Kellogg Australia reduces sodium levels ahead of schedule

Kellogg Australia has met its 2010 commitment to reduce sodium levels in its Corn Flakes and Rice Bubbles by 20 per cent.

The cereal giant made the announcement this week.

Kellogg’s was one of the leading Australian manufacturers to commit to lowering sodium levels, as part of the Reformulation Working Group of the Federal Government’s Food and Health Dialogue in March 2010.

New targets were outlined in the campaign, as the negative health impacts of a high-sodium diet became well-known.

Last month the National Heart Foundation of Australia found that if everyone reduced their salt intake by 3 grams per day, 6 000 lives could be saved every year.

As part of the Health Dialogue, for all ready-to-eat breakfast cereals that exceeded 400 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams, Kellogg’s, Sanitarium, Cereal Partners Worldwide, Woolworths, Coles and ALDI would reduce the sodium content of products by 15 per cent over four years.

Kellogg Australia’s 20 per cent reduction comes eight months ahead of schedule, with plans for the reformulated cereal expected to be rolled out by August this year.

Kellogg’s also confirmed it was on schedule to deliver more salt reduction, as promised in its Food and Health Dialogue commitment.

It will reduce sodium by 15 per cent in all Kellogg’s cereals that exceed 400 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams by the end of 2013.

In September, a report in the Australian Medical Journal (AMJ) showed more improvements could be made to salt levels in breads, because voluntary reduction across Australia and New Zealand was not enough. 

“While there has been some improvement in sodium levels in New Zealand, and while the companies actively engaged in salt reduction efforts are to be congratulated, our data also highlight the need for continued action,” the report said.

Better results are likely to be achieved if the governments of Australia and New Zealand take committed leadership of these programs.”

However, a Deakin University study released in March found that a “reduced salt” label on a food product will make a consumer experience a reduced level of taste, even if it is not in fact lower in salt.

Participants were asked  to taste soups with the same salt content, but it labelled some as “reduced salt.”

Those labelled as low sodium actually had the same salt content as the other soups, but participants reported that they found them less tasty.

 The study found that while it is clear that salt levels need to be reduced, better initiatives are needed to encourage lower intakes.

The problem with gluten is…

One in every hundred Australians are affected by Coeliac disease, but 75 per cent are undiagnosed, meaning that about 160,000 Australians have coeliac disease but don’t yet know it.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and outs, which causes small bowel damage in people with coeliac disease when consumed.

They experience what is referred to as villous atrophy, where the tiny, finger-like projections which line the bowel become inflamed and flattened and the surface area of the bowel available for nutrient absorption is markedly reduced, causing various gastrointestinal and malabsorptive symptoms, according to Coelic Australia.

There are a number of serious health consequences can result if the condition is not diagnosed and treated properly.

How is coeliac disease different to gluten intolerance?

People are born with the genetic predisposition to develop coeliac disease but environmental factors play an important role in triggering coeliac disease in infancy, childhood or later in life.

“We know one per cent of the population has coeliac disease, but the issue is that only 25 per cent of them are diagnosed at the moment,” Penny Dellsperger, Accredited practicing Dietician told Food Magazine.

“I think there are better ways to diagnose, and it’s being picked up on because of the increased awareness, so it’s difficult to know if the rates are actually rising, or if we’re just better at picking up on it now.

“In terms of how quickly it is rising, we believe one in 100 Australians has coeliac disease at the moment, but it could be more than that,

“In terms of gluten intolerance, there is not enough evidence out there to know how many people have that.

“I did hear a figure quoted recently that about 10 per cent of the population is on some sort of gluten restriction, but I don’t know if that is right or necessary.

“It might just be a bit of a fad, and it is a bit of a double-edged sword, because for those who do suffer from coeliac disease it’s good because there is more gluten free food available and having that awareness is good, but on the other end of the sword they may be down-playing the real implications of having coeliac disease.”

Part of the reason for the number of undiagnosed cases of celiac disease is the varied symptoms that come with the condition.

Some people suffer severe symptoms, while others are symptom free and there is also a lot of confusion about coeliac disease and gluten intolerances, as Dellsperger told Food Magazine.

“Obviously ceoliac disease is quite different to being gluten intolerant, there are specific medical tests to diagnose and manage celiac disease and we know exactly how to manage it, whereas gluten intolerance is not well decide and it hasn’t even been officially decided if there is a separate gluten intolerance to ceoliac disease,” she explained.

“If it does turn out that there is a separate condition, that will have implications on how it is dealt with, because at the moment there is no valid test and there is not any damage long term as there is for is no long term damage like there is with coeliac disease.

“Because of that, the actual management could be quite different, with coeliac disease we know people must follow a strict gluten-free diet for their entire lives, whereas with gluten intolerance, as long as the person is feeling fine, then they are fine.

“There certainly is research going into gluten intolerance or sensitivities and hopefully there will be developments on that.

The warning signs

Coeliac Australia says if a person is suffering more than one of the high risk factors, they should not be ignored.

The high risk conditions include Iron Deficiency, Anaemia and other Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies, Autoimmune Disease, Weight Loss, Infertility and Gastrointestinal Symptoms.

 

Those with a family history of the disease should also get tested, as it is a genetic condition.

Other less common symptoms, which are often thought to be unrelated, but could point towards a gluten intolerance include altered mental alertness and irritability, bone and joint pains, fatigue, weakness and lethargy, easy bruising of the skin, recurrent mouth ulcers and/or swelling of mouth or tongue and skin rashes such as dermatitis herpetiformis.

In children, failure to thrive or grow normally can be indications of celiac disease.

There is no cure for the condition, and those who suffer from ceoliac disease are sensitive to gluten throughout their lives.

But as the rates of coeliacs rises, so too is the number of gluten-free options available.

As long as the gluten free diet is strictly adhered to, problems arising from coeliac disease should not return.

Advancements in food testing

If a person with celiac disease consumes gluten, they may not suffer any symptoms, but they will do damage to the small bowel.

This is why the testing capabilities for gluten are continually undergoing improvements, as the impacts of coeliacs consuming gluten become more apparent.

Andrew Odd from Australasian Medical and Scientific Ltd told Food Magazine the improved testing capabilities for gluten “has been a long while coming but finally getting there.”

He said the two new gluten testing kits launched by Romer Labs make it simpler and more accurate for manufacturers to ensure there are no traces of gluten in its products.

The AgraStrip Gluten G12 is a lateral flow device for onsite factory testing and the AgraQuant Gluten G12 is an ELISA for quantitative testing in the laboratory.

The brand-new test kits use Romer Labs proprietary gluten detection technology, which employs a next generation antibody, called G12.

“Essentially, it is a colour-change device which can be used on surfaces for environmental monitoring purposes or areas or materials with cross-contamination issues with batches of products, it and can also be used in testing raw materials and finished products,” Odd explained.

“There are some very basic tests involved, but at the end you’ve got a strip which has come colour lines appear which give a visual indication of whether a sample was positive of negative for a particular allergen, in this case gluten.”

He said the new technology affords food manufacturers peace of mind and quality assurance.

“For starters it gives them good confidence in the products they’re manufacturing and they don’t have to run the risk of undeclared allergens being present in products and having to possibly recall a batch,” he told Food Magazine.

“It gives greater control over quality-control programs and allows action to be taken immediately, in real time, because they don’t have to wait for it to be sent to laboratories.”

“The sensitivity levels are very high.

“It detects down as low as five parts per million and currently, there is a lot of international consensus that 20 parts per million and above is considered a problem, so it can beat that level.

“But the levels can also be customised so it isn’t too sensitive.

“Previously the tests to do this sort of analysis were really only available to laboratories, but these strips are making it a lot easier for manufacturers to do the testing on-site, and they don’t need any equipment to run them.”

Children with undiagnosed coeliac disease can suffer lack of proper development, short stature and behavioural problems.

Coeliac Australia works to raise money and find better treatment for children with the condition, by studying the immune responses to gluten in children and working towards new treatments, including a coeliac vaccine.

They also aim to establish effective treatments to prevent or control the acute “food poisoning” that can be experienced in coeliac disease following accidental gluten consumption and develop a diagnostic test for coeliac disease that is effective in people already gluten free without requiring a prolonged gluten challenge and potentially avoid the need for an intestinal biopsy altogether.

A new dress all starts with a bottle of wine

Scientists from the University of Western Australia have found a new use for red wine: clothing.

We love to drink it, and put it in food to eat it, but this is the first time the alcoholic beverage has been used to create clothes.

The team added a bacteria to the wine to create a material similar to cotton, and have collaborated with artist Donna Franklin to design a range of dresses, t-shirts and swimwear.

Lead researcher Gary Cass said they are now working on improving the fabric tear strength.

“'This project redefines the production of woven materials,” he said.

“By combining art and science knowledge and with a little inventiveness, the ultimate goal will be to produce a bacterial fermented seamless garment that forms without a single stitch.”

The fabric is created by adding the acetobacter bacteria to vats of red wine to convert it into vinegar.

A layer of cellulose fabric is gradually created on the surface, which is then harvested and places on an inflatable mannequin to achieve the shape desired.

The dummy is then deflated, leaving behind the garment.

The fabric is clingy and seamless, but also becomes like tissue paper when it dries, so much be kept damp when worn.

'We hope that it will inspire others to come up with more creative pieces that will direct and/or redirect our future society,' Cass told Wired.co.uk.

In 2007, Franklin presented a living fungus dress, which she fed special nutrients to promote its colour-changing properties. 

 

 

We need plans and education to protect agricultural land: farm group

As the debate over foreign ownership of prime agricultural land and Australia being Asia’s ‘foodbowl’ rages, a new review by a leading farming group has found that the land needs to be preserved.

The Australian Farm Institute (AFI) found that everybody thinks their particular interest in land should be prioritised, whether they’re environmentalists, farmers, miners, or even overseas and urban developers.

The Does Australia need a national policy to preserve agricultural land? report also looked at the suggestion that local production would have to increase by 70 per cent to become the world ‘foodbowl’ Prime Minister Gillard wants us to be.

She made the comments last month, saying Australia should embrace the growing Asian middle class, and gear itself towards supplying their food.

But it has been slammed by experts, who say Asia won’t need Australian food because it has already made contingencies to supply for its own people, and by farmers who say the PM is out of touch with farmers and that current policies are hindering the industry, not helping it.

The AFI recommended in its report that  Australian policy-makers should think carefully about future farmland management.

The report is largely focused on mining and the onset of coal seam gas and its impact on farming and the environment, but it also touches on the hugely controversial foreign ownership of agricultural land, and the governmental policies to encourage investment from overseas companies.

"We can only go by what the statistics tell us and there are no useable statistics on how much agricultural land is being lost to competing interests and foreign owned farming companies each year," AFI executive director Mick Keogh said.

There were calls earlier this year for a register of all the investors in Australian land, to provide transparency for the industry and wider Australian society.

"An increasing number of people are starting to express concerns that Australia is being too reckless with its best agricultural land and future generations might regret decisions that are currently being made about the future use of that land," Keogh said.

"Agriculture productivity is directly related to the quality of a soil and prevailing climatic conditions and while Australia appears to have plenty of land in reality only about three per cent is actually suitable for cropping and even less of this is considered to be prime agricultural land.

"With urban, mining and environmental demands taking up more land and foreign investors also purchasing significant areas it's legitimate to ask whether Australia can realistically plan to become the future food bowl of Asia."

The AFI's research also found Australia did not have a good understanding of where our prime land is located or how much of it was not being used for agriculture.

Earlier this week, the Federal Government’s plans to make Australia the Asian food bowl were labelled “a waste of taxpayer’s money” by the Wilderness Society, and a poll found over 80 per cent of Australians are also against plans to encourage Chinese investment in agricultural land.

Over 80% of Australians against Chinese investment in agricultural land

Yesterday the Federal Government’s plans to make Australia the Asian food bowl were labelled “a waste of taxpayer’s money” by the Wilderness Society, and now a new poll has found over 80 per cent of Australians are also against plans to encourage Chinese investment in agricultural land.

The Gillard Government’s plans to encourage investment in the north of the country from Chinese investors, in a bid to develop agricultural land was slammed by Wilderness Society spokesman Gaven McFadzean, who said the Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce determines some time ago that the region was not ever going to become the ‘foodbowl’ the government is portraying.

When she first made the claims that Australia should work towards being the food bowl for the rising Asian middle class, agricultural groups and farmers were quick to criticise Gillard’s comments, saying saying current policies are killing their businesses, not helping them.

And it seems there is also opposition coming from other part of Australian society, with the annual 2012 Lowy Institute poll finding 81 per cent of Australians are against foreign investment in prime agricultural land, one of the strongest results recorded on any question the poll has asked ever asked.

Of the 81 per cent opposed to foreign investment, over 60 per cent were strongly opposed.

The federal government is allowing too much Chinese investment in Australia, according to 56 per cent of those polled, and 54 per cent believe food production should stay local.

The Lowly poll asked 1005 people for their opinion on foreign and security policy in Australia between 26 March and 10 April.

The findings show a "general anxiety among Australians about the volatility of the global economy and about the exposure of Australia's economy to global forces,” according to Lowy Institute of International Policy executive director Michael Wesley.

It’s the first time the survey had asked questions about foreign land ownership, and Wesley said the results should implore government’s to "take note of the strong reaction,” before implementing any measures encouraging investment from abroad.

Farmers to receive up to $15 000 for sustainable projects

A joint project between Landcare Australia and Woolworths will award up to $15 000 for individual farms or organisations to support projects improving water use, the carbon footprint of farming or nutrient management.

In a bid to encourage, develop and improve sustainable farming practises throughout Australia, the project has made $150 000 available, which will be awarded to projects that best fit the criteria.

Pat McEntee, Woolworths General Manager Fresh Food, said the project is an important investment into the future of the Australian agriculture sector.

“As Woolworths continues to invest in Australian farmers, the Fresh Food Future open grants program provides farming groups and organisations with a great opportunity to support and develop new ways to increase the sustainability of their operations,” he said.

According to chief executive of Landcare Australia, Heather Campbell, the innovation in the farming industry is often overlooked, and this project plans to reward some of the new ideas Australian farmers are coming up with all the time.

 “Having seen the incredibly innovative projects funded through the Woolworths Fresh Food Future open grants program last year, I am delighted that we can continue to support the sustainable agriculture sector in this way and cannot wait to see what other fantastic projects come our way through this year’s program,” she said.

The Australian farming industry has had a rough trot of it lately, with the average farmer aged over 60, and nowhere near enough new workers coming through the ranks to fill the void left when they retire.

Children in Australia even think that yoghurt grows on trees and cotton socks are an animal product, a report buy the Australia Council of Educational Research found, and agriculture degrees across the country are being discontinued as enrolment numbers continue to dwindle.

Dairy farming has been deemed the second worst job, based on physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook, and farmers are leaving the industry in droves as they struggle to make ends meet in the supermarket milk price wars.

How much extra support do you think the farming industry needs? Do Aussie children need better education about faming?

 

Reliance on transported foods could leave entire towns starving: govt report

A new report from the federal government has found that Australia’s growing reliance on foods transported long distances could be deadly in the case of natural disasters or other crises.

The Resilience in the Australian Food Supply Chain report, by the Department of Agriculture, found that the increasing dependence on perishables including milk and produce being transported thousands of kilometres would spell disaster, particularly for smaller towns, if a disaster occurred.

''The key question is whether, following a natural disaster or other major disruptive event, Australians in affected regions would go hungry,” the report says.

“The risk that this could happen is growing, especially if separate events in Australia's eastern states were to coincide.”

Over 75,000 truck trips are conducted each week across Australia to deliver more than 40 million cases of food, which is then sold from about 80,000 retail outlets including supermarkets, shops and restaurants.

Late last month the Transport Workers Union (TWU) accused Coles and Woolworths of contributing to road deaths by placing unrealistic demands on truck drivers, and the DAFF report also pointed to the increasingly complicated distribution networks created by the supermarkets as a contributing factor in the potentially dangerous situation.

''Longer supply chains expose transport routes to more points of potential vulnerability from such events as flood, fire and earthquake,'' the report states.

The Queensland floods in late 2010 and early 2011 highlighted some of the major issues with the current supply chain, with Rockhampton cut off by road, rail and air for more than two weeks and Brisbane coming within one day of running out of bread completely.

While nobody starved during the floods, it did highlight the potential risk of larger disasters, or more than one occurring at the same time.

If the Queensland floods had occurred at the same time as the bushfires of 2009, it would have been impossible for food to be delivered to far north Queensland, the report found.

As global warming increases, weather extremities increase and it becomes almost impossible to predict seasons, the possibility of two such disasters occurring simultaneously, or close enough to, is not unrealistic.

''If we had multiple emergency experiences happening around the same time – flood in Queensland, fire events in Victoria and another event in, say, South Australia – then the national system would struggle.,” Department of Agriculture Assistant Secretary Allen Grant told the current Senate inquiry into food processing.

Last week it was revealed the one in four products currently sold in Australia’s major supermarkets is private label and of those, one in two is imported.

The reliance on imports and lower quality foods to reduce costs in the cut-throat supermarket price war has led to countless Australian farmers, growers, processors and manufacturers being pushed out of work, but the current Senate Inquiry is struggling to get anyone to publically criticise the big two, for fear of punishment.

The departing chief executive of the Winemakers Federation of Australia, who would only speak out because he was leaving the representative body, came out swinging over the weekend, saying the supermarkets are also bullying winemakers, as well as food producers.

Coles and Woollies are bullying winemakers too: departing Winemakers’ Federation chief

Amid accusations that Coles and Woolworths are intimidating food manufacturers and produce growers so much they are too scared to even speak up at a Senate Inquiry, a leading Australian wine body has publically criticised the big two.

The anti-competitive and bullying behaviours of Coles and Woolworths are well known, and while countless food producers have discussed the damaging impacts of the supermarket duopoly on business with Food Magazine and other media outlets, almost all are too afraid to go on the record with their stories.

After it publically slammed the control the two supermarkets have on business more than once last year, Heinz declared on Friday that the relationships have improved significantly.

The comments come after a Heinz spokesperson told Food Magazine earlier this year that they were “trying to distance ourselves,” from the much-publicised criticism, which included  chief financial officer and executive vice president, Arthur Winkleback labelling the Australian supermarket environment “inhospitable.”

Now it’s the winemakers turn to publically oppose the behaviours of the major supermarkets, while everyone waits with bated breath to see if and how Coles and Woolworths will also punish them.

The supermarkets’ have both been accused of creating a culture of fear and intimidation among local wine producers, just as they have done in the food sector.

Stephen Strachan, who finished his role as the chief executive of the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia on Friday, would only speak to The Sun-Herald after his position had ended, which is inductive of the silo of silence in the industry.

''If you're an individual company that speaks out against them or says anything publicly that criticises their tactics, they would have no hesitation in giving you a holiday from their shelves and that is what's creating a culture of fear and compliance in the industry,'' Strachan said.

''Whenever I've made comments in the press, I could only talk about retailers in a generic sense, but they [Coles and Woolworths] would religiously follow up on those comments and make it known they were displeased.

According to Strachan, the bullying is not only felt by local winemakers and Coles and Woolworths also flexes its power over foreign suppliers.

Furthermore, he said, they also collect sensitive commercial information from wine producers, and use that information to bully rival suppliers into selling for lower prices during negotiations.

Food Magazine has contacted both Woolworths and Coles for comment on the accusations, but neither has responded at this stage.

 

Ask and you shall receive – smart consultation leads to better scienc

Worldwide, and especially in Australia, much valuable science is being wasted or stalled through what is known as technology rejection – the public’s hostile reception of new technologies or scientific advice.

This isn’t always the fault of the public. It’s often the fault of the scientific process for not bothering to find out in the first place what the public wants or knows and what it doesn’t. The grand assumption – “we’re scientists. We know what’s best for you” – still rules.

As a result, research institutions and technology companies are constantly ambushed and surprised when society doesn’t embrace their latest offering with wild enthusiasm, but instead carps, objects and wants it regulated, retarded or banned. The issue is that in a democracy people consider they have a right to say what they think, to use the products and eat the foods they prefer, and to take a good hard look at anything new before they decide to accept it.

What the public knows, but science sometimes chooses to overlook, is that many of the ills in society today are the result of the use, misuse or overuse of various technologies. Indeed, much science is devoted to repairing them. Take, for example, the paradox that tens of thousands of scientists are working worldwide to prevent and cure cancer – while tens of thousands more are adding daily to the toxic miasma of 83,000 man-made chemicals, many of which are known to cause it.

 

The more educated a society becomes, the harder the questions it asks about science. US Department of Agriculture

 

Educated people in modern society are aware of the downsides of science, as well as its upsides. They grew up on stories like thalidomide, and have a fair grasp of the origins of many contemporary diseases and the risks inherent in modern technologies, especially untested ones. They are cautious about GM food, stem cell science or nanotechnologies because they know that scientists do not have all the answers where these powerful, disruptive technologies are concerned. The more educated and democratic a society becomes, the harder the questions it asks about new science and technology. As former UK chief scientist Bob May liked to point out, an educated public becomes more like scientists: sceptical.

Yet many high tech firms and research centres are still confounded by this problem: labouring for years and spending millions to develop something the public takes an instant dislike to. They generally comfort and excuse themselves by shooting the messenger – blaming a green group, the media or a consumer lobby – rather than asking themselves: what did we do wrong?

The short answer is that they failed to do research. Not scientific research, but research into public attitudes, values and wishes. They then sprang an unwanted product on an unsuspecting “market” – and were shocked and offended when it failed.

The good news is that this no longer needs to happen. Thanks to a novel approach, developed within the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, any scientific centre can find out how the public is likely to receive its latest innovation, and what drives its attitudes for or against any new technology or scientific advice. This applies equally whether it is climate change policy, or the introduction of a new mobile widget.

The technique is known as Reading the Public Mind (RtPM), and it uses an advanced statistical internet survey method to obtain a moving picture (as distinct from a snapshot) of public opinion in real time. It enables the user to drill down into what motivates the public for or against a particular issue or technology now – and how the balance of the pros and cons shifts over time.

This is an important advance over the traditional opinion poll or market research, which only take expensive one-off snapshots and, unless accompanied by costly qualitative research, do not reveal what drives public attitudes.

 

Finding out the limits of public enthusiasm can help advance new animal control methods. AAP

 

The Invasive Animals CRC used this method experimentally to assess public attitudes to invasive animals (such as rabbits, foxes, cats, cane toads and camels) and to the ways they are controlled. The CRC has been working on a range of sophisticated new control methods for these feral menaces, it did not want to be taken by surprise by public refusal to sanction their adoption and deployment. It also wanted to understand what the public knew and did not know about invasive species, and where education might be needed.

Over three years of surveying community attitudes, using a constantly changing sample of the population, it discovered many interesting things about what the public thought about this issue. One of the most striking was that Australians generally dislike feral cats – whereas scientists, fearing public criticism from cat-lovers, had long avoided doing research into their control. The technique was also able for the first time to measure the actual impact of public education campaigns (for example, about rabbits and camels).

Assessing public attitudes this way:

  • helps technology developers anticipate public or market reaction
  • helps scientific leaders plan research better, favouring those technologies most likely to be adopted or commercialised
  • anticipates both hostile and positive reactions and responds with public education or by altering research tack
  • assesses whether a communication initiative has fallen on deaf ears, or actually influenced public perceptions.

All of this adds up to more science adopted, less rejected and a better return on the taxpayer’s $9 billion-a-year science investment.

If Australian science is to genuinely benefit society as it should, then it needs far better tools to understand public attitudes and how they affect likely rates of adoption. It needs to become more sensitised to how Australians at large will respond to new technologies and insights. This will not only increase the impact of science. It will help make us a smarter society.

This article was co-authored by Julian Cribb. He is the principal of Julian Cribb & Associates, consultants in science communication, and is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Science and Engineering. Both Nick and Julian have been working with the Invasive Animals CRC at Canberra University.

Nick Fisher received funding from the Invasive Animals CRC to carry out this research.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

As supermarket power rises, Heinz praises progress

One of the few companies to be openly critical of the supermarket duopoly in Australia, HJ Heinz, has apparently mended fences with Coles and Woolworths.

Amid a climate of fear and bullying behaviour by the major supermarkets, where even a Senate Inquiry is struggling to get companies to speak up, HJ Heinz’ head of Asia-Pacific, Christopher J Warmoth has discussed the improved relationships.

''In the past eight months, we've seen a stabilisation of this business and that comes down to three elements," he said.

“First, we've improved our relationship with the retailers and they have told us that they have noticed our increased ability to bring them real value,'' he said.

These positive comments come after the company’s chief financial officer and executive vice president, Arthur Winkleback told US analysts in August last year that the demise of many Australian companies can be attributed to the supermarket war and said they have created an “inhospitable environment” for manufacturers.

Then in November its executive chairman, chief executive and president, William Johnston, told investors the company has had to overhaul its business strategy in Australia to deal with the supermarket dominance of Coles and Woolworths.

The comments came amid an announcement by Heinz that it would be closing three manufacturing facilities in Australia meaning more than 300 local jobs would go.

But the food giant has since tried to distance itself from those statements, which earlier this year a spokesperson told Food Magazine had been taken out of context.

The Australian food manufacturing sector is struggling to survive the supermarket price wars, which are driving profits up, pushing products off shelves in favour of supermarkets’ private label alternatives and, according to the Transport Workers Union, killing people on the roads.

One in every four grocery items now sold in Australian supermarkets is private label and of those, about one in two is imported.

Staying on the good sides of Coles and Woolworths is a good business plan in itself, as failure to do so can spell the end of a business.

Countless producers and manufactures have shared their struggles with Food Magazine, but refuse to go on the record with their stories for fear that being critical of the major supermarkets would be suicide.

Australia is one of Heinz’s biggest markets, bringing in an estimated $1 billion last year.

In contrast to the comments made and financial hardship experienced by Heinz last year, Warmoth now says the company is doing well.

''Australia has also reduced cost on every front,” he said.

“We have five factories, we closed one and have downsized three.

“We had a record year by far on the supply chain productivity.

''Now we are not where we want to be in Australia, but we've made significant progress and we enter [next financial year] with a much stronger foundation.''

What do you make of the latest comments from Heinz? Do you think they’re sincere?

Australian food packaging not shelf friendly

More than 70 packaging technologists, engineers and designers came together across three states in one week to look at ways to improve Shelf Friendly Packaging (SFP).

Supported by Woolworths, the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP) and retail anylists IGD, the in-store training aimed to understand what is currently working on supermarket shelves and how improvements can be made to improve design, functionality, accessibility and appearance on shelves.

James Tupper, ECR Learning & Change Manager, IGD, travelled from the United Kingdom to run the 2012 AIP/IGD hands-on training which was designed to focus on the last 50 metres of the SFP supply chain.

It provided packaging technologists, SFP designers and manufacturers the opportunity to work hands-on in-store and understand the complexities and difficulties that poor SFP design causes for store fillers and staff.

The training allowed the attendees the opportunity to participate in three practical exercises in-store that showed what SFP works, which doesn’t and why.

Attendees soon realised that tape over perforations, poor gluing of boxes, perforations that don’t open, no finger holes, poor design and identification of front edges and poor quality corrugate are just some of the reasons why SFP is not used in-store.

“At the end of the day much of the Shelf Friendly Packaging in Australia is not fit-for-purpose and needs to be redesigned,” one attendee said.

How do you think packaging in Australia needs to be changed to make it shelf friendly?

Latest animal export exposé reminds us to steer clear of factory farm

It has once again been left to an advocacy group, Animals Australia, to highlight the cruel practices involved in cattle slaughter in Indonesia. Under new rules put in place by the Federal Department of Agriculture following last year’s exposé, exporters must employ auditors to monitor the slaughter. However, recently released footage shows that some of these auditors either did not detect the clear mistreatment of cattle or they failed to act.

Now that the issues have been highlighted by the advocacy group, the department has recommended disciplinary action for the two exporting companies involved. This has prompted claims by the live exporters that the system is working.

It is correct that the new system has allowed the suppliers to be identified and disciplined once the abuse was revealed, which was not possible before the new regulations. However, the failure to detect problems is concerning. It brings into question whether auditors paid for by exporters can be impartial.

My research group has recently identified that scientists reporting of animal welfare research is influenced by the funding of the research (see page 25). So if scientists, why not auditors?

This recent episode demonstrates that the effectiveness of the auditors in ensuring the welfare of the animals depends not only on their willingness to report incidents, but also on the standards they are given to implement. The World Health Organisation standards do not mandate some practices – such as stunning – that are essential for good welfare, so it is unlikely that they will satisfy Australian consumers.

The welfare of live export animals can be inadequate at many different stages in the export process, not only at slaughter. Mustering cattle, trucking them long distances, loading them onto a ship, rough sea journeys, high temperatures and accumulation of ammonia on ship are just some of the hazardous components of the journey.

 

Export exposes animals to several different stresses, and they may accumulate. AAP

 

The animal’s resistance to stress can become weakened after a long period of transport, and the new and strange experiences that they have. However, it is the cumulative effect of multiple stresses that is often forgotten. Evaluated individually each one may be acceptable, but together they may represent hardship that the cattle are unable to bear.

Australian meat consumers generally have a good impression of cattle production systems here. The freedom to roam and a natural system of feeding on pasture are just two of the advantages that are important for welfare. Intensifying the system by feedlotting and prolonged transport to slaughter could damage that image. Live export cattle are shipped in large numbers in unnatural conditions, ending up in feedlots or an abattoir, all far from the community perspective of cattle happily grazing in paddocks.

Over the nine thousand years that we have managed cattle, they have become docile animals. They have developed a willingness to accept a range of conditions, even if they are not conducive to good welfare.

Our willingness to accept poor welfare standards is largely driven by how much we can afford to spend on our animals. When one of the richest countries in the world, Australia, exports animals alive to one of the poorest, Indonesia, it is likely that the change in standards will cause issues with the Australian community. We must safeguard the natural image that Australians have of cattle production in this country, because if it becomes tarnished with the factory farming brush consumers will turn away from the products.

Intensification of cattle farming systems is progressing rapidly overseas. Having just returned from looking at new housing systems for cattle in Estonia, it is clear that the globally increasing demand for milk and beef is encouraging an unprecedented growth in the scale of individual enterprises that is often at the expense of the animal’s welfare.

 

Maintaining the integrity of Australian cattle farming is important for producers too – consumers demand good conditions. AAP

 

Eastern European countries became accustomed to industrial scale farms during the Communist era. Now new dairies are being established, each with several thousand cows. There is no support for small farming systems, like those common in Western Europe. Cows are never allowed onto pasture and are loose housed in barns, where they used to be tethered. They are milked by robots and live on wet concrete covered in excreta. This, together with being offered only small concrete cubicles with little bedding to lie down in, increases lameness and mastitis, which are two of the biggest causes of wastage of dairy cows.

Diets that promote high milk yields take their toll all too quickly. On average cows only last 2.5 years in the milking herd, which together with the two year rearing period offers cows a pitifully short lifespan compared with their natural lifespan of 20-25 years.

Some Western European countries are attempting to control the intensification of cattle production systems, knowing that they have consumer support. In Sweden and Finland cows have to be out at pasture during summer. If cows are given a choice, farmers find that in all but the most inclement of weather they opt to spend their time outside.

The treatment of cattle solely as a means to make money, whether by exporting them to Indonesia or keeping them in milk producing factories, ignores the fact that they are sentient beings. They are capable of all of the major emotions that we experience: fear, anxiety, depression, frustration, anger, love, hatred. The caring relationship of the cattle producer for the animals in his herd can be diminished by intensive systems, because there is little contact with the animals.

Industrialisation of cattle production systems to generate wealth is likely to ultimately lead to their failure. Competition from alternatives has never been stronger, and the ethical and environmental implications of industrialisation of cattle production are considerable. Tasmania, and many other states and countries worldwide, have realised that consumers will not support industrial scale agriculture that does not afford high welfare to animals, as they outlaw the battery farming of chickens and keeping of sows in stalls. Surely we should treat cattle with the dignity that they deserve, which is more than just being a means of making money?

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

People in regional Australia more likely to consume alcohol, be obese

A new Australia-wide study has found that people living in rural areas are more likely to consume alcohol and be overweight and obese.

The Roy Morgan State of the Nation Report 11 looked at 10 987 city-dwellers across Australia and compared them to 8 049 living in country regions.

During the study, which ran for 12 months up until March this year,  found 72.2 per cent of people living in the country consumed alcohol in an average four-week period, while 68 per cent of city slickers drank alcohol in the same period.

The availability of new, fancy drinks in the country could be one reason they consume standard beers, spirits and ready-to-drink products (RTD’s).

People living in the cities, on the other hand, have more availability to a range of different beverages and are more likely to drink wines and ciders.

The health and weight impacts alcohol is known to have impact the country drinkers, with 35 per cent of people considered to be overweight, almost five per cent higher than the number of people of an acceptable weight.

By comparison, almost 40 per cent of city dwellers are considered to be an acceptable weight, and there are less people considered to be overweight than in the country.

The availability of public transport in urban areas also contribute to people’s weight and health, according to numerous studies, which show that those who use public transport take, on average, over 200 extra steps than their driving counterparts, meaning they are more likely to reach their recommended daily exercise targets.

Research  by Environment and sustainability expert  and adjunct professor fat Curtin University ,Darren Bilsborough, said public transport has significant economic and health benefits.

'When you get rid of cars, you need fewer roads and you can use that space for other things,” he said.

“The real issue is getting more people more active more quickly and to do that you need to get more cars off the road and get more public transport working.”

Beyond issues of transport and alcohol, the awareness of health and exercise is much higher in city areas, according to Norman Morris from Roy Morgan.

 “The State of the Nation report also identified reduced participation in sport and exercise for country residents compared to those in the city, as well as less agreement with healthy eating attitudes, such as thinking about calorie consumption and concern for holesterol levels,” he said.

“The increased prevalence of drinking, and a larger body mass among country residents is concerning given the reduced medical services available in rural areas.

“Although, as part of the focus on rural Australia, a Roy Morgan Poll telephone survey on country residents found that only 5 per cent considered health to be the most important issue facing Australia today.”

Earlier this week, a nation-wide survey by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) found almost 80 per cent of Australians think that, as a nation, we have a problem with alcohol.

 

Worst fruit fly outbreak period in VIC: motorists warned to dump fruit

In the midst of one of Victoria’s worst fruit fly outbreak periods, road blocks are being set up to detect any people travelling into the Sunraysia area with fruit.

"Queensland fruit fly is a real threat to many businesses in the Sunraysia area and these measures are essential to protect them," Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh said.

"We are appealing to motorists and travellers to do the right thing and help protect the region's valuable fruit and vegetable industry, upon which many livelihoods depend.”

The mild summer and autumn weather conditions have prolonged the fruit fly outbreak period, and while residents and local industries are being praised for their cooperation, one of the most significant threats is motorists entering the area with potentially damaging fruit.

"The co-operation of motorists and travellers makes a huge difference to the success of control and eradication programs,” Walsh said.

Roadside warning signs and yellow quarantine bins to dispose of fruit are provided in the Sunraysia Pest Free Area and Walsh said Victorian and interstate motorists planning to travel to the Mildura field days or visit the Sunraysia district needed to be aware that bringing fruit into the district is illegal.

Motorists found carrying fruit at any of the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) random roadblocks in operation could be issued with a $600 fine.

"DPI has been operating mobile roadblocks throughout May and will continue until early June in the battle to control Queensland fruit fly in the Greater Sunraysia Pest Free Area," Walsh said.

"Fruit fly host fruits include apples, pears, stone fruit, grapes, tomatoes and chillies and it is crucial that people do not carry any of these into the Sunraysia Pest Free Area."

Folic acid reduces childhood cancer rates

Folic acid has been proven to reduce the chances of neural tube defects (NTDs) in unborn babies, and now new research has found it could also reduce the most common types of cancers in children.

Research from Washington University and the University of Minnesota, published in the current issue of Paediatrics, looked at the rates of childhood cancer before and after to mandatory folic acid fortification.

“Our study is the largest to date to show that folic acid fortification may lower the incidence of certain types of childhood cancer in the United States,” Professor Kimberly Johnson, one of the researchers, said.

Since 1988 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required foods with folic acid to be fortified, and Australia implemented a similar initiative over a decade later, in 2009, when  it became  mandatory for Australian millers to add folic acid, which is a form of the B vitamin folate, to wheat flour for making bread.

Johnson said a concern many countries have in deciding whether or not to fortify foods to reduce neural tube defects in newborns is the possibility that fortification may cause other issues, including cancers or pre-cancerous lesions.

A spokesperson from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the body that regulates the mandatory fortification, told Food Magazine the initial opposition also came from within the industry.

“There was initial opposition from the flour milling industry as they believed it would add considerable costs to their operations for new facilities, and increased ongoing operating and verification costs,” she told said.

During the two-year consultation period, FSANZ comprehensively assessed the potential health benefits and risks from increasing intakes of folic acid across the population and based on all available scientific evidence, adding folic acid to wheat flour for making bread in Australia is safe for the whole population.

It says it is “continuing to monitor emerging scientific research on folic acid and public health and safety,” and that “no new evidence has emerged to change our original conclusion that mandatory fortification with folic acid is safe.”

The folic acid fortification has had a positive impact on the rates of NTD’s, including Spina Bifida, in both countries, but now the benefit is thought to extend even further.

Johnson, who authored the study with Dr Amy Linabery said their research showed a reduction in the rates of  Wilms’ tumor, a type of kidney cancer, and primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET), a type of brain cancer, in children since the folic acid fortification.

Wilms’ tumor rates were increasing prior to the mandatory folic acid fortification, but trended downwards around the time of the introduction.

 “PNET rates increased from 1986 to 1993 and decreased thereafter,” Johnson said.

“This change in the trend does not coincide exactly with folic acid fortification, but does coincide nicely with the 1992 recommendation for women of childbearing age to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.”

The study looked at data from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER) from the 1986 to 2008.

The SEER program has been collecting information on cancer rates throughout the US since the early 70’s.

Over 8,829 children, from birth to age four, who have been diagnosed with cancer, are included in the study.

Image: The Mirror

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most Australians think we have an alcohol problem

Almost 80 per cent of Australians think that, as a nation, we have a problem with alcohol.

A nation-wide survey by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) released yesterday in Canberra, asked 1041 Australian voters consider our national relationship with alcohol problematic.

Most Labor, Coalition and Greens voters support policies to curb drinking problems, including mandatory warning labels and advertising restrictions.

More Greens voters believe we have a problem than any others surveyed, with 81 per cent saying Australia has an alcohol problem, followed by Labor voters at 79 per cent, and those who vote for the Coalition at 75 per cent.

Late last month there were suggestions that a marketing alcohol in and around bottle shops should be stopped, as teenagers and young adults are more likely to be enticed by competitions and to be binge drinkers.

Almost 70 per cent of Greens voters want a ban on television advertisements for alcohol before 8:30pm, while 65 per cent of Coalition voters and 62 per cent Labor voters also support the ban.

FARE Chief Executive, Michael Thorn said the view that a person’s political preference skews their attitude to alcohol has been proven wrong with this study.

 “The bottom line is that, regardless of how Australians intend to vote at the ballot box, their support for government action to tackle alcohol-related harms is unequivocal,” he said.

In April, the Alcohol Policy Coalition (APC) said we’re losing the war on alcoholism and binge drinking and changing the tax system to bump up prices on stronger varieties is the only way to start to improve it.

It wants the government to implement changes to the way alcohol is taxed, which it says should focus more on the strength of the alcohol, to alter binge drinking.

The group, which is made up of VicHealth, the Cancer Council and various drug and alcohol representative associations wants the price of casks of wine and cider to be bumped up, as many turn away from the price-inflated ‘alcopops’ towards the cheap boxed varieties.

Federal Government provides $1m funding to improve dairy technology

Dairy Australia has received $1 million from the Federal Government to conduct research to assess energy efficiency on dairy farms nation-wide.

As the national services body for dairy farmers and the industry, Dairy Australia helps farmers adapt to a changing operating environment, and work towards a profitable, sustainable dairy industry.

The funding will provide over 900 farmers with information and support to improve farm energy efficiency, hopefully cutting costs for individual farmers and larger organisations, who are struggling to compete in the current retail environment.

Earlier this month, dairy farming was rated the second worst job in the world, based on physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. 

In April, Western Australian farmers met with Wesfarmers boss Richard Goyder to discuss the impact of the milk price wars on production and try to find a solution.

The farmers want fairer pricing strategies from the group, which includes Coles, and last week the WA Farmers Federation passed a motion to boycott Wesfarmers and its subsidiaries.

The WA Farmers Dairy Council say the “predatory pricing” by the major supermarkets have devalued the industry.

The Australian Dairy Industry Council’s project is also supported by the Australian Dairy Industry Council, milk processors and state agencies.

Manager of Dairy Australia’s Natural Resource Management Program, Catherine Phelps, said the cost of using energy is a major concern for farmers and other workers in the dairy industry.

 “The conditions are right for a very effective national project,” she said.

“The secured funding would help deliver energy assessments to all eight dairy regions across Australia, tailoring it to meet local needs.”

Some of the recommended options will most likely include changes to management practices, optimisation of current equipment and capital investment, Phelps explained.

50 per cent sold with 51 weeks to go before AUSPACK PLUS 2013

AUSPACK PLUS organisers are continuing to surpass their KPI’s for the 2013 exhibition with over 3200 square metres of space already sold and there is still 51 weeks until the show opens.

According to Luke Kasprzak, Event Manager, exhibitors that have signed include packaging and processing machinery companies, plastics manufacturers, processing equipment suppliers and leading labelling and coding agencies in Australasia.

“Companies that have already booked stands include ERC Packaging, Australis Engineering, FlexLink Systems, Festo, JMP Australia, HMPS, ABB Australia, A&D, Accuweigh, Laser Resources, Result Packaging, ITW Zip-Pak, Rhima Australia, Plastral and many more,” Kasprzak said.

As Mike Phillips, Managing Director, ERC Packaging said ‘they are pleased to once again be taking part in AUSPACK PLUS and are looking forward to introducing just some of their many products to the Sydney market.’ 

“We are looking forward to participating in the Sydney event and promoting not only our expansive range of bag sealing machinery, induction sealers and shrink labelling machines and labels but we will also be demonstrating our expanded range of container sealers including the Modified Atmosphere (MAP) range,” Phillips said. 

Peter Gustafson, Managing Director, Australis Engineering, added that they are exhibiting at AUSPACK PLUS 2103 because it brings together the decision makers across the FMCG sector.

“AUSPACK PLUS has rapidly become the preeminent tradeshow in Australia and therefore an un-missable event. By exhibiting at AUSPACK PLUS 2013 Australis Engineering benefits from exposure to the right industries and most importantly the decision makers in those industries and will use the event to showpiece our Mini Linear Palletisers and Multi-Axis Conveying solutions,” Gustafson said.

Peter Hutchings, Managing Director of FlexLink Systems said he booked his 2013 exhibition space due to the highly successful exhibition stand they had in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

“At AUSPACK PLUS 2103, FlexLink Systems looks forward to showcasing a comprehensive range of conveyor systems including our new WL wide conveyors, stainless steel solutions, software, line control and pallet systems,” Hutchings said.

“FlexLink Systems sees this exhibition as a fantastic way to communicate and demonstrate our company’s products and capability to our broad range of customers and potential clients.”

AUSPACK PLUS 2013 is a ‘must-attend’ exhibition on the Australian Packaging and Processing calendar and will be held at the Sydney Showgrounds, Sydney Olympic Park from the 7th to the 10th of May 2013.

AUSPACK PLUS is owned and presented by the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA), Australia’s only national packaging and processing machinery organisation.

To receive a prospectus on exhibiting at AUSPACK PLUS 2013, contact Luke Kasprzak, Event Manager, 02 9556 7972 or LKasprzak@etf.com.au

There’s nothing black or white about organic agriculture

Food is an emotional topic. Everyone cares about what they eat. Food often has a strong cultural, religious or even political meaning attached to it. Organic food is no different in that respect. People buy organic out of hedonistic values of pleasure and health as well as out of altruistic values of environmental sustainability, social justice and animal welfare.

In addition, organic food is also part of the political debate on how to feed the world sustainably today and into the future. Agriculture is currently one of the major threats to the environment. We know that some drastic changes in our food system are needed if we want to ensure that the many hungry people on this planet have access to sufficient nutritious food and at the same time reduce the environmental impact of agriculture.

Organic agriculture is often proposed as a solution to some of these challenges. It promises to produce food in a more environmentally friendly way and to provide accessible means of increasing yields in smallholder farming systems in developing countries.

We were therefore not surprised that our study about the yields of organic agriculture, published recently in Nature, drew quite some attention and was discussed widely in the media and blogosphere.

In this study, we conducted a meta-analysis comparing organic and conventional yields and examined how the yield difference is influenced by different site and system characteristics. The analysis basically showed that organic yields are generally lower than conventional yields, but that under some conditions organic yields can nearly match conventional.

 

The study's results. Todd Reubold, Intitute on the Environment, University of Minnesota
Click to enlarge

 

While we anticipated that the study would receive widespread attention, we were not really prepared for the wide range of interpretations of our analysis. Some people interpreted the study to imply that organic food was bad for the environment. Others concluded that we had totally missed the point, as the issue was not about yields anyway.

So, first a disclaimer: we did not attempt to solve the food problems of the world in our study. We evaluated the yield difference between organic and conventional systems using data that had been published in the scientific literature. Not more, not less.

We looked at the yield question, as we believe that yields are an important variable to consider when assessing different farming systems. In the end, whatever you might hold against current conventional agriculture, we have to acknowledge that its high yields have spared land for nature and have improved the food situation of many people.

But we acknowledge (and we do that throughout our article) that yields are only one of many factors we need to consider. Farming systems do not only have to provide food but they also have to use natural resources responsibly and to provide livelihoods to farmers. And the question of feeding the world is even more complicated than that. Feeding the world today does not depend on the total food produced: at the global aggregate scale we currently have enough food to feed everyone. It depends on where this food is produced and at what price. Hunger today is a problem of insufficient access to nutritious food and not of insufficient food availability (although feeding an additional 2-3 billion in the future may require increases in production).

 

When evaluating an agricultural system, it's important to ask how much yield you'll get. Suzie's Farm

 

So what message can people take away from our study? The real conclusion of our study is not an easy conclusion of “yes organic” or “no organic”. Although we did mention the overall average yield difference between organic and conventional systems derived from our data, this was not the main point of our study.

Our main contribution was to identify situations where organic performs well and also those situations where there is still a large yield gap to conventional systems. Instead of giving an absolute yes or no answer, we tried to paint a more nuanced picture of the complex and difficult reality of organic farming.

Our study has shown that organic agriculture requires good management practices for high yield performance; that organic performs better under rainfed conditions and weakly acidic to alkaline soils; and that its performance improves over time.

The study has also shown that nitrogen limitation is an issue in organic systems and that we need to improve organic cereal and vegetable management. Here we have two choices. We can improve organic yields by putting more money into organic research (given the little funding organic research has received to date). Or we can turn to conventional practices, which under these conditions may be more environmentally beneficial because of their land sparing effect.

An important knowledge gap we identified is the performance of organic agriculture in smallholder farming systems in developing countries. These are the places where yield increases are most needed and where organic agriculture could potentially provide an important tool for sustainable intensification of farming. Research in these systems is urgently needed.

 

Organic agriculture shows promise for increasing yields sustainably in developing countries. International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center

 

Organic agriculture has a role to play in sustainable food production. We can adopt organic farming methods under conditions where it performs best, try to address the identified issues in organic farming systems and we can learn from successful organic practices for conventional systems. In the end, to achieve sustainable food systems we need agriculture that can deliver certain desirable outcomes. And these desirable outcomes might require a blend of different practices, including agro-ecological methods that improve soil fertility and enhance biodiversity as well as targeted use of chemical fertilisers to ensure high crop production.

We hope that with our study we have revealed some of the many shades of grey inherent in the debate about how to feed the world sustainably. Science cannot provide a definite answer on what the best farming system is. But it is not about the correct answer or the correct choice anyway. It is about making the best choice with the information we have. And making these best choices in our complex world requires us to critically evaluate the performance of different farming systems along certain key variables, assessing the associated uncertainties and identifying knowledge gaps.

The same is true from a consumer perspective. Instead of sticking to any single mantra and eating only organic food, only local or only vegetarian, we should do what we do anyway: eat from a diversity of sources following our diverse set of values and trying to do the best with the information we have. This might include buying organic milk from large-scale organic dairy farms to avoid antibiotic residues. It might mean buying conventional apples from a local family farm in support of the local economy. It might mean buying cheap flour from highly productive conventional cereal farmers. Or it might include the organic veggie basket from our local family farm with its diverse polyculture of vegetables produced with utmost care and a large portion of idealism.

Verena Seufert is a PhD student at McGill University.

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Tasmanian government invests $2.5m to speed up battery hen and sow stall bans

The Tasmanian government has announced plans to bring forward bans on battery hens and sow stalls.

Tasmanian Agriculture Minister Bryan Green has confirmed no new battery hen operations will be opened, and the existing number of pens in production will be capped.

Despite the nation-wide phasing out of gestational stalls for sows, to be complete by 2017, the Tasmanian government will invest $2.5 million over two years to speed up the ban so that none of the crates are used by mid next year.

A spokesperson from Australian Pork Limited, Australia’s peak pork representative body, told Food Magazine earlier this month that banning the sow stalls isnot as simple as "walking into a room and turning of a light.”

Almost 18 months after pork producers agreed to ban steel pens, a third of pregnant sows are no longer confined to the small stalls and more piglets have been “born free” since 2010, when pork producers agreed to voluntarily ban the use of sow stall use by 2017.

Figures from Australian Pork Limited, show that one in three sows now spend their pregnancies outside gestation crates, but animal welfare activists say more can – and should – be done.

Many pork producers across Australia have already voluntarily phased out the use of sow stalls, but the cost and time implications mean that it is unrealistic to force farmers to change before the 2017 deadline, the Australian Pork Limited spokesperson told Food Magazine.

The Tasmanian Budget revealed the $2.5 million will help farmers to "respond to market trends that indicate consumers are increasingly sensitive to animal welfare".

Coles has pledged to only stock fresh pork meat supplied by producers who have abandoned sow stalls by 2014, and experience would indicate Woolworths would quickly follow suit.

Burger King also announced earlier this month that it will only use animal products that come from free-range farms by 2017.

Tasmanian egg farmer John Groenewald told the ABC he was given only two weeks notice of the phase-out plans.

"For the government to say to consumers this is how you will go, instead of encouraging of encouraging consumers to go a particular way, it's quite a significant difference," he said.

"Cages are 65 per cent of the eggs sold in Tasmania, and I don't think it's a particularly smart move to say you can't buy them".

"We've got the issue of write-down of existing plant and equipment and replacing it with alternative production systems. We're talking millions of dollars here."