Origin of Chicken Meat Available in Australia and Measures to Ensure its Quality
In the wake of a recent major food safety incident attributed to imported frozen berries, the ACMF has been receiving an increased number of calls from concerned consumers asking where their chicken has come from, and what the Australian industry does about ensuring the safety and quality of the chicken it produces and sells to the consumer.
So let me first allay any fears about the origin of Australian chicken meat – all fresh and frozen raw chicken meat and virtually all further processed and cooked chicken products that are offered for sale in Australia have been produced in Australia (and I mean the chickens have been grown on Australian farms, and processed in Australian processing plants, to Australian standards).
Why is this so? Well, it is theoretically possible to import chicken meat into Australia. However, in order to protect local birds from diseases, raw chicken meat can only be imported under very strict protocols (quarantine precautions), which to date poultry producers in other countries have been unable to meet. Some cooked chicken meat (probably less than half a percent of all chicken meat sold in Australia), is imported, but only if the chicken meat has been processed in accordance with the required protocols (which include prolonged exposure to high temperatures) to destroy viruses and bacteria of concern and to ensure that there is no unacceptable risk to consumers or Australian poultry. This product mainly ends up as an ingredient to processed food (e.g. in canned chicken, soups or animal food). A small amount of cooked chicken meat is also imported from New Zealand.
What does the Australian industry do to reduce any food safety risks in home-grown chicken meat products? The answer is – a lot!:
- systems adopted by Australian chicken producers for managing food safety are world class, and include government regulated arrangements for managing food safety risks both on the farm and in the processing plant;
- measures on farm include the adoption of a range of biosecurity practices, including those aimed at preventing disease agents and potential food safety organisms (such as Salmonella) being carried on to the farm by rodents, wild birds and on humans and vehicles;
- all chicken processing plants have systematic, preventative quality assurance programs in place to managing food safety risks, with approved and regularly audited Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) programs adopted;
- there are several key points in the processing plant where efforts are concentrated on reducing food safety risks, but possibly the most important of these is the chilling step, where the temperature of the freshly processed chicken carcase is dropped rapidly (either in an iced, chlorinated water-bath or in a super chilled room) to achieve an environment which is not conducive to bacterial survival and growth.
The procedures in place aim to deliver chicken meat of the highest quality and safety to consumers of Australian chicken.
But remember – chicken farms aren’t hospitals, and raw meat isn’t a sterile product – it’s perishable – so despite all of the industry’s best endeavours, bacteria (only some of which can potentially cause illness) may be present on it. You should therefore always follow the key chicken handling, preparation and cooking rules I’ve outlined in an earlier blog:
Or for more information, visit the ACMF’s food safety microsite: http://www.chicken.org.au/foodsafety/
So, rest assured, when you are at the counter contemplating your next purchase of chicken and pondering the origin of the chicken displayed there, what you are looking at is high quality, Australian grown chicken.