Putting some meat on the bones of the beef industry ‘straw man’

Last year, a report analyzing the Canadian beef industry stimulated a discussion involving all sectors of the Canadian beef value chain at a summit last November. The outcome was that three of us with a solid knowledge of, but not a vested position in, the beef industry agreed to develop a draft industry strategy and bring our thoughts back for review and discussion.

We called our draft strategy a “straw man” — a term meaning a collection of thoughts and ideas, aimed at overcoming an issue/challenge opportunity.

In Calgary and again later in Toronto, we presented our thoughts to about 150 industry leaders from the entire spectrum of the Canadian beef supply chain. The recommendations met with solid approval and at the end of these sessions the straw men were instructed by participants to flesh out the recommendations in greater detail.

Below are excerpts from a letter that we forwarded to summit participants as a means of keeping industry informed of their most recent progress. The complete letter can be found on industry websites including alma.alberta.ca.

Dear beef industry champion,

This letter is to inform you of the progress of the “straw man” efforts to create and support a Canadian beef industry strategy that will assist all sectors of the beef value chain and capitalize on the emerging opportunity that lays before us.

To guide the expansion of this industry strategy a steering committee has been established representing key components of the beef value chain. This steering committee includes: Willie van Solkema, president of JBS Canada; Dennis Laycraft, executive VP of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association; Bryan Walton, general manager of the National Cattle Feeders’ Association; Rob Meijer, president of Canada Beef Inc. and Ken Clark, general manager of food retailer Overwaitea Food Group.

In addition to the steering committee, four task teams composed of 25 industry leaders from across the beef supply chain and throughout Eastern and Western Canada have stepped forward and agreed to provide their experience and put flesh on the bones of the key areas of the industry strategy. In addition to these 25 leaders, many others from all sectors of the industry have volunteered to “vet” the thoughts and new ideas coming forward in the task teams’ recommendations. The task teams and their areas of focus include:

  •  Information Flow Task Team — recommendations related to an information system(s) that will provide all members/components of the value chain with access to relevant information that will enhance profitability and competitiveness.
  •  Performance Measurements Task Team — this team is identifying industry targets, goals and measurement yardsticks that can be regularly reported to industry players.
  •  Canada Beef “Funding” Task Team — Canada Beef Inc. is the industry’s marketing and promotional arm. Presently it is funded by producer checkoff dollars matched with government funds. This task team is responsible for identifying potential means of attracting funding support from all components of the value chain and hopefully identifying recommendations that will increase the dollars (real and payment in kind) available.
  •  ‘One-Tongue’ Task Team — the beef industry is composed of many components each with its own thoughts and opinions. At times this causes both confusion and concern for stakeholders and governments. This task team will look at the major issues facing the industry and processes that will further enhance policy development and implementation effectiveness.

This fall, the recommendations of the task teams will be shared for all to hear. You and everyone within the entire Canadian beef industry are invited to attend sessions or participate online and share your opinions and help direct the course of action.

Not another organization

The Straw Man Canadian Beef Industry Strategy is NOT about creating another beef organization. It is all about working together to seize an emerging opportunity and deliver sustained profitability across the value chain. It is not about who should be selling or promoting our beef, or limiting what individual companies or producers may wish to achieve. This strategy is about working together to create the kind of operating climate we need as an industry to advance our individual business interests.

The BSE crisis is over, and the ability of governments to continue to provide the level of financial support of past years may be diminishing. While we have recovered remarkably, we continue to face other challenges such as mCOOL, a widening basis, and changing consumer values and expectations. Despite this there is also a great and increasing opportunity that can be realized with a uniquely Canadian, industry strategy.

Stay tuned for additional updates as the task teams complete their recommendations and as the details for the fall beef summits are determined.

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