Australian organic producer becomes world’s first to satisfy new Japanese standards

Posted by James Ferre on 17th October 2008

An Australian Certified Organic (ACO) meat producer has become the first in the world to comply with Japan’s new organic livestock standard.

Matt O’Leary, beef producer from Australian Organic Meats in NSW has out-stripped Japan’s own farmers to become the first meat supplier ever to match the stringent criteria of the recently developed Japanese Agriculture Standard (JAS) for livestock.

“I’m pretty pleased – and a bit surprised,” Mr O’Leary admitted. “We had no idea we were the first in the world until we attended this year’s BioFach (international organic exhibition) in Japan and everyone got excited about it.”

“We only just got certified in time for the event – we received our certificates the day we arrived over there!”

Currently, the livestock standard is “non-mandatory” regulation in Japan, and most organic meat suppliers to Japan conform to a general National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce.

But regulators anticipate high demand for JAS certified organic meat in the next few years, as the JAS logo is more widely recognised by Japanese consumers.

“Compliance to the new standard is not compulsory for organic meat importers to Japan yet – but it is highly likely it will be in the future, and we are now that one step ahead,” Mr O’Leary said.

Mr O’Leary noted that despite the administrative effort involved in meeting the new measures, there was never an issue of production quality. “We were able to conform relatively quickly because we were operating at a high level under Australian standards already,” he reported. “There were a few significant differences in what the Japanese regulators now require – documents proving there is adequate land for animals to range on, graze and so on, and every link had to be certified to JAS standards – from the animal feed, to the farm, to the abattoir, to processing.”

Mr O’Leary believes demand for organic in Japan has been strengthened by heightened concerns about food safety. “The Japanese consumer is looking for a safe product – they’ve had a few scares with product coming out of China – and typically, the natural progression from safe food is organic food,” he claimed. “We’ve been involved in the Japanese market for six years and it’s always been steady – but I think the time is coming where we will see a noticeable increase in demand for organic product from Japan.”

Mr O’Leary advises that organic meat in Japan is perceived as a premium item with a strong opportunity for organic beef producers.

“There is some opportunity for lamb, but from what I’ve seen, it’s the beef market that will grow first.”

For now, he says he is happy to sit back and see what sort of response a ‘world-first’ will bring.

“We’re very pleased to get here in the end and it will be interesting to see how the response from recent tradeshows translates.”