Large-scale food processing a problem Joel Salatin tells Sydney audience. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
Joel Salatin, the American celebrity farmer and proponent of the organics food movement, says Australia's food producers are facing pressure from retailers at levels not seen anywhere in the world.
"I'm familiar with the food production systems and farmers in Mexico, Italy, New Zealand, Great Britain, and of course, America. The issue is more acute in Australia," Mr Salatin told Fairfax Media after giving a speech to 500 people at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will investigate alleged anti-competitive practices by Woolworths and Coles against producers. The duopoly has an 80 per cent grip on the Australian retail market.
"All of the developing countries for sure, whether it's Indo-China, South America, Africa, all the developing countries have extremely localised food systems," Mr Salatin said. "They simply don't have the infrastructure to centralise it like the developed countries."
Mr Salatin has appeared in the documentary Food Inc and was touted by TIME magazine as the world's most innovative farmer for advocating sustainable farming methods. He is a third-generation farmer, running Polyface Farms in Swoope, Virginia.
He blamed large-scale single product processing for the recent listeria outbreak that has claimed three lives in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
In the past three months, more than 100 products manufactured Jindi Cheese's Gippsland factory in Victoria and sold under brands including Wattle Valley, Coles Finest and Harris Farm, were recalled.
"Instead of Jindi just being one great big cheese factory, if it was a bunch of smaller ones, it would be much easier to keep clean. And size does effect hygiene and cleanliness," he said.
Mr Salatin will be teaching farmers his methods in Kiama for the next three days.