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Mark your calendar for the Alberta Beef Industry Conference

The Alberta Beef Industry Conference is less than two months away, taking place at the Sheraton Red Deer Hotel from March 12-14, 2019.

The event is one of Canada’s largest beef conferences and trade shows, and provides an opportunity for the industry to come together to learn, to network and to discover the latest products and innovations.

As one of the five hosts of the conference, the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association is delighted to work alongside Alberta Beef Producers, Alberta Auction Markets Association, Alberta Livestock Dealers and Order Buyers Association, and the Western Stock Growers’ Association.

Once again, there is a line-up of speakers who have a wealth of industry or subject expertise to share. We look forward to hearing their insights on the industry’s most pressing issues. Here are some of the highlights:

Brad Wall: Western Canada’s Economy: Risks and Opportunities; Offense and Defense 

Brad will speak about the current political landscape and its impact on Western Canada.

Amber MacArthur and Marty Seymour: If the Future is Different Than the Past, is Your Business Ready?

Learn what your business needs to do to adapt to changing times.

Chief Clarence Louie: Cowboys & Indians – Causing Disruption to Create Economic Prosperity

Hear how he turned a bankrupt band into a multi-faceted corporation that employs hundreds of people.

Dr. Frank Mitloehner: Sustainability in Beef – the Nexus Between Productivity and Environmental Performance

A look at environmental mitigation opportunities, especially in the areas of carbon emission reductions, welfare and health.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois: The Rise of the Conscious Carnivore? The Good, the Bad, and the Awfully Ugly

Advice on dealing with the vegetarian and vegan movements.

Marie-Noelle Desrochers: Trade Agreements That Matter for Canada

An insider’s perspective on governments’ approach to trade matters and the impact it has on the Canadian beef industry.

Brett House: Global Economic Outlook Amidst Rising Uncertainty

What’s ahead for the global economy.

Brett Stuart: Global Beef & Protein Outlook

A view of the global beef landscape, including international trade and health issues.

Brian Perillat: CanFax Market Update

The beef industry’s supply and demand dynamics, and current Canadian price trends.

Art Douglas: 2019-20 Weather Forecast

The upcoming forecast, and a discussion of the impact weather patterns have on the beef industry.

The ever-popular Danny Hooper returns as master of ceremonies, and comedian John Hastings will be entertaining us during the Taste of Alberta dinner on Wednesday evening.

Mark your calendars for another not-to-miss event – you can register here.

How a verified quality assurance initiative that boosted Canada’s wine industry could have lessons for beef producers

This is the third post in our Spotlight on the Speakers series, featuring speakers from February’s Alberta Beef Industry Conference.

This week we spoke with Mark Sheridan, president of Hester Creek Estate Winery in B.C., to learn more about the Vintners’ Quality Alliance (VQA).

The wine industry’s VQA program was instigated in the late 1980s when NAFTA eliminated the differential tax structure. At the time, Canadian wine producers lost their preferential tax rates, and realized they needed a recognizable quality standard to give their industry an edge with consumers.

“It gave us instant credibility on the worldwide market because it’s a verified quality standard that is in line with other standards from around the world,” said Mark.

How a similar program could work for beef producers

The wine industry’s quality assurance program assures consumers that they are buying a product that will meet their expectations.

“Consumers are increasingly wanting to know the story behind the wine – Where is this wine from? Where were the grapes grown? What makes that area unique and important?” said Mark.

VQA

Consumers also want to know where their beef comes from, how it was raised, and how it was cared for. The beef industry’s Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) program has the potential to provide consumer assurances in a similar way to VQA, but is currently evolving and has not yet attained certification from a recognized certifying body.

Another program that provides the assurances demanded by today’s consumer about animal health and welfare is the National Cattle Feeders’ Association’s Canadian Feedlot Animal Care Assessment Program, which is certified by the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO) and recognized by both the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and the National Farm Animal Care Council.

How would a quality assurance program differ from beef grading?

In an earlier post we explained how beef grading provides a quality rating for individual cuts of beef. A quality assurance program could provide the deeper level of information increasingly demanded by consumers – for instance, where the beef comes from and whether it was raised humanely.

In a highly competitive global marketplace it would give a further edge to Canada’s beef producers. “We have the best beef in the world so let’s take advantage of all the good things we do and position our product to get the best return we can”, says Bryan Walton, president and CEO of the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association.

Can Canada’s beef producers benefit from online sales?

This is the second post in our Spotlight on the Speakers series, featuring speakers from February’s Alberta Beef Industry Conference.

In our first post, we looked at the changing faces, places and consumption patterns of the Canadian beef market. This week, we’re learning how the retail trend toward online sales will affect beef producers.

Don Close, vice-president of food and agribusiness research at Rabo AgriFinance, explained that brick and mortar sales are flat, while online sales are growing and evolving. “I don’t think it’s necessarily detrimental to the beef industry,” he said. “It’s more that it provides an opportunity to access consumers via a different channel.”

“The biggest change,” Don said, “will be experienced by beef processors. They should expect changes in where they are delivering, servicing and distributing products to consumers. For most individual producers there will likely not be any meaningful change.”

Online opportunities

For those beef producers keen to take advantage of the trend, the online market offers a unique opportunity to establish their own branded products. “It opens up a new marketplace for individual producers, particularly if they have cattle with an exceptional set of genetics and want to capture a premium price for their premium product,” said Don.

Online sales could potentially provide beef producers with the ability to promote beef to consumers who are more typically non-consumers, or light-consumers, of beef. It could also provide an opportunity to persuade beef eaters to try different cuts or products.

Don explained that the biggest hurdle to creating meaningful sales via the online market is the investment required in branding, marketing and online sales tools.

“The tendency of the consumer is to choose large, national brands with a known identity,” said Don. “They have a high level of trust with those providers and they know what to expect. They are less likely to try the smaller, lesser-known brand.”

The sales and marketing resources necessary to make an impact on the online food market could potentially be more accessible to groups or collectives, rather than individual producers, he added.

You can hear more from Don in this video entitled ‘From the cart to the keyboard: how food purchasing habits will impact the beef industry’.

 

New partnership gives a boost to transpacific trade

Canada’s beef producers rely on international trade to keep their industry growing in a global economy. That’s why the National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA) was thrilled when the Government of Canada announced it has reached a trade deal with ten of Asia-Pacific’s fastest growing economies.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will provide tariff-free and/or competitive access to key markets in the Asia-Pacific region. It is to be signed in March and must then be ratified by the Canadian Parliament and by the governments of the ten other member countries.

We spoke with Claire Citeau, executive director of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA), to learn why the agreement is so important for Canada’s agri-foods producers, including beef producers.

“Overall the CPTPP will reduce tariffs and non-tariff barriers, open new, growing markets for Canadian agri-food products, and support jobs and prosperity here at home,” said Claire. “It will provide the sector with unprecedented access to the important Japanese market and rapidly growing Asian markets like Vietnam and Malaysia.

“The 11 countries in the CPTPP region include some of our main export markets, including Japan and Mexico, as well as seven new countries,” continued Claire. “Japan in particular is the big prize as it is our third export market and a high value market for Canadian agriculture and agrifood  – it is the largest economy in the CPTPP region, and the third largest in the world. Vietnam and Malaysia are other countries that could represent expanding markets.”

Some of Canada’s main competitors, such as Australia, have free trade agreements with countries in this region, which has given them a huge advantage over Canada when it comes to exports. The CPTPP will help to level the playing field.

Since the U.S. dropped out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and does not have free trade agreements with Japan, CPTPP will give Canadian producers a distinct advantage over the U.S. in the Japanese market.

Why speedy ratification is crucial

John Weekes, senior business advisor at Bennett Jones, former ambassador to the WTO and Canada’s chief negotiator for NAFTA, said he attributes Japanese leadership to TPP coming back to life again as the CPTPP – because they saw it as an important way to fill the vacuum that was left in the Asia-Pacific area when the U.S. retreated from the original TPP negotiations early in 2017. The Japanese came to the conclusion that it would be important to have a trade agreement with the sort of provisions that are in the CPTPP, in that part of the world. If Canada had turned its back on CPTPP, we could have faced not having a trade agreement with the Japanese for at least a decade.

John Weekes speaking at a Canadian International Council event in Ottawa on February 12, 2018.

When addressing attendees at the Alberta Beef Industry Conference in Red Deer on February 23, 2018 John stated,

Canada should approve CPTPP in parliament as soon as possible so we get in on the ground floor on tariff reductions and secure lower tariffs as quickly as possible.

Claire Citeau explained that the CPTPP will enter into force 60 days after at least six members ratify it. “We may lose the ‘first mover advantage’ if Canada is not among the first countries to ratify,” she said. “If our competitors ratify and implement the CPTPP before Canada, they will benefit from the initial rounds of tariff cuts and we won’t, putting us at a further disadvantage.”

“Having better and more competitive access to markets like Japan will create further growth and help create jobs in urban and rural areas in Canada,” concluded Claire.

Stay tuned for future blog posts, in which we will keep you updated on the ratification process.

How population changes are driving the beef industry

This is the first in our Spotlight on the Speakers series, featuring speakers from February’s Alberta Beef Industry Conference. This week, Andrew Ramlo, executive director of Urban Futures, spoke with us about the changing faces, places and consumption patterns of the Canadian beef market.

How age, ethnicity and lifestyles are changing the domestic market

Andrew, whose company, Urban Futures, specializes in demographics, explained that the domestic market for beef, and indeed all agricultural products, is undergoing a significant change on three major fronts:

Age: For the first time in decades, the baby boomers are no longer the dominant generation in terms of numbers. There are now more Millennials and Generation Xers than post-war boomers. This shift is having an impact on all factors of the market, including  what people consume and how they consume it.

“This younger generation demands to know where their food comes from, and how it was produced, giving rise to the popularity of niche products such as hormone-free, grass-fed and organic,” Andrew said. They are also increasingly in tune with diet and health, and this affects their food choices.

Lifestyle: “One of the major drivers of the market will be convenience,” Andrew said. “People have busy lives and kids to feed, so they need to have convenience in the ways things are prepared and packaged.”

Ethnicity: With a population that is increasingly ethnically diverse, the types of food eaten by Canadians is changing, and so is the way it is purchased and prepared. Canadian food producers must pay attention to the ethnicities of their consumers, and their eating habits or preferences.

An export market driven by growth

While the domestic market is being driven more by change than by the potential for significant growth, growth can be expected in the export market.

“The Asia-Pacific markets are going to be very significant,” said Andrew. “Particularly in China, there are a lot of consumers who have not historically eaten beef, but who are starting to be able to afford it.”

How immigration could affect beef production

We know immigration is affecting what Canadians eat, and how they prepare their food. But there is also the potential for more immigrants to be employed in the beef production industry.

“The Canadian government has increased their immigration targets from what it has historically been – between 275,000 and 300,000 – to about 340,000 by 2021,” said Andrew. “This is being done by and large in response to our aging population; to give us the ability to fill in the labour force as the baby boomers head toward retirement.”

“The government really needs to look at aspects of our labour market and do more targeted recruitment among potential immigrants.”

You can read more about the impact of demographics on the beef industry in Changing demographics mean changes at the dinner table.

Watch for future ‘Spotlight on the speakers’ posts.

6 issues cattle feeders will discuss at the Alberta Beef Industry Conference

Beef producers from all over Alberta will convene in Red Deer next week for the Alberta Beef Industry Conference.

This annual event is a chance for industry members to find out what’s new and network with others in the industry. As the event approaches, here’s a look at some of the pressing issues ACFA has been following, and that industry members will likely discuss.

#1 The Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP)

The government has allocated $3 billion to invest, over the course of five years, in five areas: innovation and research; environmental sustainability; risk management; product and market development and diversification; and public trust. ACFA will look at devising projects and programs to advance the cattle feeding industry, which could attract funding under CAP.

#2 Labour

The Federal Department of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) is currently reviewing the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. This program is a life-saver for cattle feeders when they are unable to find workers from within the Canadian workforce. Past government reviews have accepted ACFA recommendations but there is still room for improvement.  ACFA will continue to be engaged in this file.

#3 Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)

Last month the government announced it will sign onto the new CPTPP trade agreement. This is good news for the beef industry and should result in reduced tariffs in a number of export markets, especially Japan. ACFA will continue communicating with government to stress the importance of the agreement for Canada’s beef industry until it is fully approved and ratified by Parliament.

#4 Other trade issues

NAFTA and trade with China are two other pressing trade issues of great importance to cattle feeders. In June 2016, the U.S. secured approval from China for greater access to that market. Canadian producers need the same access. A new pilot program to export fresh and chilled Canadian beef to China is expected in 2018, but ACFA will continue to press for the same access given to the U.S.

#5 Competitiveness

About 10 years ago, ACFA commissioned a study to assess the competitiveness of cattle feeding in Alberta. The industry’s ability to compete effectively in the international market will continue to be a priority and there will be discussions about whether it is time to update this study.

#6 Industry governance and financing

The mandatory levy on beef sales, known as the check-off, is used to fund research and marketing activities on behalf of the entire industry. ACFA and the Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) have come together to devise a new governance and funding model for the provincial beef industry, and its use of check-off dollars. A plebiscite may be required later in 2018 for a final decision.

As well as conversation and networking, the conference also features a full program of speakers, including former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

For anyone interested in Alberta’s beef industry, its challenges and opportunities, this is a must-attend event.

Excellent reasons to attend this year’s Alberta Beef Industry Conference

On Feb 21-28, members of Alberta’s beef producing industry and their suppliers will gather at the Sheraton Red Deer Hotel, along with journalists, politicians and others interested in beef and the people who bring it to our tables.

The 15th annual Alberta Beef Industry Conference is a chance to find out what’s new, learn about the industry’s achievements and challenges, and make connections.

As always, the conference is packed with a great lineup of speakers. Here are a few highlights:

Andrew Ramlo: This strategic management consultant specializes in helping organizations develop strategies to address industry challenges and opportunities. He will be sharing his insights into everything from the changing consumption patterns of domestic and export markets, to issues of production and labour force trends.

Mark Sheridan: The president of Hester Creek Estate Winery will speak about the evolution of B.C.’s wine industry and the value the Vintners Quality Alliance has brought to wine producers in British Columbia.

John Weekes: As a senior adviser with Bennett Jones, John has worked with the National Cattle Feeders’ Association on many trade files, providing business and strategic advice. He will comment on NAFTA, Canada’s trade agreement with the United States and Mexico; the EU and the implementation of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA); efforts to bring the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) into force without the U.S.; and trade relations with China and India.

Bruce Cameron: This veteran pollster will explore the challenges our democracy faces in a world where truth is relative. Using timely examples, he will show how integrating new social media metrics with established polling techniques offers a way to reduce margins of error and restore truth in politics.

The conference promises to be packed with great information. To learn more about these and other speakers, visit the conference program page.

Carbon pricing and the beef industry: how will Canadians feel the effects?

Businesses across Alberta are bracing for the new carbon tax, wondering what effects the levy will have on their bottom line. So, when Jennifer Winter joins us at the Alberta Beef Industry Conference to speak about the cost of emissions pricing, the interest will be high. Jennifer is the director of energy and environmental policy at the University of Calgary, and we asked her for a few insights into the potential costs for the beef industry.

Jennifer Winter at the Alberta Beef Industry ConferenceJennifer explained that, since 2007, emissions from large emitters have been subject to a levy, but starting in January 2017, this system changed to a broad-based carbon tax on emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels.

“This means that, across Alberta, individuals and companies are going to be paying more for gasoline, diesel, natural gas and other fossil fuels,” said Jennifer. “For the agricultural sector, farm fuel is exempt, and so the impact will mainly be felt through natural gas price increases and indirectly through increased pricing from suppliers as they respond to the carbon tax.”

“The impacts will depend on how much fossil fuels each operation uses, and it is possible the carbon tax will make some businesses unprofitable,” continued Jennifer.

In addition to the exemption on farm fuels, the government has also placed a cap on the price of electricity.

How the carbon tax will affect the beef on Canadians’ plates

The most likely cost to Canadians will be an increase in emissions-intensive goods and services, such as gasoline. As for beef? Time will tell how much of a price increase Canadians will see at the store, or whether supply will be affected.

Check out ‘5 feedlot issues to watch for in 2017’, to learn about other issues that could affect Alberta’s beef industry this year.

Former Edmonton Sun columnist Danny Hooper on the evolution of the beef industry

When you think about the beef that’s served on your table, it might seem that the product hasn’t changed much during your lifetime. What has changed, though, is the business of beef production.

With the annual Alberta Beef Industry Conference approaching, from February 15-17, we thought it would be interesting to talk with long-time event master of ceremonies, Danny Hooper, to see what changes he has observed over the years.

As well as being conference MC for over a decade, Danny is a former page 6 columnist for the Edmonton Sun, a recording artist, motivational speaker, fundraising auctioneer and one-time host of the 790 CFCW morning show. He also comes from a farming background, having grown up on a cattle ranch in Tomahawk, Alberta.

Changing times have brought changing issues

We asked Danny what issues have come to the forefront during his time with the conference. “When I did my first year, it was right in the middle of the BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) crisis,” he said. Since then, I’ve seen a succession of different issues. Tech is a big one – it’s interesting to see how technology changes the industry every year. Country of Origin Labelling has been another big topic. Other issues I’ve seen include the economy; the way that changing demographics, as well as social and cultural norms, affect beef producers; politics; regulation and more.”

Food safety in Canada

Danny also said that food safety has been a constant theme at the conference, and he’s always been impressed at the high standards followed by the industry. “I recently returned from a three-week trip to Bali,” he said, “and that was a real eye opener. You can’t drink the tap water, even in a nice hotel, and you’re always wondering about the safety of the food you’re served. In Canada, you don’t have to give food safety much of a thought.”

The adaptability of Canadian beef producers

As consumer demands change, Danny noted, the industry has been able to adapt and respond. “There’s so much information out there, both good and bad – and a lot of misinformation – and it travels at the speed of light. It can affect consumer choices very quickly, and at the other end of the scale, the producers,” he said. “Food producers have to respond, and often have to respond quite quickly, and I think overall they’ve done a very good job of it.”

Danny concluded our conversation with a couple of observations about the industry:

“To me, it’s always an eye opener what big business this is,” he commented, “and all the issues that the producers do face. I don’t think people are aware of that.”

“Another thing I’ve found interesting through the years is the custom branding. A lot of the small independent producers are doing a really good job of branding and marketing their farms and their products.”

To learn more about the consumer trends that affect the beef industry, check out last week’s blog post: ‘Changing demographics mean changes at the dinner table.’ And stay tuned for more from conference speakers in the upcoming weeks.

Changing demographics mean changes at the dinner table

What’s on the table for dinner tonight? Thirty years ago, the answer would probably have been beef, chicken, pork or fish. And it would have been prepared at home. But what about today? Consumer preferences have changed – and that’s the reality now facing the beef industry.

The Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association commissioned a research review to better understand the market forces driving demand for beef and other proteins. Digital marketing agency Communicatto was engaged to gather and summarize existing research.

Communicatto president Doug Lacombe will be speaking on the topic at the upcoming Alberta Beef Industry Conference. He sat down with us to share the highlights of their findings. 

“The research shows that people are eating differently in 2017 than they were 20 or 30 years ago. The beef industry needs to understand what mealtime looks like today and why eating habits have changed in order to adapt to meet new consumer demands,” he said.

Today’s meals are different, because today’s Canadians are different

Doug explained that two prominent factors are affecting Canadians’ food choices:

1. Changing demographics

“Our population demographics have changed markedly in the last 30 years. In metropolitan areas, we are approaching the 46 per cent immigrant level, so food choices are driven by different culinary habits, cultural habits and so on. With those kind of profound societal changes, why would we think eating habits would stay the same?”

2. Today’s fast-paced lifestyle

“With two working parents and today’s busy lifestyles, there is an increase in pre-prepared, or semi-prepared meals, a variety of convenience options and dining out. Stopping at the store to pick up a rotisserie chicken on the way home from work is just one of many easy, affordable ways to provide a quick meal.”

Why this matters to the beef industry

The concerns and demands of Canadians, and particularly the Millennial generation, are driving the market, and a successful industry will be one that adapts. Many people consider beef to be a special occasion food and erroneously believe it to be a less healthy choice compared to other proteins.

During his talk at the conference, Doug will be sharing more details about Canadians’ food choices, and the attitudes and perceptions that drive them. He will also look at what this means for beef producers, how they should respond, and what they can do to answer concerns or alter negative perceptions.

“If the farm isn’t supplying what consumers want,” Doug noted, “then we have a disconnect between supply and demand. We need to ask how the industry can cooperate along the entire supply chain, and innovate to meet changing consumer demand.”

To learn more about how the eating habits of Canadians impact the beef industry, check out last week’s post on the need for consumers and the beef industry to find common ground.

You can learn more about what’s in store at the Alberta Beef Industry Conference in the event program.