FROM ON THE HOOF TO ON THE PLATE|
Story by Trudy Frisk
Photo courtesy of David Haywood-Farmer
Transforming Canadian beef on the hoof to beef on a plate, especially when that plate is in a foreign country, requires close collaboration between several industry groups and government agencies.
In the summer of 2012 David Haywood-Farmer, President of the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, joined a trade mission to Asia to encourage the sale of B.C. beef. David, who ranches near Kamloops, thoroughly understands the complexities of beef production.
The mission, which visited Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo, and Seoul, was organized by Canada’s New West Partnership. The Partnership, an economic and trade agreement between B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, is mandated to “...advance the Provinces’
shared initiatives and interests; to strengthen and promote the West in the global economy. The three Western provinces commit to pursue international opportunities and initiatives, including trade events, trade missions and co-located offices. “
Joining David as representatives of Western beef producers were the President of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, and, representing Alberta, the Vice-President of
the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. All three are active cattle ranchers.
“We were a little apprehensive when we went, “David recalls, “but, after ten busy days together, we were all the best of friends. “
“The government set up meetings with people keen on Canadian beef; buyers, distributors, and retailers. It was a chance for these customers to meet genuine ranchers.” Interpreters were present at all meetings. The three cattlemen made presentations describing how beef is raised in the Canadian west. “We explained what we do, how we work with the environment, and how we are sustainable.” David emphasizes. “Questions which arose after the presentations were mostly supply related; regarding availability, what our capacity was, whether we could meet their needs. “
“Canada Beef Inc. is our connection to that Asian market. I was very impressed with the work they do. They do a very good job for us though they have few people there. Our role was to support what they were doing. “
Canada Beef Inc. is the marketing arm of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association for both domestic and offshore trade. It is organized on a national level, with the head office in Calgary. It maintains offices in other countries as well. The South-East Asian market is serviced from offices in Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei.
Grant Huffman, a rancher at Riske Creek, B.C, and a Board member of Canada Beef Inc.,
explained the distinction between that group and the Canadian Cattlemen’s’ Association. “The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association is involved in actual trade negotiations. It is responsible for opening up new markets and maintaining the ones we already have. The Association copes with quotas, tariff barriers, dumping and unfair competition. It works with government to open or increase access to clients abroad. “
“The marketing, “Grant continues, “is done by Canada Beef Inc. Once access has been obtained into any foreign market, it’s up to Canada Beef Inc. to provide promotion and marketing. “
Ron Glaser from Canada Beef’s head office described the funding: “Basic funding comes from the check-off system, under which $1.00 from each beef sold comes to our office. It brings in about $7 million yearly. We leverage those dollars to obtain other money from government funding or private partnerships. This income, which funds all our operations, some nationally and some locally, is shared between marketing, promotion and research on production and quality. There are many needs and opportunities in an industry so diverse. We look for the greatest return on investments, so we operate fairly lean.”
“The markets are always in play.” Ron commented. “They ebb and flow. The 2008
global economic downturn affected them as did the BSE scare. Herd size ebbs and flows depending on markets. So, we focus on maximizing value for the volume we have. “
“In our overseas operations we connect buyers and sellers, help Canadian exporters link up with markets, and make sure products clear the borders and that exporters secure payments. We work very closely with the trade commissioners in Canadian Embassies
in those countries.”
During the 2012 trade mission to Asia David Haywood-Farmer was very impressed with the Canadian Embassies, especially the one in Japan. “We were well received and well looked after. It was very good to see the Canadian Embassy presence there. “
Their first stop was in Hong Kong. “I’d been told that Hong Kong was the very start of trade in Asia. It amazed me how true that was. The presence of Canada Beef Inc. was strongest in Hong Kong. “
Beijing, though in the same country, didn’t have quite the same feeling. “We were very well received in Beijing. It’s a major opportunity, with such a large populace. However, there’s a lot of work to be done. It may take time to develop a market there. “
“Japan, our second stop, was very successful. It was great to be there. We had a feeling that they were responding. The beef buyers and the people of Japan were really looking for some grain fed beef. We were very optimistic.”
Several months later, in January 2013, Japan relaxed import beef restrictions, permitting imports of beef from cows up to thirty months old. Since 2005 only beef under twenty months had been allowed. It’s estimated that under the new regulations beef exports to Japan will rise to between $l40 million and $l50 million a year, double what they’ve been.
The Canadian government pointed to the new rules as a positive result of trade delegations. David agrees. ” I feel we really accomplished something. Working together we both made connections, and put a face to the beef industry in Western Canada. “
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