21 November 2023

Australia’s ‘fence-free’ organic cattle farms champion UN sustainability goals

OBE Organic is Australia’s oldest exporter of organic beef. What makes the company unique is the vast, open pasture of the Lake Eyre basin where its cattle range freely.

This is where OBE Organic has gained a hard-won reputation for authentic organic beef, animal welfare and pasture-to-plate traceability. All farms are certified organic under strict Australian regulations. The company has adopted the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework. Its future strategy is based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. OBE Organic exports to 15 countries.

Farms with no fences

OBE Organic was started by family farmers in the 1990s. It was Australia’s first premium meat exporter 100% dedicated to organic beef. Today it spearheads Australia’s fast-growing organic meat industry. Currently Australia is home to 36 million hectares of organic farming. This gives Australia the largest acreage of certified organic pasture in the world.

The company draws its beef from the heart of Australia. The central Lake Eye basin consists of huge stretches of pristine grasslands in what’s called the ‘Channel Country’. Cattle roam freely across Channel Country farms. They forage on natural vegetation – including wild saltbush and pepper grass – that’s never been sprayed with herbicide or pesticide.

‘Animal welfare is incredibly important to us,’ says Dalene Wray, Managing Director, OBE Organic. ‘Our animals go where they want and eat what they want in a land without fences.’

The company maintains organic certification to Australia’s National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce. It also conforms to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program. This means that 5% of land is set aside for conservation or protection purposes on the properties from which OBE Organic sources its beef.

‘Our supply chain is certified by the USDA, and we report on carbon emissions in our supply chain,’ says Wray. ‘In 2017, we started to manage sustainability in line with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. This means customers around the world can have absolute confidence in the integrity of our organic farming.

‘We have a role to play: to ensure the food of the future is clean and safe and chemical-free.’

Australia’s oldest organic exporter

OBE Organic has steadily built a worldwide export business. Today it exports organic beef to 15 countries in North America, Asia and the Middle East. Demand is growing.

‘Wealth and education standards are rising globally,’ says Wray. ‘People want to make informed choices about food based on the lives that animals have lived. Also, millions of people across Asia want to know the food they eat is clean and safe. This makes organic produce a valuable business for Australian farmers.’

OBE Organic’s biggest overseas market is the US.

‘People don’t realise that most processing plants certified for organic meat are in the US,’ says Wray. ‘This means a lot of organic mince is processed in the US and then consumed domestically or re-exported. This makes the US a terrific market for organic Australian beef.’

A man on horseback watches over a herd of cattle


A reliable supplier of Halal beef

OBE Organic also exports to multiple countries in the Gulf region. This provides an outlet for Halal beef. According to Wray, demand for halal beef extends well beyond customers in the Middle East.

‘We have a diverse global clientele,’ she says. ‘Many customers are Muslim and all our beef is Halal certified. This is increasingly helpful for exports to North America and Asia.

‘For example, many customers of organic beef in the US are large institutions, such as university campuses. They need to ensure their food conforms to the needs of all students. So, by default, they choose Halal beef. This is a great advantage for us.’

Austrade helps OBE Organic enter new markets

OBE Organic has worked with Austrade for over a decade. This includes one-on-one support from Austrade advisors in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand and the US.

‘Austrade helps with introductions and market insights,’ says Wray. ‘Austrade advisors have also helped with promotional activities. They help us find new distribution channels, from supermarkets to e-commerce.’

Wray says the long-term prospects for organic Australian beef are excellent.

‘Our core, global appeal is very high-quality processing,’ she says. ‘I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world that has our level of traceability.

‘Also, our biosecurity is top-notch. We are keeping Australia bio-secure; not just against bovine diseases but against pests that could get into natural habitats.

‘OBE Organic has developed expertise in global organic beef supply chains for over 25 years. Our focus on sustainability reflects our commitment to a positive future.’