Increased traceability could result in better beef

The province gave nearly $1 million at the beginning of summer to family-owned meat processor VG Meats and quality food retailer Longos, to further develop their part of Ontario’s beef market. That kind of support seems huge now, especially given how beef prices have skyrocketed. But it won’t always be that way. Prices will come down when supply catches up to demand. And this province values homegrown products that consumers want, like beef.

VG Meats and an organization called Value Chain Management International (VCMI) believe quality and traceability are intrinsically linked. In fact, the latter would like to see traceability programs instituted across the board on Ontario, similar to the one VG instituted voluntarily, to promote product quality. VCMI says a traceability program would enable producers and downstream businesses to use traceability as a management tool, and enable the industry to capture new and preferred markets in North America and abroad. Canada does have a cattle identification system in place. But VCMI says the current system’s main goal is to prevent diseased meat from being exported. It ignores on-premise identification, or mandatory recording of animal transportation.

VG Meats is owned and operated by the Van Groningen family.

VG Meats is owned and operated by the Van Groningen family.

Being able to brand and then trace beef from farm to fork has shown to have pockets of success in Ontario, with companies such as VG Meats, where herds are typically smaller and such efforts may be easier to manage than a huge western Canadian herd. But even some of Canada’s biggest producers are average in size by U.S. and South American commercial herd standards. We’re not too big in this country for a traceability program that takes current efforts to the next level. But will we?

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Thinking local about beer and wine

Lack of access seems to be behind the surprising results of a study showing

With craft breweries on the rise, it's easy to find Ontario-brewed beer; often brewed with locally sourced ingredients.

With craft breweries on the rise, it’s easy to find Ontario-brewed beer; often brewed with locally sourced ingredients.

Canadians overall aren’t thinking local when purchasing beer and wine. The survey by a group called LoyaltyOne showed that less than 40 per cent of shoppers said it was very to somewhat important that beer is produced or sourced local, with 35 per cent for wine. Compared to fruits and vegetables, these numbers are miniscule – 98 per cent of shoppers saying it’s very to somewhat important that these commodities are local.

The survey also found nearly half of the respondents said they’d pay 15 to 30 per cent more for local food, and more than 85 per cent said they’d increase their monthly grocery spending if local food alternatives were available. But do we ever buck that trend when it comes to beer and wine. Most of us are searching for bargains, chiding local producers for not being able to offer more competitively priced products.

Look for Ontario-produced wine, marked with the VQA logo at the LCBO and in many grocery stores.

Look for Ontario-produced wine, marked with the VQA logo at the LCBO and in many grocery stores.

But there’s no much more to the price of beer and wine than meets the eye, though, particularly given the way governments impose sin taxes. Plus there’s the price of land to grow the grapes, hops and other raw commodities, labour, distribution, marketing, etc. Many producers think the LCBO should do more to help them reach consumers, given that local alternatives to imported beer and wine are available year-round. Some branches do — the Scottsdale LCBO in Guelph does a good job of promoting local, and has built a following with its Ontario Riesling challenge. More LCBO outlets should follow its example, particularly given what consumers say is the biggest impediment to local food sales: that is, access.

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Here’s some help putting Ontario pork on your fork

Growing local food is a farmer’s everyday job, and it’s also a major buying decision for certain commodities, including meat. Ontario Pork’s fledgling branding campaign capitalizes on this. The campaign clearly and simply identifies Ontario-produced pork, and it’s having a growth spurt: Earlier this month, Ontario Pork and Loblaws®, Zehrs®, valu-mart® and Your Independent Grocer® stores in Ontario announced Ontario-grown and processed pork products in close to 300 stores across the province will start being identified by Ontario Pork labels on product packaging and through flyer advertising.

Kevin Mosser, Ontario Pork retail and food service marketing specialist, attributes the increased interest in part to the rising price of beef, which has consumers wanting to incorporate pork into their meals more often. Mosser says this factor, combined with the growing interest of shoppers and diners to support the local economy, presents an opportunity to promote the efforts of Ontario farmers – after all, 98 per cent of hog farms are family owned and operated, and have long been associated with community support. Pork producers are among the most committed sponsors of research. They’re progressive farmers and they have a tradition of staying ahead of the curve.

That’s what Ontario Pork is doing with this new campaign: trying to give retail and food service partners an opportunity to promote and support locally raised pork, which may not always be obvious. “It can understandably be daunting at the grocery store for consumers to know where the pork they are buying comes from,” says Mosser.”With this point-of-sale campaign, consumers can feel comfortable knowing that products carrying the Ontario pork label have been raised by a local farmer.”

Similar to the familiar Foodland Ontario logo, consumers can now easily identify Ontario pork products.

Similar to the familiar Foodland Ontario logo, consumers can now easily identify Ontario pork products.

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