Organic in the Outback: How Aussie beef producer is thriving despite three-year drought

By Richard Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

More demand in the Middle East for organic meat due to its perceived healthiness says managing director of organic beef supplier ©Getty Images
More demand in the Middle East for organic meat due to its perceived healthiness says managing director of organic beef supplier ©Getty Images

Related tags: Australia, Cattle, Beef, Middle east

An organic beef supplier deep inside the Queensland Outback has been building its business in spite of three years of continuing drought.

Its cattle come from massive farms that are accustomed to operating on less than 250mm of rain in a year. Its supply chain is also used to functioning in a harsh environment.

We are a long way from anywhere and we don​’t get much rainfall at any time of the year. During dry periods we get even less rainfall than not much​,” said Dalene Wray, managing director of OBE Organic.

We have had a good year, we have increased our exports significantly in the last six months. Droughts in Australia are cyclical; they are around more often than they aren’t. Don’t forget these are vast, vast properties; animals have one square kilometre to graze​.”

To survive in such a dusty, unforgiving part of the country, OBE’s farmers carefully manage their environmental assets so they are available to livestock when needed.

This is done by managing access to grass and water. For instance, animals drink water from rainfall, which comes up through boreholes in the Outback.

OBE has forged export markets Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong and Vietnam. It also ships to Canada, the United States and Mexico.

As a halal-certified meat supplier with stamps from a number of leading accreditation bodies including Malaysia’s Jakim, OBE has seen growing its business in the Middle East, with exports going into the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and other majority-Muslim countries like Indonesia and Malaysia.

It is important for retailers who have a footprint in the Middle East to supply food from around the world. They have a commitment to supply chains that are transparent and more and more businesses like ours are aligning ourselves around the UN’s sustainable development goals​,” said Wray.

For these big retailers that have global sourcing, a supply chain like ours is good to do business with​.”

With sky-high diabetes rates among Emiratis, Saudis and Kuwaitis, Wray has been finding more demand in the Middle East for organic meat due to its perceived healthiness.

Many researchers and nutritionists agree that grass-fed beef is more nutritious, safe and overall healthier to eat than industrial grain-fed beef. It contains higher levels of B vitamins, beta-carotene and omega 3 fatty acids, as well as vitamins A and E and several antioxidants and minerals that come from the grass that is eaten.

These macro and micronutrient compounds have been connected to lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, and the potential prevention of diabetes and certain cancers. The results to this point are still inconclusive, however, as to whether grass-fed beef itself as a whole food can be considered part of a preventative diet for chronic diseases such as diabetes.

We have epidemics like diabetes in countries around the world. Arab countries have high levels of diabetes so when they are told by health professionals to eat more healthy, they might be changing from a grain-fed beef to a product like ours​,” she said.

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