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The Fundamental Challenge For The Beef Industry

Excerpts from an opinion published in the Oct. 12 issue of Alberta Farmer Express. The Beef Industry Alliance (BIA) is made up of Alberta Cattle Feeders Association, Western Stock Growers Association, Canadian Legacy Partners, Border Beef and the Alberta Feeders Association. It says several other organizations across Western Canada are expected to join soon. In Alberta, the BIA has successfully lobbied for the checkoff for Alberta Beef Producers, the largest provincial cattle organization, to be changed from compulsory to refundable.

The Beef Industry Alliance (BIA) Roundtable has come together to ask one simple question: Can we as a beef industry in Western Canada do better?

Clearly the answer to this question is yes! As an industry, we have marched down a single low-cost commodity track. Our pricing is determined by U. S. markets. We have very few processing and marketing options. Little product differentiation or product development is taking place. There are no distinctive Canadian beef brands available to consumers both within and outside of Canada. Meanwhile our costs of production are rising, including the regulatory burden which makes it increasingly difficult for us to compete as a pure commodity player.

The BIA Roundtable holds a fundamental conviction that the domestic and export markets offer more opportunities than what are being realized by the industry’s current commodity strategy. Quite simply, we must find ways to do better. Our future depends on it. To this purpose, the BIA is committed to addressing the fundamental challenge. For more information see A New Vision – A New Plan (www.bia.com).

Canada is a world leader as a beef-producing nation. We have some of the best genetics, leading producers; and most importantly – the best beef you can taste! It is an industry that we are proud to be part of.

Yet our industry is under great pressure. Financial returns are not sufficient to sustain let alone maintain the industry. Cattle numbers are on the decline. Producers are leaving the industry. If this situation does not improve soon, our industry will shrink and become a shadow of what it once was or what it could be, as the world demand for meat protein grows.

The BIA Roundtable is committed to creating new value and new opportunities for our industry. Many issues need to be addressed to build these strategies including: (1) understanding what consumers are looking for and what needs are not being met; (2) identifying new export markets that look for qualities and attributes not being supplied; (3) developing new marketing programs and long-term relationships with partners that are looking to differentiate; (4) facilitating processing solutions that deliver value to customers; (5) building business structures that share both benefits and risks in doing so, distribute value to producers; and (6) addressing the regulatory burden that imposes unnecessary costs to the industry.

Most importantly the BIA Roundtable is convinced that value and dollars are being left on the table. To change this situation, the BIA Roundtable is committed to working diligently to develop new approaches that address what consumers are looking for and to bring more value back to producers. This will require focus, highly skilled marketing efforts, dedicated processing and direct links back to producers.

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