Supermarket chain Coles has confirmed that it will phase out beef from animals treated with hormone growth promotants, or HGPs.

The hormone implants are used by graziers and feedlots to boost cattle growth.

Allister Watson, meat general manager at Coles, said untreated animals produce better meat.

He said 80% of what he buys is already HGP-free and he pays more for it.

“We have a closed loop supply chain that we are currently paying more for to ensure that the cattle don’t have HGPs in,” he said. “We are aware that it’s a cost that affects productivity in the farming sector and it also affects yields in the boning room.”

The move will make Coles the first national food retailer to sell only HGP-free beef.

Watson said Coles had worked cooperatively with its beef suppliers over the last 18 months to build a dedicated hormone-free supply chain.

“Coles is working with our livestock suppliers to ensure our customers get the best quality fresh food possible,” Watson said. “Coles is aware of widespread consumer concerns about additives in food and livestock and animal welfare practices.”

He added: “A range of scientific studies have also confirmed that hormone growth promotants (HGPs) can adversely affect eating quality. The Meat Standards Australia (MSA) grading system shows that meat quality is significantly better without the use of HGPs.”

Watson said a key outcome for Coles was that neither customers nor suppliers would be financially disadvantaged by the move to better quality meat.

“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,” he said.

The move comes hot on the heels of Coles’ decision to remove pork produced using sow stalls from its shelves last month.

Coles Finest HGP-free beef range is already available in selected Coles stores. Coles Butcher beef will be progressively converted to HGP-free in stores from January 2011.

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