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Australian Chicken Grow ers’ Council Limited

ABN 31 837 493 703 PO Box 12009 George Street BRISBANE QLD 4003

MEDIA RELEASE: Consumers have a right to know on Coles’ chicken claims AUSTRALIAN chicken producers say they are the latest in a long line of farmers and industries to be target of shallow marketing tactics being deployed by the supermarket duopoly. Coles supermarket recently announced that it would only stock RSPCA-approved chicken on its shelves, but the chicken meat industry says the move is a hollow marketing tactic, and the supermarket giant was using devious advertising double-speak to disguise the real impacts on farmers. The Australian Chicken Growers Council – the national body for Australia’s 650 chicken producers – says the move by the supermarket duopoly created significant negatives for chicken growers, the value chain, and chicken meat consumers. “Consumers are being duped into paying increased prices for their food with no scientific basis for the claims that this change is providing enhanced animal welfare,” ACGC president Mike Shaw said. “They are in fact being denied choice by the supermarkets”. “Changing farms to an RSPCA-accredited production system comes at a significant extra cost to chicken growers, and this system also shifts significant risk of production from processors onto farmers,” Mr Shaw said. “At the moment, growers aren’t being fairly compensated for those costs and risks. Growers are not being given indication that they will be fairly compensated for the costs associated with this move. “So this move is costing consumers more, and even though the extra cost would largely be borne by farmers, the farmers aren’t seeing this value passed on.” Mr Shaw added that the move was further duplicitous in the impression it sought to create of this product line. “Watching Coles’ advertisements, an unknowing consumer could be led to believe that RSPCAaccreditation is comparable to free range production. This is not the case. “Further, the chicken industry has serious questions about the rationale behind some of the RSPCA guidelines, which were not developed in consultation with farmers. Growers, who worked with their birds every day, see some RSPCA guidelines as actually having a negative impact on bird welfare, such as constant extra entries into sheds and frequent rotary hoeing. “And now the RSPCA is commercially involved with the major retailers, receiving a significant income stream from licencing fees.

“This process has short-circuited all the conventional channels when it comes to production standards, at the expense of farmers and consumers. Coles is arbitrarily imposing standards – which suit its vested interests – on other parts of the value chain.” Mr Shaw said the industry was continuing to support free range production, which provides consumers with a credible and reliable higher-price-point option for enhanced animal welfare. “And at the same time we also support consumer choice. It appears that Coles does not support that choice.”

Key points:   In the UK, where the “five freedoms” scheme operates (similar to RSPCA) the majority of chicken meat is imported because the local product is too expensive. Australian farmers currently comply with world’s best practice in animal welfare, and wake up every day to provide Australian consumers with quality food and fibre at a reasonable price. Australian farmers continue to support improved animal welfare outcomes, while also continuing to produce product that meets State and Federal regulatory requirements. Changes to production systems come at a cost that must be recognised by the value chain. Chicken is the most widely consumed meat in Australia, and this move by Coles is expected to add significant expense to their customers’ grocery bills.

Australian Chicken Growers Council questions to Coles:      What evidence can Coles present that its consumers have asked for such a product line, and that the current standard chicken meat product line be excluded from its stores? How has Coles communicated its proposed changes to Australian chicken growers, or how has it worked with them on this process? What credible and verifiable evidence can Coles present that RSPCA-accredited chicken “tastes better” as it claims, or indeed tastes any different at all to any other type of chicken? Why has Coles deemed itself to be an arbiter of animal welfare standards, when this is rightly the role of governments, in consultation with all stakeholders? What is Coles’ response to consumers who want to know why chicken meat has increased in price in Coles’ stores?

Contact: ACGC president Mike Shaw 0417 561 527.