Protecting reputation of Aussie beef

Protecting reputation of Aussie beef

A Private Members Bill seeking to safeguard the reputation of Australia’s beef industry as producers of safe ‘quality’ food was introduced this week by the Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie with the support of the Member for Kennedy Bob Katter.

The Bill, if passed in Parliament, would make it illegal to market meat as an ‘Australian’ product if the cattle have been processed in a country outside of Australia.

“Australia’s meat industry and the Australian Government have invested billions of dollars on opening up and developing markets, improving the quality of Australian meat and ensuring the reliability and safety of the food supply chain,” Rebekha said.

“We need to safeguard that investment, and the future of 35,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the meat processing industry, by ensuring other enterprises don’t take a free ride on that brand recognition or – worse – ruin Australia’s reputation by selling meat that is substandard or processed in an environment where the risks are unknown.

“You only have to look at other food contamination scandals, the Mad Cow Disease scare in the UK or the E.coli outbreak in the Jack in the Box hamburgers in the US, to realise how easily an industry can take a blow to its reputation.

“When overseas buyers pay a premium for an Australian steak, they know they are purchasing a meat cut that will not only taste delicious, but it has been ethically and hygienically prepared.”

Last year the red meat and livestock industry (including domestic and live export markets) was worth $22.9 billion.

Australia exported $7.15 billion worth of beef meat in addition to the live exports of cattle.

There are about 200 licensed abattoirs in Australia, including 78 export-accredited plants processing beef, sheep, lamb, goat and pork.

The meat processing industry employs 35,000 people (full-time equivalent) and another 100,000 people indirectly through sectors such as transport and storage.

Last year 7.83 million head of cattle were processed in Australia with 1.12 million transported overseas as live export.

Beef products derived from live export cattle are not permitted to be marketed as “Australian beef”.

The Competition and Consumer Amendment (Safeguarding the Reputation of Australian Beef) Bill will be introduced by Rebekha to the Lower House on Monday and will be seconded by the Member for Kennedy.

Penalties in the legislation include maximum fines of $1.1 million for Australian companies and corporate bodies and $220,000 for individuals who break the law in Australia.