- In Australia anyone can use the term “organic”. The only way to be sure of a meat’s organic pedigree is to buy certified.
- Look for the logo of certification bodies or ask the butcher who certifies the meat you’re buying. If they can’t tell you, or the meat seems incredibly cheap, it may not be certified organic.
Organic produce is a growing segment of the market, even in the midst of a global economic downturn. Retail value of the Australian organic market in 2008 was more than $600 million, with between 10% and 30% growth per annum for some sectors. And it seems organic meat producers are leading the way, with reports of record sales in recent months and a forecast of increasing market shares.
Organic meat is expensive to produce so you’d expect to pay a premium for it. You may also believe meat from free-range animals raised without the standard use of synthetic chemicals is worth the extra money. But how can you be sure you’re getting what you pay for?
CHOICE visited butchers in Sydney and Melbourne who advertise themselves as purveyors of organic meat to find out what they know about the meat they sell. We discovered that many spin an ill-informed line about their organic products. We also found that price is generally a good indicator of the real thing.
Please note: this information was current as of July 2009 but is still a useful guide today.
What makes meat organic?
Organic meat (including the soil and water management) must comply with the National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce. Among other requirements, the livestock must:
- range freely on pasture;
- not be given growth promoters (including antibiotics)
- eat feed produced without synthetic pesticides
- have no genetically modified inputs.
Why ‘certified’ label is key
To safeguard Australia’s organic export markets, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) accredits a number of organisations to certify organic foods that comply with its National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce (see Logos to look for). Australian consumers benefit indirectly from this regulation. As you pay a premium for organic meat, you should know what you’re buying, and certified organic is the best guarantee you’ll get what you pay for.
If organic meat seems really cheap it’s reasonable to question its authenticity. If there’s no certified organic label, ask the retailer where it comes from and who certifies it. If they can’t or won’t tell you, then it may not be certified organic. It also helps to know what other gourmet meat descriptions mean.
Standards Australia is currently developing a standard for organic and biodynamic products. While this new standard won’t be mandatory it will provide clearer guidelines for enforcement agencies such as the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) enabling them to take action against misleading organic claims.