Meat sector must retain trust of consumers – industry

Despite a vote of confidence in the integrity of locally produced red meat, serious warnings were issued during the debate about producer and consumer relationships at the Bien Donné Agri Cape Week.

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 The SA red meat industry was struggling with, among others, the reported 60t of kangaroo meat that entered the local market from Australia every month. “We would like to think it’s a storm in a teacup, but if the industry is in denial, it will lose the trust of consumers,” said Imraahn Ismail-Mukkadam, Consumer Fair national advocacy director.

Ismail-Mukkadam expressed his concern about loopholes with regards to port health inspections. He said unscrupulous retailers took advantage of importing Brazilian, Australian and Indian meat products, including kangaroo and water buffalo, at prices which constituted dumping. “Don’t buy frozen products. Ask the butcher to slaughter in your presence,” Ismail-Mukkadam advised consumers.

Gerhard Schutte, CEO of the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation, said once consumers understood how meat and sausages were processed, they would understand that cross-contamination of products was possible. He nevertheless advocated that they should be educated about the classification system. “This will prevent consumers from purchasing wrong cuts,” Schutte said.

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It was also pointed out that it was undesirable that certain products were simply labelled as ‘meat’. Schutte suggested the introduction of a South African red meat standards organisation to help with proper law enforcement. He said the meat scandal was characterised by sensationalist reporting, but admitted: “We’ve got homework to do.” Bennie Nothnagel, retailer Spar’s chief meat buyer in the Western Cape, said the scandal did not have a huge impact on sales, but that consumers had become more aware of their rights.