The Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Senate Committee Interim Report into lamb and mutton marketing recommended:
- harmonised national standards for all domestic slaughtering and processing establishment including maintenance or dentition as a standard for classifying an animal as lamb with a requirement that 100% of animals classified as lamb be mouthed at slaughter.
The Senate Committee Inquiry into beef marketing found that:
- grading system with broad application and acceptance would benefit consumers and the Australian beef industry as a whole;
- the guesswork for consumers associated with purchasing ungraded beef diminishes consumer confidence in beef and is probably detrimental to the industry overall;
grading of all beef products for quality would give consumers greater confidence in its reliability;
- consumers should at least be guaranteed that the objective Aus-Meat classification standards imposed on processors supplying export markets are applied domestically;
- the Commonwealth Government should negotiate with the States and Territories to have the Aus-Meat system applying to export meat extended to all domestic processors in Australia;
- the use of "budget" beef to describe beef from animals with eight teeth is at best confusing and at worst misleading. Ideally the voluntary budget beef retail agreement should stipulate that beef from old cows is labelled "old cow beef" and at the very least "budget quality" so that it is clear that this beef is classified as being of poorer quality than other available products;
- if the industry fails to undertake reforms on the budget beef descriptors then government should introduce legislation to ensure that beef from cows with more than eight teeth is required by law to be labelled "old cow beef";
- it is not surprising that those selling beef into the lower end of the market do not want to have to pay for a government-imposed grading system that highlights the quality of their product relative to better quality offerings;
- the government’s proper role in regulating beef products should be to ensure that consumers are not being given false or misleading information and that the introduction of a widely used beef grading system should not be mandated by government but be left to industry to introduce voluntarily;
Appendix 3 to the Senate Committee’s report confirms that the Industry wide Beef Grading Forum convened by RMAC in 03/04 recommended a Voluntary Beef Grading System underpinned by State Legislation.
Appendix 3 also concedes that the recommendations of the Industry wide Forum were later overturned at AMIC’s behest and consequently RMAC itself did not accept the recommendation of the Taskforce that it had established.
The recommendations of the Final Report into Beef Marketing are limited to:
- a proposal that the Commonwealth Government negotiates with the states and territories to have the AUS-MEAT system applying to export meat extended to all domestic processors in Australia; and
- a reference to ANZFA with respect to the creation of separate country of origin labelling standards.
Richard Torbay’s New South Wales Beef Grading Bill proposes a voluntary code with penalties for those that adopt the code and then cheat by selling beef under a label that does not accurately reflect the standards of that particular grade.
If retailers do not want to comply with the proposed voluntary code they need not adopt it and can use their own labelling system.
Richard Torbay’s Beef Grading Bill also seeks to extend the objective AUS-MEAT classification standards imposed on processors supplying export markets from the back door of the retail store to the consumers at the shop front.
Richard Torbay’s Bill proposes a voluntary code underpinned by legislation rather than a mandatory industry labelling requirement and is therefore consistent with the findings of the Senate Committee.
PIMC Terms of Reference
The terms of reference of the Primary Industries Ministerial Council (PIMC) Meat Marketing Working Group include consideration of the costs and benefits (including examination of compliance and enforcement issues) in systems such as MSA as a basis for a voluntary meat labelling system for processors and retailers suitable for consumers or the establishment of a compulsory meat labelling system for processors and retailers suitable for consumers.
Richard Torbay’s New South Wales Beef Grading Bill proposes a voluntary meat labelling code for processors and retailers which is suitable for consumers underpinned by legislation.
Richard Torbay’s Bill therefore falls half way between the two alternatives proposed in the PIMC Terms of Reference.
The Bill is also consistent with paragraph 2(iii) of the PIMC Terms of Reference in that it seeks to make retailers who adopt the proposed voluntary code comply with the AUS-MEAT descriptors and consumer language.
It is equally consistent with the view of the Senate Committee that consumers should be guaranteed that the same AUS-MEAT standards imposed on exporters are applied domestically.
To view the full Working Group Terms of Reference CLICK HERE.
Some apparent inconsistencies in the Senate Report
The distinction drawn by the Senate Committee between "Budget Beef" and Beef from younger animals appears to be a little spurious.
The practice of describing beef from 2 or 3 year old 6 tooth bullocks as yearling or young on the face of it to be equally or more misleading than describing Old Cow Beef as "Budget".
The Senate Committee’s approach to Beef Grading appears to be inconsistent with the Senate’s Interim Report recommendations in relation to harmonised National Lamb Branding Standards.
The Senate Committee accepts that if industry voluntary codes use confusing or misleading terms then government should introduce legislation to ensure that the voluntary code complies with Truth in Labelling principals.