US gets taste of Oz meat

Arcadian Organic & Natural Meat Co. is Australia’s leading supplier of premium quality certified organic and natural meat. The company was built on childhood friendships of the senior managers, who grew up on third, fourth and fifth generation farming land.

Sausages at retailArcadian has grown from being one farm processing 66 head of cattle a fortnight in 2005, to having more than 120 certified organic suppliers in 2014. Sixty employees work across the company’s Sydney and Toowoomba offices and its packing plant in Gosford, New South Wales.

The company focuses on building supply chains and markets to match, which means its suppliers know what sales to expect in the medium to long term. They can develop farm plans and expect returns based on the predictability. This coordination also gives buyers certainty.

Seventy per cent of Arcadian’s beef and lamb product is exported and 30% is sold domestically. The company’s export markets continue to outpace domestic growth, with the United States making up its largest export customer base by far, followed by smaller markets in the Middle East, Korea and Hong Kong.

It sells under the brand names of Arcadian Organic & Natural Meat Co., The Organic Meat Company and Cleaver’s Organic Meat.

Organic in high demand

Despite also trading in ‘natural’ meat products, Arcadian is committed to focusing on certified organic meat lines. CEO Alister Ferguson says, “With a 35% premium above conventional meat, certified organic attracts a much higher price than natural. Another difference is that our organic program is much more targeted than the natural program. Certified organic is what everyone wants and it’s our most valued product.

“At the moment we’re trading equal amounts of organic and natural meat products but organic is always our preference. It’s what we market and need a lot more of. We could double our organic supply and still not meet demand.”

Weather a challenge

Like most businesses that rely on large-scale agriculture, the weather is a major determiner of supply and demand. Much of Arcadian’s supply is from New South Wales and Queensland, and the dry seasons in 2013/14 have made it challenging to fill orders. However, Alister says the company has a good geographical spread of suppliers and supports graziers through the good and the bad.

Alister FergusonSuccess in the States

“Introducing Australian certified organic beef products to new consumers in America is definitely one of our successes,” Alister says. “We introduced product to companies that haven’t used Australian products before and showed them we can supply successfully.”

Arcadian started selling lamb into the United States market mid-2014 – the result of a project that took seven years to build because the company concentrated on growing supply first. It takes three years for a farmer or grazier to achieve full organic certification.

Best business decision

“Starting the business. We really enjoy it,” says Alister. “We have a great relationship with our suppliers and our customers because we’re all moving forward together for a common cause.”

Arcadian Organic & Natural Meat Co. started with meat exporters Sanger Australia and later merged with Cleaver’s, The Organic Meats Company in 2010. The businesses came together in 2012 and out of that grew Arcadian. Alister says, “This background gives our group extensive experience and history, enabling a sound business platform to work on today. Working together as a group of companies gives us better access to markets.”

Advice to graziers

“Our advice to graziers is to take the step and become certified organic if you can already farm with few inputs. As a certified organic grazier, there are 12-month premiums that stay in place for you; you’re also at an advantage by aligning your business with the market. It’s important to target markets and become part of a well-planned supply chain rather than taking the best grid price on the day. There’s power in that.

“Organic graziers don’t take the easy way out when it comes to controlling pests and diseases or looking after the land, so it’s great to see their efforts increasingly being supported by consumers who realise it’s worth paying a little bit more,” says Alister.

“Organic meat is pasture fed, free range, grown without hormone growth promotants and antibiotics – and graziers also protect and enhance biodiversity on their properties. Our suppliers also look after their animals; they adhere to the strictest animal welfare practices (which also means the cattle and sheep are processed at certified organic abattoirs). They have to pass annual on-farm audits so consumers can be sure they’re getting what they pay for.”

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