These producers are the future of Australian pork
Madeline Woolway, Hospitality Magazine (AU)
05 September, 2019
Pork is a favourite for consumers and chefs alike. The versatile protein can be processed into a number of products from fresh pork to ham, bacon and a plethora of charcuterie and smallgoods. In 2015–2016, the local pork industry contributed more than $5.2 billion to Australia’s GDP and it supports more than 36,000 full-time equivalent jobs. All in all, it’s a valuable sector — and that’s despite the challenges it faces from international competition.
Hospitality talks to two of the country’s leading pork producers, Blantyre Farms’ Edwina Beveridge and Western Plains Pork’s Judy Croagh, and Australian Pork’s General Manager Peter Haydon about the practices that make our homegrown pigs worthy of more market share. The majority of people don’t know where their pork is from. According to Haydon, the level of awareness varies. There’s a 50 per cent chance the local butcher who’s been in the trade for 20-plus years knows if the bacon they’re slinging is made from imported meat. The lack of knowledge can be forgiven.
While processed goods can be legally imported, all fresh pork sold here must be produced in Australia. Vague country of origin labelling in supermarkets only compounds the confusion. On top of that, there are no mandatory labelling laws for restaurant menus. The pile of bacon served with a big breakfast at the neighbourhood cafe? It can come from anywhere. So too can the prosciutto that costs upwards of $14 per hundred grams.
The reality is more than 80 per cent of the ham and bacon sold in Australia is imported. As of March 2018, 3.1 million kilograms of imported pork arrives in the country each week; that’s $12.96 million worth of pork products.
Unsurprisingly, Australian producers want a slice of the pie.
For the most part, there’s one reason imported products such as ham and bacon have come to dominate the domestic market — they’re cheaper. Australian pork tends to be more expensive for a number of reasons, all of them worthy of the higher cost.
To begin with, the quality tends to be better. “Australian pork, whether it’s ham or bacon or fresh, comes from around the corner,” says Haydon. “It doesn’t need to be frozen for weeks or potentially months.”
There’s also an opportunity for smallgoods suppliers or restaurants keen to produce their own charcuterie to work directly with farmers.
Croagh has worked closely with restaurants since 2000, developing relationships with chefs around Victoria. Now, Western Plains Pork supplies Salt Kitchen Charcuterie with female pigs grown in a dedicated paddock to a specific size especially for the providore. The partnership means Salt Kitchen Charcuterie is able to procure pigs that are more than double the normal weight with more muscle and a higher fat content. “They’re [also] outside working their muscles a bit more, which is good for charcuterie,” explains Croagh...