Imported pre-cooked pork belly hits Australian producers

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

Demand for cheap pork ribs is rising in Australia's foodservice industry
Demand for cheap pork ribs is rising in Australia's foodservice industry

Related tags Meat Pork Pig

Australian pork farmers are coming under further pressure, with the growth in demand for ribs and belly leading to a rise in imported produce.

Under Australian law, pre-cooked meats are allowed to be imported into the country more easily. However, this new demand has led to more pre-cooked pork belly and ribs being imported.

Speaking to GlobalMeatNews​, Andrew Spencer, Australian Pork Limited chief executive, said the importing of pre-cooked meats was nothing new, but the problem has escalated with the shifting consumer demand.

Cheap product hurting producers

The Australian pork industry has been in competition with imported, processed pork, such as bacon and ham, for over 10 years. We are now facing a challenge on our fresh pork products, such as roasts and cuts, like the bellies and ribs. Cheaper pork belly and rib products are coming into Australia. These are pre-cooked imported pork products and are mostly destined for restaurants and the broader hospitality industry.

There are now ribs coming into Australia which have been cooked and packaged from North America and Europe. These products can sit on the shelf for 12-24 months without refrigeration. They’ve basically been sterilised in the pack.​”

Spencer set out the extent of sales lost by Australian producers.

We believe the impact of the imported pork products could equate to up to $80 million lost at the farm gate in just a year. The impact is not just in lost sales, but also downward pressure on prices for every pig we sell. This isn’t a loophole; people have simply found new ways of doing things within the law, but it is negatively impacting on our farmers.​”

The growing popularity of ribs and pork belly in foodservice also presents a challenge due to a lack of labelling in the sector.

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,​” said Spencer. “That leaves consumers in the dark about the quality and origin of the pork they are eating.​”

He urged domestic producers to showcase provenance. “The new challenge for our farmers is to connect with consumers eating in restaurants, takeaways and hotels. We need to ask consumers if they know where the pork they’re eating actually comes from. We need to equip them with the knowledge so that they will ask, ‘Is this Australian?​’

We are doing everything we can to make Australian pork as competitive as possible. This includes raising awareness of the problem, as well as developing models to promote Australian product in foodservice.​”

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