Woolworths, Aldi respond to reports of corruption at meat supplier JBS

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·News Reporter
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Australian supermarkets have responded after a major meat and seafood supplier faced allegations of corruption.

While the name JBS Foods may not ring any bells for most consumers, the Brazilian meat company is the biggest meat manufacturer in the world and supplies Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, IGA and many more popular food retailers in Australia.

Shoppers might also be unaware that JBS owns many well-known Australian brands including Primo, Huon Aquaculture, Hans, Great Southern, Queenslander Beef, Right To Roam and others.

Sign for JBS, Coles, Woolworths, Aldi
Woolworths and other Australian supermarket giants have responded after ABC's Four Corners exposed JBS's corruption. Source: Getty

This means that if you’ve ever bought Primo ham or Huon salmon from the supermarket, you’re probably eating JBS products.

Who are JBS Foods and what are the allegations?

JBS is a Brazilian meat company that was launched in 1953 by businessman Jose Batista Sobrinho as a small butchery in regional Brazil.

The family empire expanded throughout Brazil, South America and into North America as Mr Sobrinho's sons, Joesley and Wesley Batista, took over the company.

On Monday, ABC’s Four Corners conducted an investigation into JBS’s expansion in Australia, which revealed corruption and bribery by the two billionaire brothers in Brazil.

Two JBS workers wearing hard hats in meat production plant
ABC's Four Corners conducted an investigation into JBS's expansion into Australia, revealing a history of corruption and bribery within the company. Source: JBS Foods Australia

The brothers confessed that they paid bribes to Brazil's finance minister and other politicians to gain funding for the company – the same funding that gave JBS control over Australian Meat Holdings.

While the Batista brothers no longer sit on JBS's board or occupy executive management positions, they still retain huge stakes in the company.

The company also continues to expand into the Australian market, with JBS buying Australia's second largest producer of farmed salmon, Huon Aquaculture, for $425 million in 2021.

Woolworths beef supply includes small amount of JBS meat

A Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia that all of the retailer's fresh meat and salmon products are 100 per cent Australian sourced from local farmers.

"All our fresh meat is produced by Australian farmers and processed by suppliers who are required to operate within Australian law,” said the spokesperson.

JBS currently provides an additional supplementary volume of red meat, which accounts for less than two per cent of Woolworths beef supply. The supermarket chain does not have a direct relationship with JBS’s Caroona feedlot.

Woolworths shoppers exit supermarket with trolleys
Woolworths confirmed that all of its fresh meat and salmon products are Australian sourced, with supplementary ingredients supplied by JBS Foods. Source: Getty

Huon Aquaculture and Riverlea, who are now owned by JBS, also supply Woolworths, and have had long-term relationships with the supermarket for many years.

"We set additional requirements for our suppliers under our Responsible Sourcing Policy, which includes clear expectations around corporate conduct and safe working conditions,” the Woolies spokesperson added.

The spokesperson emphasised that Woolworths “take matters of workplace health and safety seriously”, which is why the supermarket provides a confidential reporting system called “Speak Up” for all workers within their supply chain.

Supermarkets that JBS Foods supplies in Australia

It’s not only Woolworths that JBS supplies.

Australia's "greenest supermarket" Coles also stocks red meat products from JBS-owned brands Hans and Primo, as well as salmon from Huon Aquaculture.

Coles was contacted by Yahoo News Australia for comment, but are yet to respond.

Primo meat products alongside Huon Aquaculture logo
Major Aussie supermarkets stock JBS-owned brands, such as Primo and Huon Aquaculture. Source: Primo/Huon Aquaculture

Meanwhile, discount supermarket chain Aldi Australia also sells products from the controversial Brazilian meat company.

A spokesperson for Aldi confirmed that JBS is a supplier for the company, however would not discuss details of its commercial relationships.

IGA, Harris Farm Markets, Foodland, Drakes, Friendly Grocer, Foodworks and Supabarn also stock a number of products from JBS Foods.

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