More questions than answers in Hungry Jack’s new Organic offer

Jon Condon, 18/10/2011

Hungry Jack's new Organic-beef BBQ Deluxe Country BurgerBurger wars between the major food service players Hungry Jack’s and McDonald’s took another tactical turn yesterday when Hungry Jack’s launched its latest marketing weapon, a ‘BBQ Deluxe Country Burger’ containing a Certified Organic beef pattie.

In a press statement, Hungry Jack's chief executive Aaron McKie said the new burger, the first Organic offer in a national burger chain, was a reflection of what customers wanted.

"Our Organic beef is sourced from 20 Certified Organic cattle producers from the remote inland Channel Country region incorporating parts of Queensland, the Northern Territory, South Australia and NSW," he said.

"The taste of the organic beef in our burgers is superior because the cattle are bred and grazed entirely on native pasture, including 250 different species of native herbs and grasses.”

"The Channel Country is considered to be nature's feedlot with a unique fauna (sic) which includes both saltbush and peppergrass," Mr McKie said. "It's this entirely natural grazing environment, rather than the cattle breed itself, which produces the naturally rich flavour in the meat."

National television advertising for the new Hungry Jack's burger offer stated last night.

It appears, at this stage at least, that raw material for the program is being supplied exclusively by the Organic Beef Exports (OBE) group, killing out of the Stanbroke Beef plant at Grantham in southeastern Queensland. Other large Certified Organic segment players including Organic Meat Company and Australian Organic Meats have confirmed that they are not currently part of the supply program.

Organic Beef Exports was founded in the early 1990s by a group of Australian beef producer families including current chairman David Brook from Birdsville. While it is nowhere near as large as it once was, OBE continues to enjoy success with its Organic program in international markets.

Having a strong local platform for trim and manufacturing beef through the Hungry Jack’s project will inevitably add value in terms of consistency to the OBE program. However one potential supplier who quoted on the project said he was not surprised when his business missed out, as he could get better money for his Organic trim on international spot markets.

It would be interesting to see how the rise of Organic beef to ‘mainstream status’ benefited the local industry, Hungry Jack’s Aaron McKie said.

"For Hungry Jack's, the introduction of the Country Burger with Organic beef is a reflection of our customers more discerning taste preferences," he said.

Hungry Jack’s has been conspicuously careful not to describe its new offer as an ‘Organic hamburger’ and critics are already lining-up to point out that the project’s integrity comes into question if the remainder of ingredients do not carry Certified Organic tags.

Hungry Jack’s says both the BBQ Deluxe Country Burger and its cousin, the BBQ Onion Country Burger, are topped with cheddar cheese, tomato, lettuce, mayo and BBQ sauce and are served on oat-bran buns.

“There’s little point if the cooking oil, potatoes, bread roll and salad ingredients aren’t also Organic,” one source close to large-scale Organic beef supply said. 

“Who certified the stores? How do they keep segregation (during in-store cooking process) to ensure the certified organic patty doesn’t touch or get touched by any non-organic product?” he asked.

New Organic Standard

A new Organic food standard was introduced to Australia early last year.

Standard: AS 6000-2009, is divided into sections applying to the production, preparation, transportation, marketing and labelling of organic and biodynamic products including food, processed food and cosmetics. Each section introduces general principles by way of commentary, then sets out the detailed provisions applying to each area.

Labelling must clearly and accurately state the organic, biodynamic or in-conversion status of the product, and display the certification reference details such as the certifying body’s name or logo.

Where a product is labelled as being ‘made with organic or biodynamic ingredients’, at least 70pc of the ingredients must come from organic or biodynamic production.

The new Standard now brings strict requirements into play for the domestic organic market. The big difference in Australia, in contrast with many countries overseas, however, is that its observance is still voluntary, and not compulsory.

The new burger launch is part of a dramatic re-brand for Hungry Jack’s 345 Australian stores. The new burgers join the Whopper, Classic Angus, Angry Angus and other ‘Burger King-style’ burgers that Hungry Jack’s previously offered.

Hungry Jack’s introduced its Angus burgers through its Australian stores in mid 2009 in response to McDonald’s (880 stores) hugely successful Angus burger program.


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