Meat the new rules, or beef about labelling

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald describes the poor state of  beef regulation in supermarkets. And notes we should all pay more attention to the state of beef in supermarkets.

According to an existing voluntary agreement by Meat and Livestock Australia, cows 3 1/2 years or older (eight-tooth cows) are considered only suitable for consumption as mince. Although only 7.8% of the nations 160,000 cattle properties are MSA-accredited. Which says a lot for the voluntary system.

Except, under the Voluntary Beef Retail Agreement, cuts of beef from eight-tooth cows can be sold labelled ‘budget’. And on slow days it gets stacked on shelves marked ‘special’.

There is no current standard to safeguard local consumers.

On the other hand, all export beef is graded using the stringent AUS-MEAT standard.

So the NSW government is currently trying to implement new rules to govern labelling of beef[6]. And would include ‘large penalties against any signatory breaching truth-in-labelling rules‘.

The most telling paragraph from the article though is:

Justin Toohey, secretary of the meat industry’s peak body, the Red Meat Advisory Council, said while it supported Mr Torbay’s truth-in-labelling intentions, it did not support a voluntary grading scheme underpinned by state or federal legislation.

I too can see the problem here, although not quite what Justin had intended. Considering the poor working of the existing voluntary system, I don’t see how a new voluntary system can be any better.

What is the point of large penalties for signatories if not everyone signs up?

Australia should implement rules to govern local beef produce that are as stringent as those for export beef. Since the rules are already being applied to the industry for exports[1], there should be no issue with applying the same labelling rules to product sold locally.

More links:

  1. 11 Misfounded Claims about a National Beef Grading Code
  3. WHY OUR SECRET GRADING SYSTEMS ARE NOT WORKING…and what we can do to fix the problem.
  4. Senate enquiry – Beef marketing and labelling issues
  5. Submission 56 – Inquiry into Meat Marketing
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