Choice discovers butcher confusion about organic meat

Posted by Isobel Drake on 30th July 2009

A survey of butchers who sell organic meat by consumer group Choice has found there is widespread confusion in the information provided to consumers about what the term ‘organic’ means and who certifies it.

Currently, the consumer group notes, anyone in Australia can use the term ‘organic’ but consumers can be assured a product is what it claims to be if it is approved by a certifying body.

Out of 29 butchers in Sydney and Melbourne, only 11 were able to advise correctly as to which body certifies their organic beef. Seven butchers didn’t know or couldn’t reply directly but referred buyers to brochures or posters containing the information. Eight gave an incorrect or unclear answer, naming organisations such as Rural Organics or the RSPCA, which aren’t organic certifying bodies. A further three had no information at all about who certifies their organic beef.

Genuine organic meat must comply with the National Standard for Organic and Bio-dynamic Produce, which includes requirements for the livestock to range freely, not be given growth promoters (including antibiotics) and for its feed to be free of synthetic pesticides.

“According to the Choice buyers only about half the retailers seemed knowledgeable about organic meat, including the certification requirements and where their meat came from,” Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn said. “About two thirds weren’t necessarily passing on accurate information. It hardly helps consumer confidence in this growing market.”

Standards Australia is currently developing a standard for organic products. It will not be mandatory but will give clearer guidelines for agencies such as the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC), enabling them to take action.