The Australian pork industry has been competing with imported bacon and ham for more than a decade, but now cuts like bellies and ribs are being imported and sold cooked to foodservice venues, resulting in plummeting prices at the farm-gate.
Australian Pork Limited CEO, Andrew Spencer, said the cheap, pre-cooked products were mostly destined for the hospitality industry.
“Our farmers have been competing with cheap pork imports for years, but until now it had been mostly in the ham, bacon and smallgoods space,” Spencer said.
“What we’re seeing now is a sudden influx of pre-cooked imported pork being sold into restaurants, takeaway outlets and hotels.”
This includes ribs from North America and Europe that have been cooked and packaged.
“We are seeing processed ribs that are able to just sit on a shelf for 12–24 months with no refrigeration,” Spencer said.
“They’ve basically been sterilised in the pack and consumers have no idea.
“All fresh pork sold in Australia is from our Australian pig farmers, but there is no labelling requirement on meat served in restaurants and across the hospitality industry. That leaves consumers in the dark about the quality and origin of the pork they are eating.”
Foodservice outlets’ interest in the cheaper imported products is having a negative effect on Australian farmers, he said.
“This influx of cheap processed ribs has had a significant effect on the price of fresh Australian pork ribs, which in turn affects overall pig prices. We are forecasting this could equate to up to $80 million lost at the farm gate in just a year.
“We need consumers to get more pork on their forks and for diners to ask if the ribs and bellies on their restaurant or pub menu are fresh, quality Australian pork.”