The Canada Gold Beef Inc. (CGB) pilot project is on schedule to start marketing branded beef in Canada next month.
By the end of February close to 22,000 CGB registered calves were in participating feedlots in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. At the other end of the value chain CEO Frank Goetz had one retailer and one food service outlet lined up and was expecting to have a packer on board sometime this month.
“From May on, we will have a signifi cant rollover, marketing out 5,500 head a month and bringing in 5,500 head a month,” says Goetz. Their target for the project year is 66,000 head, a number large enough to create a year-round consistent supply of product to test out all phases of the value chain.
“Being a pilot project, our focus is on Canadian consumers,” says Goetz. “We are looking at other opportunities for the future, but we have to have a controllable environment for the pilot project so we can adjust operations as needed as we expand into full business mode.”
“We expect and plan to have customers lined up for our products.”
To those who say pricier branded product won’t work in the mainstream beef market, Goetz points to the 88 branded beef lines sanctioned by USDA that now account for 20 to 30 per cent of U. S. retail sales. With more than 30 years of experience in value-added meat marketing. Goetz is aware of what it takes to bring new products to the marketplace.
CGB is tailored to fit the global marketplace but there is plenty of room for growth here at home. Canadians only eat 30 kilograms of beef per year, about 10 kilograms short of what Americans consume. Closing that gap alone would require pretty well all the beef we exported in 2008.
CGB’s ability to influence, adapt, control and add value at each step gives it a competitive advantage, says Goetz.
CGB was incorporated in June of 2008 as a private, for-profit corporation but Goetz describes the business model as a co-operative vertical alignment. To date he says there are a significant number of shareholders, all connected to the beef industry. They opened an office in Picture Butte, Alta., staffed by Goetz, program administrator Tess Pitchko and Mike Pollard, who looks after producer relations and logistics. Technical consultant Dr. Joyce Van Donkersgoed developed the HACCPbased production protocols and auditing system.
Participation by feedlots has been great, Goetz says, but cow-calf producers tend to take more of a wait-and-see attitude and CGB has been actively hosting producer meetings in Alberta, B. C. and Saskatchewan to explain their program this winter. Participation is open to cow-calf producers and feedlots anywhere in Canada.
It’s not necessary to be a shareholder to sell cattle in the value chain. Producers purchase participation units for each animal they market through CGB. These cost $13.50 per animal based on a 1,300-pound finished weight and are shared between the cow-calf producer, backgrounder and feedlot owner.
Producers can commit all or part of their production and either sell the cattle outright, retain ownership or participate in a pen-share arrangement. Cow-calf producers must commit at least 50 head and feedlots must have at least a 1,000-head capacity. All calves and yearlings entered into the program must be age-and sourceverifi ed with the Canadian Cattle Identifi cation Agency and be born, raised and fed in Canada.
The production protocols involve sound management practices with which most producers are familiar, Goetz says.
A valid veterinarian-client relationship is the all-important first step. Veterinarians need to complete a course and exam to become certified by CGB as they and the producer are key cogs in implementing the program’s herd health, treatment, processing, animal care, breeding, rangeland management, environmental standards and certified transportation protocols. The big thing is documentation. Once everything is in place, you’re ready to market your calves through the CGB value chain.