Beef, pork producers watch home markets as exports grow

Both sectors have adopted strategies to increase domestic consumer demand

shopper at a beef display in grocery store

While they’re major players in overseas markets, Canada’s beef and pork sectors also want to stop losing domestic market share to imports, industry representatives told the Canadian Meat Council annual conference.

“Imports continue to flow into Canada,” said Derrick Ash, director of national marketing for Canada Pork. Domestic pork consumption dropped by five per cent in 2013 and imports now account for 29 per cent of pork sales in Canada compared to 25 per cent in 2011. More information on the reasons for that growth is needed.

“We’re trying to rebuild Canadian market share by displacing imports, by increasing consumer demand for Canadian pork,” he added. Canada Pork was created last year as a producer and processor initiative to build that demand much as Canada Pork International has done for foreign sales. “We’re making progress on several fronts.”

pork chops
Pork accounts for 64 per cent of Canada’s total exports. photo: Thinkstock

A Verified Canadian pork label has been developed along with some new products. Canada Pork also plans to work on educating consumers and look for new ways to promote pork cuts.

Robert Serapiglia, director of business innovation for Canada Beef, said his organization “is aiming for a sustainable relationship with consumers. We want to promote the Canadian beef advantage and stress the excellence of our meat.”

His group will use its Canada brand to drive innovation and build consumer communications,” he noted. It has developed a video that shows how cattle are raised on farms across Canada with producers explaining their approach.

Canada Beef aims to get more farmers involved in promoting the sector and engaging with consumers, he said. “We want to find the sweet spot in the process.”

The drop in the value of the loonie compared to the U.S. dollar has helped ease the pressure of imports but the beef industry needs to keep working on the home front as well as exports, he added. As well, the industry will have to cope with tight cattle supplies through 2015.

Canada Brand will also be looking for global opportunities to build demand for Canadian beef, he said. The industry is using its Centre of Excellence in Calgary to look for ways to build business and connections.

Ash noted that pork accounts for 64 per cent of Canada’s total exports with beef at 32 per cent and poultry 18 per cent. About two-thirds of the pork exports are shipped to the United States and Japan. Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba account for 84 per cent of the pork production.

While the growth in exports has been a welcome development for the industry, “if any of our traditional markets closed, we couldn’t consume all the pork we produce annually.”

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