Supermarket giant Coles is now sourcing hormone growth promotant (HGP)-free beef from its Australian cattle producers as part of a new product line targeting consumers increasingly conscious about clean and green farming.
Coles will be the first national food retailer to sell only HGP-free beef, but the move has raised concerns with the Cattle Council of Australia which is seeking more information about the initiative and what it may mean for producers in the market place.
HGPs are widely used within the industry to boost growth rates in livestock, and they have been deemed safe by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
But Coles says the move is about providing customers with the "best quality fresh food possible".
Coles general manager of meat, Allister Watson, said the company had worked cooperatively with its beef suppliers over the last 18 months to build a dedicated hormone-free supply chain.
"Coles is aware of widespread consumer concerns about additives in food and livestock and animal welfare practices," Mr Watson said.
"A range of scientific studies have also confirmed that hormone growth promotants (HGPs) can adversely affect eating quality.
"The Meat Standards Australia (MSA) grading system shows that meat quality is significantly better without the use of HGPs."
Mr Watson said a key outcome for Coles was that neither customers nor suppliers would be financially disadvantaged by the move to better quality meat.
"We've agreed with our suppliers that Coles will absorb any additional production costs that arise from moving to HGP-free beef and we'll ensure that Coles on-shelf beef prices are not affected by this move," he said.
Chief executive of Australian Country Choice, David Foote, a major Coles beef supplier based in Queensland, said the move was would be a positive for customers and a new supply opportunity for cattle producers.
"I applaud Coles for striving to continuously improve the eating quality of Coles beef for its consumers and for working closely with its cattle suppliers to deliver a fair outcome for all parties," Mr Foote said.
Coles Finest HGP-free beef range is already available in selected Coles stores. Coles Butcher beef will be progressively converted to HGP-free in stores from January 2011.