Why Value Systems are the Solution for the Ontario Beef Industry

Background

Production of beef in Ontario is much lower than required by the consumers of Ontario. In 2012 there were 626,598 beef animals harvested in Ontario plants for a total of 522,672,012 lbs on a carcass basis. The population of Ontario in 2012 was 13,445,408 and consumed 814,791,725 lbs of beef on a carcass equivalent.

There is a huge amount of beef imported from the USA and smaller amounts imported from other countries. Total imported beef into Ontario during 2012 was 401,472,267 lbs with a value of $1,151,731,371.

Many consumers want to support their "local" farmers and so consumers want to quickly identify and be certain on what qualifies as "Ontario" beef. In order to increase the consumption of "Ontario" beef, it must be consumer demand that pulls it through. A push by producers will not work unless they can supply a better product at a lower price.

A Value System Provides a Plan for the Industry

From an eagles perspective the beef industry appears to be disorganized, particularly when compared to other industries such as poultry and pork. Looking down into pastures or into pens of feedlot cattle, there are cattle of all colours and shapes, even in the same field and/or pen. In order to get some uniformity, calves going to auction marts are usually split into relatively small lots.

A value system would have a production protocol that would include a genetic plan and those cow herds involved in a value system would abide by the genetic program as part of the protocol for the Ontario branded product. A plan based on a value system would have a much different structure than is currently in place with the beef industry in Ontario.

Value Systems Could Satisfy Consumer Needs

The population in Ontario is very diverse with a large variation amongst groups of consumers. There are consumers who are health conscious so are looking for very lean meat, some who want grass fed beef and there are those who enjoy "quality" which generally translates to flavour and juiciness. Most consumers are looking for an acceptable level of tenderness. With consumers having various needs, there would have to be various value systems developed.

Most consumers are price conscious, at least to a point. There are a significant number of consumers who will pay a premium over commodity beef, if the product fits their needs. This premium would be shared amongst the partners involved in the production of the product.

Complete Traceability and Information Flow

A value system would be based on a traceability system that provides for identification of meat back to an individual animal. This system can be used to gain consumer confidence as DNA could be used to verify that a cut of meat came from a specific animal.

A traceability system provides a network for sharing information with the various components of the value chain. This information could be used to find efficiencies in the value system through improving genetics and refining the protocol. In addition to improving efficiency, the information can also be used to improve the quality of the product, such as tenderness but most importantly consistency.

Sustainable Production

Many organic producers are selling their beef direct to consumers, in some cases just from the freezer in their basement. However there are some opportunities for producers to work together to add value and profit. A value system will result in the production of a consistent product; find efficiencies, and improve the product.

There are currently funding programs through Growing Forward 2 and the Local Food Fund which apply to both individual producers and/or groups who will collaborate. Check out the OMAF website for further details.

Grass Fed Conference

Sustain Ontario will be hosting a Grass Fed Conference on Feb 26, 2014. Watch their website for more details.


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca