The Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System has gained a strong foothold in SA, with both of the state’s export abattoirs in the program.
Last week, Australia’s largest family-owned processor Thomas Foods International, Murray Bridge, joined the certification program, administered by the Cattle Council of Australia.
Teys Australia was the first to jump on PCAS four years ago, using it to underpin its Grasslands brand, with cattle processed at Naracoorte and Wagga Wagga, NSW.
More than 1500 producers are registered for the certified grassfed program nationwide, including 87 in SA. They have often enjoyed premiums about 25 cents a kilogram above Meat Standards Australia prices.
In return they must undertake an annual on-farm audit verifying the animals they sell have never been fed grain.
There are also additional optional modules for antibiotic-free and hormone growth promotant-free declarations.
TFI beef manager Petar Bond said global demand for high quality pasturefed products had driven the company’s decision to join.
“The United States is among the leading overseas markets seeking out more pasture or grassfed meat,” he said.
“Our membership of PCAS is also supportive of the many number of our suppliers who have become PCAS-accredited.”
Mr Bond said it was looking at its options for integrating PCAS accreditation into its brands but it intended to grow its numbers in time.
“We don’t have a specific target at this stage – that will be ultimately determined by market forces.”
PCAS chairman and independently-elected Cattle Council director Marc Greening said PCAS had set the “industry standard”.
“It was the first to promote grassfed certification programs which other programs such as Coles Graze have successfully leveraged off,” he said.
Mr Greening – a NSW beef producer – was pleased leading processors such as TFI had recognised the potential to add integrity to their grassfed brands.
“We have to find ways to differentiate and add third party audited integrity to grassfed beef brands for our consumers and PCAS is a platform to make it happen.”
“It will lead to more dollars in cockies’ pockets as the Australian beef industry needs to promote its quality and certified branded products in order to compete in export markets.”
Mr Greening said at times there had been significant premiums for PCAS cattle but it depended on the seasonal supply of grassfed cattle.
“I am personally recommending to my bull clients producing kill cattle that they participate for market access reasons for when supply reaches its peak,” he said.
He said PCAS was the “most straightforward” certification program he had participated in and the committee members had taken steps to evolve it where possible.
“You just have to prove that the individual animals have never been fed grain, and for the antibiotic-free programs that any animals that have been treated with antibiotics have been identified on your property.”
PCAS requirements are aligned with the United States Department of Agriculture standards for grassfed certification but stubble grazing is permitted as long as sufficient regrowth has occurred.
Early in the season, crops can also be grazed to the pre-grain stage.
There was also greater flexibility in buying in future kill heifers and steers, with PCAS herds able to buy PCAS-eligible cattle at up to 18 months of age, up from 12 months previously.
PCAS registered suppliers must pay an annual membership to Cattle Council.
- Details: pcaspasturefed.com.au