While the term “mega-agency” has been used to describe Canada Beef Inc. (CBI), its very first president prefers to think in smaller, more specialized terms.
“It’s funny, you know, I’ve heard that ‘mega-agency’ term and frankly, I see it a little bit differently. I see it more from a boutique point of view. We’re going to be a lot more focused,” said Robert Meijer, the new president of CBI.
Meijer has worked for Cargill Canada for the last eight years as director of corporate affairs and government relations. He started with Canada Beef in early August.
During his time with Cargill, Meijer says he had the opportunity to learn about many agricultural sectors, but the cattle business captured his heart.
“The beef industry really caught my attention and I have developed quite a passion for it. It’s one of those sectors that has still a lot of great growth potential,” he said.
“I just find myself in a very unique and exciting time within the industry and I couldn’t resist but put my hand up.”
CBI is a merger between the Canada Beef Export Federation (CBEF), the Beef Information Centre (BIC) and the National Check-off Agency. Meijer was on the transition team and says the new agency will have the opportunity to advance the positive work of the former agencies.
“I think CBEF and BIC did a number of things well and our intent is to capture and bring synergies to the value they brought and in doing so, and really fine tuning where we can bring greater resource application and extraction of value from an end-use partner perspective, reaching the consumer right back through the value chain and getting into the jeans and pockets of the cow-calf producer who needs to share in much of the reward in creating value within the industry,” he said.
CBI will have its work cut out for it; in the post-BSE years, there have been countless efforts to produce a trickle-down effect to the cow-calf producer. “There’s no doubt it’s been a challenge and when you look at an organization like Canada Beef, we’re really going to have to play a role to extract and identify new and innovative ways to bring value to the industry,” Meijer said.
For the Canadian cattle industry, it is a brave, new world. The loonie is hovering around par with the U.S. greenback. Trading partners are being reestablished as the memory of the first BSE discovery fades. Equally influential, those tough BSE years have shrunk the cow herd, creating a new hunger and price increases not seen in several years.
With cautious optimism, the industry plods forward, likely into another recession led by Canada’s most important beef importer, the U.S. “The world is a tough place as you know, and it’s not just in Canada,” he said. “We’ve got recessionary pressures, we’ve got drought, we’ve got wars, we’ve got currency items, we’ve got non-tariff trade barriers and I could go on forever. The consumer is becoming more educated, but that education is not always based on fact and so when you put all of those items into a bucket and you look at what you’ve got, you have to come back to the core. And that is, ‘What are we really good at?’”
As it turns out, Meijer believes the Canadian cattle industry is good at a lot of things and his vision for CBI revolves around the industry’s strengths. “Our job at the end of the day is going to be to get the most value for the product and to create the most demand for that product. And I’m quite excited about that because from a boutique perspective, when you can narrow your focus, you can get really good at a lot of really great things and that’s what I am excited about,” he said.