Education challenge ahead on HGPs
Jim Cudmore, general manager of the Kerwee Feedlot near Jondaryan, says implants are a critically important productivity tool in most lotfeeding businesses.
The feedlot sector is heavily reliant on HGP as a productivity tool, spending $8 million annual on implants. The extensive grazing industry spends another $15m.
“Hormones are a safe, naturally-occurring compound occurring in animal and plant materials, and HGPs simply supplement that, producing more beef, quicker, from less feed,” Mr Cudmore said.
“It’s a tool in our armoury that we use to get productivity efficiencies, therefore reducing the cost of beef to the consumer, both domestically and internationally.”
Asked whether the Coles move could become the catalyst for a broader collapse in the use of implants in domestic supermarket beef, Mr Cudmore said he was not sure, but the consumer would ultimately be the arbiter.
“But the more the industry discusses this issue, the more we frighten consumers away from the beef category altogether.”
“Once they understand it, if the consumer then says they don’t want implanted beef, then the knock-on effect is that the supply chain becomes somewhat unprofitable until the water finds its level again.”
“But the key at the moment is that consumers do not understand HGPs, or why they are used. They are making judgements on little or no knowledge, and therein lies a big education challenge for industry,” Mr Cudmore said.
At some point the industry would have to decide whether that was a fight worth taking on, or indeed whether it was winnable at all.
“In the eyes of the consumer, there is a battle over using any feed additive at all. But HGP is a critically important productivity tool and people need to understand that these products have passed through a rigorous scientific evaluation process, and that they are completely safe.”
“I, personally, would support a consumer education push by industry, otherwise we are going to lose an important tool used right throughout the beef supply chain, worth $200 million annually to the industry.”
“If we don’t defend HGPs, then it will be ionophores next, vaccines after that, and we will gradually lose all the tools that help us remain viable. This is a fundamental argument about erosion of access to productivity tools, rather than what Coles decides to do in its commercial business.”
There is a direct historical precedent to non-use of HGP in the domestic retail market. In the early 1990s, Woolworths implemented such a policy in its NSW operations. However the plan was discretely abandoned several months later due to added cost caused by reduced boning room yields in non-treated cattle, and other issues.
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