Country of origin labelling fails to give consumers more information on imported pork products
From the 1st of July 2018, new country of origin labelling laws came into force providing Australian shoppers with more information about where their food comes from.
But the new laws have a major flaw when it comes to imported pork, such as bacon and ham: the labels won’t tell you where the pig was raised. Given the different animal welfare standards in countries from which Australia imports pork, that’s a problem for consumers who want to buy pork from farms that raise pigs right.
What country of origin means for mother pigs
As a rule, you should preference bacon and ham from Australia, then choose European products, but avoid imports from the US and Canada.
All fresh pork sold in Australia is Australian. But about 70% of the processed pork – ham and bacon – is imported from Europe, Canada and the US.
That’s where the flaw in the labelling laws comes in. The new country of origin laws requires labels to tell you what percentage of the product is from Australia, but not where the rest of the product is from.
Some bacon and ham labels provide no information, while others just say the imported pork comes from “Europe or North America”, which is virtually useless for a consumer who wants to do the right thing.
You have no way of knowing if your bacon or ham comes from a higher welfare European farm, or a farm in the US where mother pigs spend their entire pregnancy in cages.
Why does country of origin matter?
About 70 percent of the processed pork that Australians consume – mostly bacon and ham – comes from the US, Canada and Europe.
Pig welfare standards in those countries vary greatly. Most mother pigs in the US and Canada spend their entire pregnancy in small, barren cages, called sow stalls. That’s 119 days of boredom, loneliness and distress.
Europe only allows mother pigs to be kept in sow stalls for 28 days. That’s much better, and some European countries are reducing that time even further.
Encouragingly, the Australian pig industry is phasing out sow stalls, and most mother pigs in Australia are only in sow stalls for five days.
What are Australian retailers doing to help mother pigs?
Some retailers are going beyond the legal requirements and providing more information on their products so you can do this.
Coles home-brand pork only comes from Australia and European countries and is clearly labelled as such.
Primo, the largest producer of smallgoods in Australia, recently agreed to update its labelling after a World Animal Protection campaign for improved labelling and transparency. From 1st January, 2019 Primo will identify which of its pork products come only from European countries.
Where to from here?
Unfortunately, other retailers like Woolworths, Aldi, and George Weston Foods – who own labels like Don – have not committed to provide more information about where their bacon and ham comes from. We’ll keep asking them to go further, and suggest you do, too.
Ultimately, what is needed is for all companies who import pork to Australia to ensure they come from high-welfare countries so that Australian consumers can help the global movement to raise pigs right, and also not undercut those Australian farmers who are doing the right thing.