Coles backs down over controversial meat message

Coles has backflipped after facing criticism from Australian farmers over advice that featured in its January magazine.

On day 11 of a 31-day plan laid out to help customers “eat well”, the supermarket encouraged consumers to reduce their meat intake, citing environmental, health and budget benefits.

“Not only is eating less meat good for the environment – and your budget – but it can also have a positive impact on your health,” an excerpt from the magazine read.

Queensland cattle producer Adam Coffey subsequently expressed his opposition to the message in a post to Twitter, questioning where the retail giant was sourcing facts suggesting animal farming was bad for the environment.

“Hey Coles would you care to reference your statement regarding meat and the environment and/or let us know who is driving your vegan agenda,” he wrote.

Coles changed the advice featured in its January magazine. Source: AAP
Coles changed the advice featured in its January magazine. Source: AAP

The cattle farmer also expressed how upset he was at the magazine being “full of plant-based, dairy-free, meat-free, vegan recipes when the bulk of the population enjoy a balanced, unrestricted diet”.

“I would've thought that's a strange path to go down for a produce retailer,” he said.

Coles’ meat message changes

Coles had encouraged customers to limit their intake of saturated fats and consider switching animal products for “flat mushrooms, sweet potato, butternut pumpkin, or canned beans or lentils in your cooking”.

On Friday Coles argued there were 50 per cent more recipes calling for animal products in its magazine than vegan ones, claiming it was “committed to working towards a sustainable future that supports local farmers and food producers”.

By Monday however, the message in the magazine’s digital form had been changed and the information about eating less meat being good for the environment had been removed.

It was changed to instead say, “eating vegetarian meals a couple of times a week is a great way to enjoy more veg in your diet, while cutting down on saturated fats”.

Opposition to Coles’ plant-based promotions

AgForce Queensland chief executive Michael Guerin was annoyed about Coles’ apparent move towards plant-based products, telling The Weekly Times he was seeking to discuss the matter with Coles.

“We plan on writing to Coles to seek an audience with them and find a way forward, and will also be giving the issue some visibility and balance externally over the next few weeks,” he told the publication.

He thought it was “tragic” that Coles was promoting “misleading” information, and wanted to take part in a conversation to share his “side of the story”.

The magazine initially said meat was bad for the environment (left) until it was changed on Monday (right). Source: Coles
The magazine initially said meat was bad for the environment (left) until it was changed on Monday (right). Source: Coles

A spokesperson for the supermarket wouldn’t confirm why the advice was changed and instead pointed to the fact its “fresh meat is 100% Australian”.

“We work with thousands of Australian farmers to bring our customers the best quality Australian beef, lamb, pork and chicken,” they told Yahoo News Australia.

“Coles Magazine is aimed at inspiring all customers with easy-to-prepare and tasty recipes, regardless of their dietary preferences.

“It is just one of the ways we support our suppliers and make it easier for our customers to lead happier healthier lives.”

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