So far, so good. That seemed to be the mood as 150 industry players recently gathered to mark Canada Beef Inc.’s first birthday.
“We learned a lot on the fly,” said president Rob Meijer. “I think structurally our business plan and vision is sound. It probably holds stronger today than a year ago when we designed it.”
The organization is a melding of the Canadian Beef Export Federation, the Beef Information Centre, and the National Check-off Agency. Its mandate is to boost sales of Canadian beef at home and abroad, without becoming involved in beef politics or policy.
Meijer has spent much of the past year trumpeting the need to sell more beef at higher prices.
“I think the greatest opportunities now for the Canadian industry and for beef products abroad, or even domestically for that matter, is our ability to finally extract from where the highest-value proposition value lies,” he said.
And premiums trump market share, he said.
“Let’s not worry about the country as a market, let’s look at it as a segment within the market and really try to own and create greater value,” said Meijer.
Greater efficiency and accountability are two other priorities for Canada Beef as checkoffs, brand inspection, RFID tags and other industry fees have been sources of discontent. Meijer said he’s always received positive feedback and support. The organization is funded by the $1 mandatory national checkoff and matching support from government and programs such as the Canadian Beef and Cattle Market Development Fund and will soon begin developing its next business plan for a second year of operation.
“We will consult with industry,” said Meijer. “We’re going to have some formal and informal industry advisory settings where we really sit down and try to figure out, based on our vision and our strategy, what some of the next tactical and priority steps are going to be.”
A cattle shortage and a growing global population hungry for beef is creating optimism, but industry organizations are closely monitoring Canada Beef’s performance, he said.
“They’re continuing to watch an organization like us and asking, ‘Are the dollars that we’re committing through the national checkoff being appropriately utilized? Are they creating value?’ Our responsibility as Canada Beef will be to show that value and transparently back it up,” said Meijer.
“I am confident that if they continue to give us the chance, we’ll continue to deliver upon their expectations.”
Alberta’s Chuck Maclean is the group’s incoming chair with Paul Sharpe of the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association as vice-chair. The regional directors are Grant Huffman (B.C.), Jack Hextall (Saskatchewan), Trevor Atchinson (Manitoba), Gib Drury (Quebec), and Jennifer MacDonald (Atlantic region) with John MacDonald and Terry Prescott serving as directors-at-large. Arthur Batista, Robert Bielak, Mike Kennedy and Brian Read will sit on the CMC committee, Scott Ellerton will represent the food service and retail sector, and Dwight Greer will represent the importer and exporter segment.