No halal, no worries, for Australia’s largest organic chicken farm

10 September, 2015 11:55AM AEST

The managing director of Inglewood Farms says his decision to drop halal certification made good business sense.

Andrew Youngberry is no stranger to paying to have his food certified.

As the largest organic chicken producer in Australia, he needs to adhere to strict conditions.

“It costs a lot of money to produce organic products,” he said.

“But each one of those certifications adds value to the business.”

And that is the reason he decided to not continue paying for halal certification.

“It was far more labour intensive, and there were significant certification costs,” he said.

This week, 4 Corners investigated halal certification in Australia, to follow the money trail to reveal where the funds end up.

In the report, it was estimated 80 per cent of chicken processed in Australia was halal certified.

Making a farm viable

Mr Youngberry’s company bought Inglewood Farms from RM Williams Agricultural Holdings Group after it had gone into receivership in 2013.

“We looked at everything when we bought the farm, and there was quite a significant halal certification cost,” he said.

“There was one small export customer in the United Arab Emirates, but it wasn’t worth the cost of doubling our slaughter staff and paying certification to send product all the way over there.”

Mr Youngberry says the slaughter process for halal certification required two slaughtermen rather than one.

“The only practical difference was that the birds didn’t go through the automatic bleeder, they were all bled by hand,” he said.

“It simply didn’t make sense to us.”

The option of choice

Mr Youngberry says the majority of the feedback he has received has been positive.

“There has been the odd abusive comment saying we were bigots for not doing it [halal certification],” he said.

“So even though we may have lost a few customers, our business has certainly grown since we made the decision.”

Mr Youngberry says people who buy organic produce are strong advocates of choice.

“We keep hearing ‘thank you for giving me a choice’,” he said.

Future ambitions

Mr Youngberry says he does not believe the decision to drop halal certification has hurt any export ambitions.

“We are already exporting to various places in Asia that don’t require halal certification,” he said.

“So at this point in time there is absolutely no disadvantage to us to be doing non-halal.”

He says the main challenge in his industry is securing enough organic grain, and encourages grain farmers to consider going organic.

“Our expansion in the organic is hampered by the lack of grain, not by halal,” he said.

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