All fresh pork products sold in Australia are from pigs raised in Australia, whereas imported pork products are either ‘small goods’ such as processed pork (ham, bacon or salami) or pre-cooked pork (pulled pork). This is because Australia has conditions in place that require imported pork to be cooked for a specific amount of time and temperature to prevent and protect the Australian pig herd from any exotic disease that could be in the meat. No fresh pork on the supermarket shelf is from pigs raised outside of Australia. Around 45% of pork consumed in Australia is imported, most commonly from the USA, Canada and some countries in Europe, making up around 75% of the ‘small goods’ pork industry in Australia . This means if you are eating ham, bacon or salami, it is most likely made from imported pork.
How do you differentiate Australian pork from imported pork?
The Australian Government implemented new country of origin labelling (CoOL) requirements in 2018. All businesses selling packaged food products must ensure that the product label states the percentage of Australian ingredients contained in the product as well as the country of origin of those ingredients. The standard mark for this is the ‘kangaroo logo’ and the ‘bar chart’ on product labels. Product labels stating ‘Grown in Australia’, ‘Australian Pork’ or ‘Product of Australia’ means 100% of the ingredients are from Australia and all major processing has occurred in Australia .
Product labels that state ‘made in Australia’ apply when the product was further processed in Australia. This label can be put on a product regardless of the origin of its ingredients. So consumers should be wary when they see a ‘made in Australia’ label on products such as bacon, as the pork used is likely imported, and this is not clear in the labelling.
For further information on the labelling requirements see the Country of Origin Food Labelling Information Standard 2016.
What are the animal welfare issues associated with imported pork?
Imported pork does not necessarily come from pigs that have been raised and processed to the same welfare standards as Australian pork. The Australian pig industry, unlike other countries, committed to a voluntary phase out of sow stalls meaning that the majority of sows in Australia are now housed in groups (during their pregnancy), with individual confinement in stalls limited to the first 5 days after mating and 7 days before farrowing (giving birth). Consumers buying imported pork products may be unknowingly supporting the farming of pigs in poorer conditions than in Australia.
Although there are still significant animal welfare issues in Australian pig farming that need to be addressed, the Australian pig industry as a whole has taken a progressive approach in trying to improve pig welfare. At a government level, there is no regular compliance monitoring of animal welfare against the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals, Pigs so when looking to purchase higher welfare pork products, it is important to look for reputable third party certification that focuses on animal welfare.
The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme is a third party animal welfare certification that provides animals with freedom of movement and the ability to satisfy their behavioural, social, and physiological preferences and needs. Visit the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme website for more information.