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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Stink over pig policy

Food retailer Coles has rejected claims that it has a discriminating policy against Victorian farmers on importing its home-brand pork.

January 23, 2013 9:00am

Coles recently announced all its Coles-brand products were from piggeries which did not use sow stalls but the VFF has claimed Coles is still importing pork products from European countries which can still use sow stalls.

Coles has responded with a letter to the VFF saying Coles audited its overseas home-brand supply chain to ensure Coles’ standards were met.

Sow stalls, used to confine a pig during pregnancy, are being phased out in Australia following a pig industry vote in 2010, but European countries that trade with Australia can use sow stalls for up to 25 per cent of a sow’s pregnancy.

VFF pig group president John Bourke said it was unfair to the consumer to have sow-stall and non-sow-stall produce on supermarket shelves.

‘‘There can’t be one rule for domestic produce and another rule for all other imports.

‘‘We want the same sow-stall-free rules for all local and imported produce, home brand and non-home brand,’’ Mr Bourke said.

Market figures released by Australian Pork show that in 2011-12, 28.2 per cent of Australian pork imports came from Denmark — a country from which Coles openly sources produce.

‘‘Almost all the bacon is coming from Denmark, and they are still allowed to use sow stalls for four weeks — so that’s not a sow stall ban,’’ Mr Bourke said.

Australian Pork figures also show that a majority of Australian pork imports for 2011-12 came from countries without comprehensive sow stall bans.

While Coles’ decision is a step in the right direction, Mr Bourke encouraged the supermarket to develop a consistent policy on domestic and imported pork products.

Coles corporate affairs general manager Robert Hadler said Coles had altered its import meat supply arrangements to only source from the European Union including Holland, Sweden and Denmark.

‘‘We have those supply chains independently audited and comply with our local standards,’’ Mr Hadler said in a letter to the VFF.

Coles’ head of responsible sourcing and quality, Jack Healing, said the initiatives met a strong customer desire for better animal welfare.

‘‘Animal welfare issues continue to be one of the major concerns customers raise with us; they want to know that animals have been properly treated,’’ Mr Healing said.

Coles has quoted support for its policy from RSPCA and Animals Australia.

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