How people in 58 countries enjoy Canadian beef

In an earlier post on this blog we explored the contribution Alberta’s beef industry makes to our province’s economy. We explained that exports make up an important part of that contribution, because we produce more beef than Canadians eat.

To learn more about beef exports, and where they go, we spoke with Rob Meijer, former president of Canada Beef. “Many agricultural commodities, like beef cattle, have a high dependence on exports,” said Rob, “and every year, Canada exports approximately 45 per cent of its beef production.”

Canada’s main beef export marketsCanadian Beef Exports 2015

Canadian beef is shipped to 58 countries, but 71 per cent goes to the United States. China, Mexico, Japan and Hong Kong together represent another 24 per cent (source: Canadian Cattlemen’s Association).

Market growth

The good news for Canadian beef producers, and for the economy, is that the first half of 2016 saw an 11 per cent increase in exports, by volume. “These increasing export volumes have been supported by larger domestic beef production which is up nine per cent so far this year,” said Rob.

“While new markets do occasionally open to Canadian beef,” he continued, “what is often more significant to the industry is the expansion or liberalization of trade with existing markets. For example, on June 28th of this year, Mexico announced that, effective October 1st, the full range of Canadian beef products will be eligible for import. Then, on July 8th, Taiwan reopened its borders to boneless and bone-in beef from cattle under 30 months of age.”

Both Mexico and Taiwan had previously banned imports of Canadian cattle and beef, after the 2003 outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The resumption of trade is a testament to the fact that the Canadian beef industry produces safe, high quality beef.

Why beef exports matter

Rob explained that exports allow producers to add value to their products by giving them access to customers who use different parts of the carcass than Canadian customers do. “In fact, over the last 10 years, export markets have added an average of $510 per head of additional value,” he said.

For an industry that contributes $33 billion worth of sales of goods and services, either directly or indirectly, to the Canadian economy, it’s clear that exports represent a valuable part of the business. And of course exports allow millions of people across the world to enjoy our beautiful Alberta beef!

4 stats and 4 facts about cattle feeders and the economy

Drive anywhere around Alberta, and you’ll see that familiar sight of rolling grain fields and pastures filled with cattle. They’re part of what makes this province so beautiful, but they’re also important for their role in feeding people and the economy. This week on this blog, we’re going to take a look at the financial contribution the sector, and in particular cattle feeding, makes to Alberta’s economy.

Four ways the cattle feeding business benefits all Albertans

Agriculture in Alberta is big business, and cattle feeding is an important part of that. Here are a few ways cattle feeders contribute to the economy:

  • Cattle feeders are responsible for 18 per cent of all agricultural production in Alberta, which totals over $5 billion.
  • Every $1 spent in the cattle feeding sector generated $2.40 for the province of Alberta as a whole.
  • Cattle feeding generated a production value of $1 billion. This represents a $355 million contribution to provincial GDP.
  • Cattle feeding employed (directly and indirectly across the beef value chain) some 12,000 people, generating $470 million in employment income.

Four interesting facts about that contribution

Waste not, want not.

Cattle feeders contribute to the economy by producing a product that has value (beef). But along the way, they also improve the value of other farmers’ products. They do this is by using feedstuffs (barley, wheat, corn, potatoes and even carrots) that fail to meet the grade for human consumption. If it weren’t for operations such as cattle feeders, all of this product would likely go to waste.

Adding value.

The importance of any industry to the economy is related to the amount of added value it generates in addition to the original product. In the beef industry, the cattle are bred right here in Alberta, and then, thanks to the presence of Alberta cattle feeders, they usually stay in the province throughout the production chain, until they are ultimately purchased by beef processors. Without question, beef is the most valuable value-added agriculture product that is produced in Alberta.


Because we usually produce more beef than we can eat here in Canada, we are also able to export beef to places like the US, Mexico, Korea, and Japan. When that beef is exported, it commands a high price and boosts the provincial economy.

Healthy people, healthy economy.

The health and potential of any economy is directly related to the health, well-being, education and skills of its citizens. When people aren’t healthy, economic production goes down, and healthcare costs go up. Beef is a very good source of zinc, protein and iron, and part of a healthy and balanced diet. Beef fuels economic value that way too!

For more facts about feedlot operations, check out ‘Feedlot facts: five things you might not know’ and ‘Three things you should know about Canadian beef’.