COLES was early to adopt “ethically produced” meat branding, but it’s been a late arrival in the consumer trend toward grassfed beef.
Last week, Coles corrected that gap in its lineup, rolling out its certified grassfed beef label, GRAZE, to about 270 supermarkets in Victoria and NSW.
About 18,000 cattle a year will be sourced from around 180 producers in the first year, with the intention of increasing volume based on sales.
The range will include porterhouse, scotch fillet, rib eye, eye fillet, rump, schnitzel, lean mince, roasts, stir fry, casserole and ribs. Along with the grassfed branding, GRAZE cuts will also carry Coles’s HGP-free (hormone growth promotant) label.
Unlike Woolworths, Coles is not using the Pasturefed Cattle Assurance Scheme (PCAS) to certify its label, choosing instead to use its own scheme.
“Coles adopted its own independent assessment for grassfed beef to cater for all producers, including smaller family farmers who want to supply direct to Coles, as well as our customers,” a Coles spokesperson said.
Coles said GRAZE is “based on the principles contained in PCAS”, but it wants the flexibility to add other criteria, understood to relate to animal welfare and environmental standards.
“PCAS-registered producers are well placed to potentially supply beef to GRAZE,” the Coles spokesperson said.
“If suppliers of GRAZE are PCAS-accredited, Coles will of course recognise that accreditation and work with the producer on the additional requirements that Coles is looking to deliver.”
Producers looking to supply GRAZE will have to undergo an on-farm assessment, and then accept audits that will be performed on all GRAZE producers over a three to five year rotation.
Coles said GRAZE was established after a year of discussion with a working group of eight producers representing different production zones across Victoria and NSW.
Company representatives also met with Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) and Meat and Livestock Australia before establishing the brand.
CCA PCAS co-ordinator Lisa Cotter welcomed Coles’ recognition of PCAS as “the industry standard” for grassfed beef accreditation; Marc Greening, chair of CCA’s PCAS Management Committee acknowledged that PCAS “isn’t a fit for all producers and may not be tailored to all potential customer’s needs”.
“It is however the most robust foundation to build from.”
“CCA remains willing to engage any new potential grassfed beef opportunities and develop additional elements to complement the PCAS to provide any other assurance in line with their end customer’s needs, provided that the integrity of the PCAS is maintained throughout.”
Any grassfed beef that is put before consumers, and recognised as such, is good for the cattle industry, Mr Greening added.
“As the body representing all grassfed beef producers the challenge is to enable PCAS to be the system that allows producers to supply all grassfed markets with the one certification program, and ensure the grassfed claim maintains integrity.”
Second generation Guyra, NSW, cattle producers Bill and Jacqui Mitchell, who began focusing on grass-fed cattle three years ago, welcomed the establishment of the new grass-fed brand.
Mr Mitchell has been supplying Coles for nearly five years, and was part of the Coles working group involved in the establishment of GRAZE.
“I’m very passionate about grassfed beef – not only is it a great tasting product but there’s also a good story behind how it’s grown,” Mr Mitchell said.