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.
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?