THE Western Meat Packers Group (WMPG) has become the first WA processor to put its support behind the Cattle Council of Australia’s (CCA) Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System (PCAS).
WMPG hopes to increase its supply of premium quality grassfed and pasturefed beef – as well as organic beef – to supermarket giant Woolworths, which will be good for WA producers seeking to tap into the high-end meat market.
WMPG chief executive officer Andrew Fuda said the company was excited to be the first processor in WA to utilise the PCAS program to underpin its popular grassfed beef product.
“We see PCAS as an important step for WMPG to validate claims that our products meet our customer requirements,” Mr Fuda said.
“Utilising PCAS is also in line with our company’s ongoing support for producers choosing to validate how they raise their cattle, as product differentiation remains a vital aspect of Australia’s capacity to market quality, described beef.
“It also further underlines WMPG’s commitment to put in place every available step to ensure that how we handle cattle and how we process our beef products is the world’s best practice.”
WMPG general manager Jason Spencer said it was easy for organic producers to become PCAS certified – but WMPG only had a few organic beef suppliers.
“Organics have been a good product for us,” Mr Spencer said.
“It’s given us a point of difference.
“In WA it is hard to get enough supply of organic and grassfed beef all year round.
“If more producers were certified that would help with supply.”
Mr Spencer said from March to July there was a glut in the supply and WMPG was hoping to be able to expand its opportunity through PCAS certification to meet the demand from Woolworths.
“It’s not an all encompassing solution but an opportunity,” he said.
Mr Spencer said it would lift productivity from 50-60 per cent in the slower months to 70-80pc, which would be a real benefit to WA producers.
He said Woolworths was hoping to source more PCAS certified grassfed and pasturefed beef from WA in order to reduce any supply chain issues from the Eastern States and also to extend the shelf life of the meat in the supermarket.
CCA president Howard Smith said “the signing of WMPG to PCAS is a positive move, which will provide real benefits to cattle producers in WA”.
“This signing continues to demonstrate that processors and producers are working together to ensure full integrity of grassfed products delivered to consumers,” Mr Smith said.
PCAS is an assurance program that enables the industry to prove claims relating to pasturefed or grassfed production methods.
The PCAS standards will govern the on-farm feed requirements and traceability of the cattle, as well as pre-slaughter handling practices which influence eating quality.
Producers who sign up to the voluntary PCAS standards will be required to pay an audit fee ranging from $600 to $850, plus travel fees for the auditor, to ensure that they are eligible to be certified as grass or pasturefed and be able to use those markings in the marketing of their beef.
They are also required to pay an annual administration fee of $200 from the second year onwards which supports the ongoing management and development of the PCAS program.
The PCAS standards include two optional modules to support claims relating to the freedom from antibiotics and hormone growth promotants.
PCAS works in complement to Livestock Production Assurance (LPA), the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) and Meat Standards Australia (MSA).
LPA, NLIS and MSA have management practice and record-keeping requirements, and many of these are also required under the PCAS standards, which means that producers may already be meeting many of the requirements for PCAS certification.
In establishing the PCAS standards, the CCA has sought to ensure PCAS is consistent with United States’ standards so that Australian export products from certified pasturefed cattle are not excluded from these markets.
PCAS is not yet formally recognised outside of Australia, however the CCA continues to work towards achieving broader recognition.