Beef farmer Robert Mackenzie is leading the fight against export food fraud
Gloucester beef farmer Robert Mackenzie knows his family branded product is being ripped off overseas and he’s looking to put a stop to it.
Food fraud is the deliberate misrepresentation of food products for the purpose of economic gain, and in the case of Macka’s Australian Black Angus Beef, its labeling is being falsified and put on inferior products.
“Our product has been copied five times in Asia,” Robert said. “Now I’m competing with a fake version of my product being sold at a cheaper price.”
Robert is the fourth generation of his family to run the business and he prides himself on the quality product they produce.
“There is huge demand for premium Australian products in international markets but fraudulent and mislabelled products are threatening Australia’s reputation for high quality produce,” Robert said.
Our product has been copied five times in Asia.
He explained how in some cases products are being imported into Australia under one label, repackaged with the fraudulent labels, then exported into major Asian markets under the guise of coming directly from Australia.
To help secure the future of his family’s reputation, Robert has invested in the Australian-based traceability platform designed by Aglive.
This blockchain ‘smart labelling’ provides a digital encrypted end-to-end data verification that removes the need for paper-based systems.
By placing the QR code-style label on a product, it can be tracked every step of the way via a mobile phone based app from the time it’s picked up to the moment it arrives at customs overseas.
“Now more than ever people want to know where their food comes from,” Robert said. “They want to know the story, from paddock to plate.”
In August, Meat and Livestock Australia Limited published a report on supply chain integrity. It’s key findings stated that product integrity “is a major purchase driver for most export markets, particularly in Asia. This trust is underpinned by the Australian provenance (Brand Australia).”
Securing the Australian provenance is something Federal Member for Lyne, David Gillespie can get behind. According to a 2017 report by Food Innovation Australia, food fraud is potentially costing the Australian economy nearly $2 billion each year.
“It’s about protecting manufacturing jobs in regional Australia and protecting our brands,” Dr Gillespie said.
Dr Gillespie also sees future growth in regional manufacturing, with an export market that is craving foods that are grown in ‘clean, green country’ like Australia.
But food fraud is threatening this growth as countries like China are becoming more diligent about what foods are coming in the door. In April, China halted imports from four large red meat abattoirs ‘over labelling and health certificate requirements’.
By utilising the ‘smart labelling’ technology, Australian companies can ensure the countries they are importing into know exactly where the product has come from.