MacDonnell said.

"Anyone with any understanding of the Queensland cattle industry knows there is no more sound, logical and sustainable use of our extensive grasslands than to grow and finish beef cattle."
Justin MacDonnell

“The latest dubious claim to come to our attention is a report from the United Kingdom promoted by Australian chicken producers which said conventionally produced chicken is the most environmentally efficient meat. In our view, that is patently incorrect in an Australian context.

“This report follows a string of recent media articles which have wrongly suggested red meat production has a negative impact on the environment and that one of the ways for consumers to reduce their carbon footprint is to avoid red meat consumption.

“Anyone with any understanding of the Queensland cattle industry knows there is no more sound, logical and sustainable use of our extensive grasslands than to grow and finish beef cattle. “More than 97 per cent of Australia’s 27 million cattle are currently being raised on natural extensive pasture production systems. About 11 million of those cattle are in Queensland and underpin a $3.7 billion industry. Queensland’s industry is based on grass-fed beef raised in a natural production system.

“As consumers become more educated about the supply chain for all kinds of food, any claims about environmental benefits will come under increasing scrutiny and need to be based on sound and relevant scientific evidence.”

Consumer group Choice recently said there has been an explosion of green claims on product labels that are either not supported by evidence, poorly explained or irrelevant – leaving shoppers worried and confused by meaningless green logos and waffle.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is investigating so-called ‘green-washing’ of consumer goods, with Chairman Graeme Samuel reportedly saying that green claims are exactly like any other claim “if they are excessive, if they over-reach in terms of overselling and under delivering, then they run the risk of breaching the misleading and deceptive conduct provisions of the Trade Practices Act”.

AgForce Cattle is currently working with MLA to ensure that the extensive beef industry puts in place robust systems which match consumer demands for meat that is nutritious, safe and ethically produced, with the welfare of stock demonstrated and the environmental sustainability of the system confirmed.

“We want to develop a third-party auditable standard which demonstrates that animals have been raised in a sustainable system which maximises health benefits, minimises environmental impacts and will be robustly certified as pasture-fed natural beef,” Mr MacDonnell said.

“With significant domestic marketing, we believe this natural beef can meet modern consumer demands without any questions of integrity. Consumers can then have absolute faith in the production of pasture fed beef in Queensland and other states of Australia.”

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