The idea of Coles forcing suppliers to adopt CCTV monitoring was raised at a Queensland Rural Press Club event last week during a presentation on consumer trust by the supermarket’s head of policy and quality Jackie Healing.
It sparked an angry backlash from farmer groups, including the National Farmers Federation which branded the idea “ridiculous”.
Coles corporate affairs manager Rob Hadler said while Ms Healing had cited an example of British retailer Tesco using cameras to provide their customers with reassurance of high animal welfare standards, Coles had no plans to do the same.
“Sometimes in the reporting on these kinds of issues (animal welfare) two plus two equals 22 and not four,” Mr Hadler said.
“We know customers are more interested now in where their food comes from and how it’s produced. Animal welfare in particular is an issue they are increasingly looking for reassurance on.
“We don’t have any plans to install cameras but we are always looking for new ways to provide customers with more information and better quality products.”
Mr Hadler said Coles was increasing animal welfare assurances within its supply chain by working with its farmers and suppliers.
He said the company had already committed to remove caged eggs from the Coles brand by 2013 and to phase out sow stalls in Coles brand pork products by 2014.
Coles had also launched a number of RSPCA-approved poultry products sourced from farms offering animals enhanced living conditions.
But Australian Farm Institute director Mick Keogh remained unconvinced of Coles’ intentions.
Mr Keogh said Coles seemed to be proactively implementing several measures to address the concerns of its more “well-off” customers and those customers who were abandoning the major retailers to shop at farmers’ markets and other specialty providers.