Vegan’s and vegetarians aside, there are few who would argue that bacon is an indispensable ingredient in the perfect breakfast. Indeed, there are many who believe that it makes almost everything better, but did you know we have an Australian Bacon Week? First instigated last year, Australian Bacon Week is part of the PorkMark campaign and was conceived by Australian Pork Limited with two goals in mind. Aiming to celebrate this breakfast favourite was one of them, but the bigger picture was to raise awareness of the Australian pork industry’s continuing fight against imported pig meat and to show support for pig farmers and the local smallgoods manufacturers who are committed to using 100% Australian pork products. Bacon week was held from 7-13 March this year, with Australia’s Best Bacon being announced as part of the celebrations. This year, in a field of 97 bacons from 72 manufacturers, the national winner of the award for Australia’s Best Bacon is South Australia’s own Schulz Butchers of Angaston in the Barossa Valley!
As Australians were becoming more aware of the desirability and need for home-grown products, the pork industry instigated the PorkMark campaign – that familiar pink sticker – in order to make it easier for the 95% of consumers who prefer to buy Australian-grown pork to do so. Every week, around 2.6 million tonnes of cheap, imported pork is shipped in to Australia to be made into pork and ham products. Sloppy Australian food labeling laws make it very difficult for the consumer to discern what is genuinely an Australian product and the words “Made in Australia” don’t mean what we all think they should. The shocking fact is that up to 70-80% of bacon labelled “Made in Australia” is actually made from imported products from countries like Denmark and Canada who enjoy substantial agricultural subsidies. This meat is brought into our country in a frozen state, thawed out and then manufactured into bacon. The only way to ensure that the bacon or smallgood products which you purchase are actually Australian grown and made is to make sure they have the pink PorkMark label.
The PorkMark program has been increasingly successful. Consumers are more informed now about the local product and the vast majority of fresh pork products sold today are all Australian grown. However, there are still enormous amounts of imported product being sold to us and we probably don’t even realise it. The food service industry is one area that has resisted the move to embrace an Australian grown product, with some estimates that almost 90% of cooked/cured ham and bacon products being sold through restaurants, bars and cafes is imported.
It seems we are very conscious of buying local products when we are buying pork meat that we will prepare ourselves, but we tend to forget about it when eating away from home. Every time we enjoy breakfast out at a cafe, buy our ham and cheese sandwich from the shop or enjoy a restaurant meal that includes a processed pork product there is every chance that we are unwittingly supporting the imported product over our own. As informed consumers, we need to become even more aware of all of our food choices all of the time. We need to question the provenance of the ham, bacon or prosciutto that we are being served and request that our favourite establishments consider the local alternative – and keep doing so. I admit that this need for continued vigilance seems somewhat wearying and with busy lifestyles in a busy world it is easy to forget or let slip what seems like a minor detail. However, as consumers we have the power to make a difference and this seemingly minor detail is one way to do it.