AUSTRALIAN-OWNED fast food giant Hungry Jack’s has moved to set itself aside from key competitor McDonald’s by promising to only serve up beef patties that have no added hormones.
The chain, which has a network of more than 400 restaurants, says the initiative, launched this week, is in response to customer demand.
It’s a move cattle producer leaders say makes no sense, given the extensive scientific research that shows there are no health risks associated with consuming meat from animals treated with HGPs.
It would also be damaging to Australia’s $18.21 billion cattle industry and promote less environmentally-friendly production methods, beef leaders said.
McDonalds Australia, meanwhile, has no plans to follow suit, saying it’s not a consumer demand they are seeing and they are conscious of the implications to farmers.
‘No Added Hormones’ is currently emblazoned across the front of Hungry Jack’s website and the company’s chief marketing officer Scott Baird said the universal move was a ‘further step forward in our commitment to meeting consumer expectations.’
He said it was something customers told the company they wanted.
“Customers demand greater transparency in the food they are eating,” he said.
“For Hungry Jack’s, that means beef with no added hormones that is 100 per cent pure Australian, with no added preservatives or fillers.”
Hungry Jack’s has also recently moved to cage-free eggs.
HGPS - supplements of naturally-occurring hormones implanted under the skin of cattle - are used to allow cattle to gain weight faster with less feed.
Meat and Livestock Australia figures show the growth rate of HGP-treated cattle is increased by 15 to 30 per cent and feed conversion efficiency by 5 to 15pc.
That efficiency improvement not only reduces costs to the consumer but reduces the environmental footprint of beef production, said Australian Lot Feeders Association president Tess Herbert.
“HGPs have been used in Australia for more than 30 years, are approved for use in most other countries and there has never been any associations with health risks,” she said.
Safemeat, an industry-government organisation that works to ensure the integrity of Australian meat, says a person would need to eat more than 77 kilograms of beef from a treated steer in one sitting to get the same oestrogen as from eating one egg.
McDonalds corporate communications manager Chris Grant said his company would not be making any changes relating to HGP use.
“We source $260m worth of beef per year so we consider very seriously any changes that have implications to farmers,” he said.
Experienced meat marketer, former chief executive officer of Sanger, Richard Rains said there was no doubt significant premiums were being paid for something perceived to be better - whether it be organic, grassfed, HGP-free or other.
Producers have to weigh up the benefits to production of using HGPs against premiums they can achieve by targeting markets like Hungry Jack’s, he said.
“A lot of Australia’s export markets are now also demanding HGP-free, for example China’s blanket requirement,” he said.
“Hungry Jack’s is not making this move for fun. The bottom line is there is a consumer demand and as beef producers we need to listen to that.”