Late last week, the National Union of Workers released a paper, entitled "Better Jobs 4 Better Chicken", which focuses on the many issues facing Australia's poultry industry, from poor working conditions to the need for a code of conduct. One of the document's more surprising revelations is that supermarket chains Coles and Aldi could be selling chicken up to a week old as fresh.
Image: Troy Tolley.
"The date changes on labels so they are using up to six-day-old chicken which is then dated today's date," revealed a worker by the name of "Erica". "Returned chickens are processed as new chicken when Coles returns chicken it is sent to Aldi and Aldi returns it, it is sent to Coles.
"This happens every week. Returned tray packs are turned into kebab or marinade and sent back out. I would never buy chicken from Coles or Aldi because of what I have seen."
Another worker with a similar tale is Suriyong Downes. After seven years in poultry processing, she was let go in June 2011. Downes had no qualms with talking about her experiences.
"When I was working in the packing area, a supervisor told us we had to remove labels on some inferior poultry that had been returned to the poultry company by Coles because it was not suitable to sell," she stated. "This supervisor told us to remove the label and to put a new label on the old inferior chicken so it could be sold to a new supermarket. I felt bad about it but there was a lot of pressure on us and we were worried we would lose our jobs if we didn't do it."
From the report, the blame appears to sit with the poultry processors, rather than the supermarkets themselves. Still, you'd think that such companies would have strict policies when it comes to sourcing their meat and produce to prevent this sort of thing happening.
Crikey has Coles on record claiming that, as far as it's concerned, "no evidence" exists to support the allegations, while Aldi has yet to reply to the site's inquiries.
The paper contains many more horror stories — free-range and non-free range chicken being mixed up, meat being dropped on the ground and placed back on the production line, criminally low wages and dodgy payment practices. Rather than point fingers, the paper's aim is to promote discussion, though I doubt the likes of Coles and Aldi appreciate its contents as good old constructive criticism.