Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability


Six reasons to join the Canadian Beef Sustainability Acceleration Pilot

Cargill leadership outlines why producers should consider participating

Posted: Nov 10, 2017

There's no doubt it has created interest. And depending on who you talk to, it could be the biggest opportunity the beef industry has had in years.

Canada is taking the lead internationally for the building of a brand around beef sustainability. Beef producers will get a chance to get in on the program early by participating in the Canadian Beef Sustainability Acceleration Pilot.

Cargill has partnered with the VBP+ and the Beef InfoXchange System (BIXS) to launch the Acceleration Pilot. Starting in October 2017 and running for at least one year, it's designed to build a dependable cattle supply, ready when a beef sustainability brand is launched.

Emily Murray oversees the McDonald's beef portfolio for Cargill in Canada and the U.S. and has been a leader in the brand development work to date. She says there are at least six good reasons why it will make sense for Canadian beef producers to consider participating in the pilot.

1. The concept is proven. As a quick recap, the McDonald's Canada sustainable beef pilot project from 2014 to 2016 proved that verifying general sustainability practices on-farm and tracing beef through a Canadian supply chain could be done in a way that was understandable to consumers, says Murray.

The Canadian Roundtable on Sustainable Beef (CRSB) is building a brand standard on how to validate that an operation is sustainable and what the terms are for making that claim.

2. We need volume to succeed. Strong interest in a concept does not always translate into scale in the market, says Murray. "You can create a standard and launch a logo, but if you don't have the cattle numbers behind it to meet requirements then we are not going to get anywhere very fast.

"The new pilot is intended to build volume," she says. "We know the fundamentals of the CRSB brand program will work so we don't need to wait until they are finished to get going on it. We need to get in front of consumers sooner than later."

3. There are benefits to participating. Build the industry, collect a reward. Those are two main reasons for producers to participate in the acceleration pilot.

There will be economic benefits. VBP+ Registered producers who sign up with BIXS for the pilot will receive a quarterly financial credit for every animal that moves through an entire verified marketing channel.

Producers are also helping build a viable industry longer term by helping Canada be on the leading edge of this sustainability movement.

4. There are solid partners in place and more to come. With VBP+ and BIXS, both of which Cargill has solid experience with in this work to date, Murray says the partners are in place to anchor success.

McDonald's and Swiss Chalet (Cara Foods) are also on board, funding the credits for beef delivered to their restaurants from fully sustainable supply chains.

Other partners – like restaurants, retailers and groups or organizations that can help promote the effort - are welcome," says Murray.

"If the consumer can see the brand in different places, then it won't be just industry talking to industry, it will be a connection with consumers."

5. There is urgency. Consumers want to eat beef, but they want to know how that animal was raised and how the environment was handled. They want to give themselves permission to enjoy the product, says Murray.

"We want to give them that confidence."

Consumers have access to a lot of diverse viewpoints, and if we do not reassure them then someone else will, she says.

"We want sustainability to count for something as CRSB has defined it, before somebody else defines it in another way."

6. It's easy to sign up. "We need producer help," says Murray. "We are going to do our best to get the word out on the importance of participating in this pilot, but we can't build scale alone.

"If you are VBP+ Registered and you participate, that's great and we thank you. But get others in your chain to participate as well. The real value of this effort is in fully sustainable supply chains."

There is no cost to participate. Producers simply get trained and audited by VBP+ to certify that they are a sustainable operation. They register with BIXS and provide permission for VBP+ and BIXS to include farm data in anonymous, aggregated reports to the project administration. And, of course, provide the necessary information to collect quarterly credit payments.

More information on the Acceleration Pilot is available at http://CBSApilot.ca or from a VBP+ coordinator at www.verifiedbeef.org.

Reprintable with credit. This article is available for reprint, with acknowledgement of the source as Meristem Land and Science, www.meristem.com.

Meristem is a Calgary-based communications firm that specializes in writing about western agriculture, food and land use. More articles at www.meristem.com.