In Australia, there’s no legislation for the term “organic”, which means there’s nothing to stop anyone from labelling their produce organic. The only way to ensure something is organic is to check it is certified by one of the AQIS-approved organic certifying bodies, see Logos to Look for, below.
Of the 42 outlets CHOICE surveyed that appeared to sell “organic” meat, 13 either sell organic produce but not meat, or the meat they sell isn’t actually organic (they seem to think free-range or hormone-free and organic beef are the same). Only 29 told us they sell certified organic beef so we focused on these.
Who certifies it?
Once we’d established the butcher was selling certified organic beef, we asked the straightforward question, “Who certifies it?”. Only 11 of 29 retailers answered correctly. Seven didn’t know or couldn’t reply directly but referred our buyers to certification logos on brochures or posters displayed on the wall.
Eight gave an incorrect or muddled answer. For example:
- One butcher replied, “Enviroganic Farm”, which is actually a supplier of certified organic produce, not a certifier.
- Another answered, “Rural Organics”, an organisation that assists farmers, processors and exporters with their entry into the organic and biodynamic markets.
- A third said, “the RSPCA”, but the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme is specific to animal welfare. None of these are organic certifying bodies.
The final three retailers had no information at all about who certifies their organic beef, which raises the question: is the meat on sale at these butchers really certified organic?
According to our buyers, only about half the retailers seemed knowledgeable about organics. Generally, these butchers were able to tell our buyers where their beef came from and/or who certified it, and in some cases volunteered additional information about organic meat – the difference between organic and conventionally farmed meat, its certification requirements and its supposed nutritional benefits.
About two-thirds of the retailers gave our buyers the impression they were confident of what they were telling them, but unfortunately they weren’t always passing on accurate information. The butchers who assured our buyers that the RSPCA, Enviroganic Farm and Rural Organics are organic certifying bodies are three such examples.