Strong support for beef label

 

04 Jun, 2013
CATHERINE MILLER
A NEW voluntary grassfed certification system has drawn strong interest from producers, especially with one processor promising premiums above those paid for Meat Standards Australia-eligible cattle.And 200-plus beef producers and agents from the South East, western Victoria and as far afield as Alice Springs gathered at Naracoorte Town Hall last Thursday for an information session on the Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System.

The system is an initiative of Cattle Council of Australia and Meat and Livestock Australia. It has been market-driven with significant opportunities to develop a niche market for certified Australian grassfed product in North America.

It gives consumers a guarantee that their beef is from cattle which have never been fed separated grain or grain byproducts.

Cattle must graze open pastures at all times on an eligible diet which can includes grass, legumes, brassicas, canola-seed meal and any other crop residues without grain. Grazing of cereal crops is permitted so long as they are in a pre-grain state.

It also includes optional modules to make claims that beef is free of hormone growth-promotants and/or antibiotics.

Producers in the program will need to demonstrate their compliance with the standards during an annual on-farm audit through good management systems and record-keeping, including an inventory of cattle numbers and a list of antibiotics kept on the property.

They must also be able to clearly identify eligible and ineligible cattle, and have a record of lost-and-replaced National Livestock Identification Scheme devices.

European Union-accredited producers will find many of the components are similar to their LPA requirements, but unlike the random audit those participating in the system must pass an annual on-farm audit.

Cattle Council executive officer Jed Matz said the high level of producer interest was “very pleasing”.

“It is not something which will suit everyone’s business,” he said.

“Producers need to look at their businesses and determine if they can meet the requirements of the program and whether it is right for them, and in some cases start to collect more records.

“Every market indicator is there to say it should be a strongly sought-after product but it is up to the market to pull it through. Hopefully Teys Australia can make good on their promise to deliver the premium they are talking about.”

Program coordinator Angela Schuster, who has been working on the system for the past 18 months, outlined the latest standards to the meeting and fielded questions mainly about the approved supplementary feeds and the definition of confinement.

The general consensus was that it was easier for breeders who finished their own cattle to participate.

There was some frustration by backgrounders that cattle yard-weaned for a few weeks – now accepted as good industry practice – were not eligible.

According to system’s regulations, backgrounders can buy weaners from non-certified producers so long as they are less than 350 kilograms and 10 months old, and weaned only for the purpose of sale.

They must be accompanied by an affidavit to say they have been consuming milk only.

 

*Full report in Stock Journal, May 30 issue, 2013.

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