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4 reasons the National Beef Strategy is important to Canada

These are interesting times in the beef industry. Our producers face numerous challenges such as declining cattle numbers across the world and consumer concerns about environmental impacts and animal welfare. At the same time, new markets, including those in Asia and the Pacific region, are providing opportunities for industry expansion.

To ensure Canada’s beef producers are positioned to make the most of these opportunities — and overcome the challenges — industry organizations, including the National Cattle Feeders’ Association, came together to develop a National Beef Strategy. 

The goal of the strategy is to position Canadian beef producers for greater profitability and growth and to support their reputation for superior quality, safety, value, innovation and sustainable production methods.

The National Beef Strategy is based on four main pillars and goals:

#1 Beef Demand

To increase the value generated from each animal by 15 per cent. Recommendations include:

  • Product development and the use of under-valued cuts to maximize competitiveness
  • Building recognition and loyalty for the Canadian Beef Advantage brand
  • Pursuit of an ambitious international trade agenda
  • Increasing consumer confidence in food safety, quality and production practices
  • Communication of the sustainability message

 

#2 Competitiveness

To reduce cost disadvantages compared to main competitors by seven per cent:

  • Working with regulators to develop a supportive regulatory environment
  • Improving access to affordable resources such as skilled labour, animal health products, feed grains and forages and new technologies
  • Maintaining and enhancing research capacity
  • Continuous improvement in sustainability and efficient use of resources

 

#3 Productivity

To increase production efficiencies by 15 per cent through improvements in the following:

  • Genetic selection
  • Research and development
  • Enhanced information flow along the production chain through information technology and verification

 

#4 Connectivity

To improve communication within the industry and connect positively with consumers, the public, government and partner industries through:

  • Development of an industry communication strategy
  • Engagement with industry partners and stakeholders
  • Engagement with government, consumers, domestic and international organizations

 

“This strategy is something all stakeholders in the industry can buy into,” said Martin Unrau, co-chair of the National Beef Strategic Planning Group. “There’s strength in numbers and by working together we will build a stronger and more robust industry capable of meeting and responding to the opportunities now and into the future.”

You can read more about some of the challenges facing cattle feeders in ‘Pressing cattle feeders issues discussed with politicians during Ottawa trip’.

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.