Citing consumer preferences and meat quality, Australian supermarket giant Coles is set to begin selling only hormone-free beef in the new year.
Coles is the first national food retailer in Australia to sell only hormone growth promoting (HGP) free beef, and some in the industry are concerned that other large chains might follow suit.
Australian farmers have used growth promotants to speed muscle growth for decades and Australian public health officials maintain that they are safe for consumers, but an industry survey leaked to the Sydney Telegraph shows that consumers are extremely wary of the practice.
The survey of 1,000 people, conducted by Meat and Livestock Australia, found that almost half of respondents would consume less meat if hormones were used raising the cattle, 16 percent said they would never touch the meat again and 15 percent said they would actively warn others to not consume beef raised with hormones.
According to the supermarket chain’s general manager of meat, Allister Watson, Coles has worked with its beef suppliers for over 18 months to build a hormone-free supply chain.
“Coles is working with our livestock suppliers to ensure our customers get the best quality fresh food possible,” Watson said in a company release. “Coles is aware of widespread consumer concerns about additives in food and livestock and animal welfare practices.”
The supermarket chain is also planning to absorb the additional production costs for hormone-free beef.
“We’ve agreed with our suppliers that Coles will absorb any additional production costs that arise from moving to HGP-free beef and we’ll ensure that Coles on-shelf beef prices are not affected by this move,” added Watson.
A local Australian newspaper reported that Australian Cattle Council chief David Inall accused Coles of needlessly frightening customers.
One of Australia’s national science agency’s livestock industry experts, Alan Bell, told PerthNow that growth promotants were “very safe and backed by science.”
“The problem is that the word ‘hormone’ is an emotive one,” said Bell.
The U.S. livestock industry widely uses hormones to promote growth. The European Union has banned the practice since 1989.