Comments made by president of AgForce Cattle Grant Maudsley, quoted in this week's Queensland Country Life (see article: "Maudsley: Torbay Damaging"), as to whether the Torbay Bill is a voluntary or mandatory Scheme fail to compare apples with apples and are off track.
The section 23B amendment to the NSW Food Act is a Truth-in-Labelling provision (introduced by "the Torbay Bill") rather than a grading provision and will take the AUS-MEAT language from the rear of the retail store to the front counter.
Subject to the debate over the appropriate qualifier for "Budget" beef from old cows, the AUS-MEAT Truth-in-Labelling provisions taking the AUS-MEAT language through to the front counter had the full support of industry who responded in a positive fashion to Torbay's Bill with the development of an AUS-MEAT Domestic Beef Retail Beef Register which will describe beef cuts in a more consumer friendly way than the existing AUS-MEAT trading language.
The section 23A amendment to the New South Wales Food Act 2003 contemplates the Minister promulgating Regulations to introduce a Voluntary Beef Grading Scheme to impose penalties on retailers who adopt the Scheme and then cheat by mis-labelling the product.
Torbay's Bill embraces and encourages MSA cuts grading and any carcase grading would simply relate to those animals which have not been, or cannot be, MSA graded.
The draft Beef Grading Regulations circulated to industry a couple of months ago contemplated a Platinum grade restricted to MSA 4 and 5 star cuts with the easiest pathway to the proposed Gold Grade through cuts that graded MSA 3 star and Silver and Bronze grades restricted to non MSA graded carcases. As the editorial suggests, any cut from an 8 tooth animal that makes an MSA Grade will be excluded from the "Budget" labelling requirements.
Rod Polkinghorne the Founder and Chairman of Meat Standards Australia Committee says that any cuts from cows that fail to MSA grade will not eat well however cooked. In these circumstances it is difficult to understand Mr Maudsley's view that the sale of cuts from old cows that have not been MSA graded, or Fail to MSA Grade, that are labelled Budget "low grade"or "low quality" will drive consumers to competing protein including pork and chicken.
This is the nub of the eating quality debate. The research shows that eating quality consistency is the biggest determinator in a consumers decision to make a repeat beef purchase.
Does Mr Maudsley really believe that consumers who are left in the blind, with no way of knowing the quality of the beef that they are purchasing before they make their decision to buy, are less likely to switch to consistent protein sources such as chicken or pork than they would, if they were given the heads up before they parted with their hard earned, that the cheap cut they were buying was low grade and may not eat to well?
The supporter's of the Torbay Bill, as did the founders of MSA, believe that inconsistent product that flows from the current lucky dip, where consumers buy a good steak one week and end up with tough and tasteless piece of old cow meat the next, have been driving consumers away from beef to competing protein such as pork and chicken for many years.
See also my letter to QCL: "Meat grading not mandatory in bill" published 10/12/09.