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News Roundup – for Sep. 6, 2010


Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health has been working hard this summer to put together an educational training resource for Canadian cattle producers and feedlot personnel who process and treat cattle. The comprehensive video/booklet package, titled “Cattle Processing — Guidelines for Success” will be offered at a number of producer meetings and gatherings across the country this fall.

“We’re excited to have another training resource that will assist producers in making informed decisions when it comes to implanting and working with livestock biologicals,” says Gord Roger, western sales manager for Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health. “This will be a great follow up to our previous training video, ‘Improve Your Penchecking Skills.’”

The video focuses on how to implant animals properly, as well as where and how to give vaccinations and injections in order to maintain the strict standards required by the Canadian beef industry. Verified Beef Production personnel were on hand to provide input in the making of the video, and well-respected bovine veterinarian and professor at the University of Calgary College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Eugene Janzen, agreed to be an on-camera presence.

For more information contact your local Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health representative or local veterinarian.


Taking advantage of new and growing specialized kosher and halal beef markets is an opportunity waiting to happen for Manitoba beef producers, according to a recently completed study by Interpoc Inc.

The 113-page report confirms the existence of a growing market for specialized beef products in Manitoba, Canada and overseas, driven by people who follow Jewish and Muslim religious food practices.

The report also identifies the need for new suppliers and the potential for developing new halal and kosher products such as seasoned and marinated meats, hamburgers, hotdogs, sausages, beef jerky and deli meats.”

The total halal meat market in Canada is estimated at $214 million and about $80 million of that is in beef products. Approximately one million Muslims currently live in Canada but the population is projected to reach 1.42 million by 2017.

The kosher beef market in Canada is estimated at $130 million based on national production and sales servicing approximately 400,000 Jews and kosher-product consumers of non- Jewish faith.

The largest proportion of Canada’s Jewish and Muslim populations live in Ontario and Quebec and the majority of the current supply of halal and kosher beef is provided by packers situated in Central Canada. Of the 28 federally inspected plants that produce beef, 11 are licensed to produce halal and kosher meat. Of those four are in Western Canada.

The halal and kosher market study is available by contacting Mamoon Rashid at 204-945-7557 or atmamoon. [email protected]


The odds of meeting the 2011 deadline for implementing a nationwide gate-to-plate traceability scheme don’t look good.

Industry sources meeting at the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) semi-annual convention in Calgary last month say problems with hardware and software are hindering progress in developing an effective system to scan RFID tags on cattle moving through auction marts, and generally, government has been slow to provide the money to back up its ambitious agenda.

“The government has their deadlines, and the CCIA has gone back to them with an implementation plan, but I think a lot of the deadlines are still up in the air as to where, when and how,” said Pat Hayes, a CCA director who sits on the board of the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA).

“One of the big things as we’ve said is, that it can’t impede the speed of commerce. That’s a sticking point for us. At present, the technology isn’t there to do it.”

A CCIA report released in June stated that a test run of a variety of commercially available RFID reader technology at eight auction markets found that read accuracy was “volatile” and fluctuated daily and weekly at different locations and with different group sizes.

In some cases, the rate of accuracy was as low as 78 per cent, said Hayes, well short of the government’s stated goal of 95 per cent. Concerns about software problems at the farm and feedlot level have been identified, and due to economies of scale, the burden on smaller operators is greater than for their larger rivals, he added.

“One of the things that has ticked off a lot of ranchers is the retention issue,” he said.

Some ranchers are not impressed with the quality of the tags from approved sources, and the fact that they are forced to buy them by regulations only adds to their anger. Seemingly small problems need to be resolved before traceability can move on to the next level, he added.

Past-CCA president Brad Wildeman said that although he supports traceability in principle, the present technology is too expensive, incapable of meeting the objectives, and has too many problems.

“Simply willing this thing to happen by making bold statements and veiled threats to the industry isn’t going to get it done,” said Wildeman.

Without tangible benefits, it simply adds to the existing regulatory burden, which already includes onerous rules for specified risk materials (SRMs) that aggravate the cattle sector’s poor international competitiveness.

An Alberta study that installed tracking equipment from one supplier in several auction markets may provide a better prognosis once it is released later this month. For the moment, Rick Frederickson, a senior manager with the traceability division of Alberta Agriculture would only say, “I think we had a fairly successful project. We have some good data there and I think we’ve got a pretty good idea of the reading capability.”

Where errors did occur they weren’t necessarily the fault of the technology. Sometimes it was improperly applied tags, or tags that were simply duds. “There are some gaps that I think we can address,” he said.

In the meantime, the money keeps flowing for traceability. The governments of Canada and Alberta are providing more than $2 million to the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) to help Alberta’s beef producers with age-verification and traceability initiatives. This funding will ensure CCIA mobile field representatives remain available for the next two years to assist producers across the province.


Canadian beef producers turned an eye to Mexico in July after that country ended 10 years of anti-dumping duties on U. S. beef.

The duties ranging from three to 29 cents (US$) per pound applied to about half of U. S. beef production, which steered some U. S. companies away from Mexico’s market, according to the U. S. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).

Mexico remained the leading destination for U. S. beef exports, but total beef/beef variety meat sales declined 27 per cent in volume and 35 per cent in value in 2009. In 2010 Mexico has been the only major market trailing the previous year’s results, according to the U. S. Meat Export Federation.

Canada exported 44,867 tonnes of beef products to Mexico in 2009 compared to about 291,700 tonnes from the U. S., but Canada’s share of the trade has been picking up steam of late. Unofficial import reports show a 33 per cent increase in volume to 24,684 tonnes for Canadian beef and veal to Mexico in the first half of 2010. More important, the value of the shipments increased by 50 per cent from US$61.7 to $94.6 million compared to the first half of 2009.

It remains to be seen if the lifting of duties on U. S. shipments will spread a chill over Canada’s export efforts.

Ted Haney, the president of the Canada Beef Export Federation, is cautiously optimistic. “There will some slight negative effect on the competitiveness of Canadian beef exports to Mexico,” he says. “But we do not think that this will negatively affect our trade volumes or values in any significant way.”

He says some American beef processors have been exempt from Mexico’s anti-dumping duties for years while others have duties assessed to some of products such as bone-in cuts but not boneless and offal.

The U. S. Trade Representative’s national trade estimate report on foreign trade barriers estimated the duties had caused losses of $100 million to $500 million per year due to reduced and altered beef traffic, the NCBA said.

In its Beltway Beef blog, the NCBA left little doubt as to whom it blamed for Mexico’s 1998 decision to impose the duties.

The blog cited NCBA chief economist Gregg Doud as saying Mexico’s decision that year had been a direct reaction to the move from R-CALF USA, a protectionist U. S. ranchers’ group, to pursue anti-dumping cases of its own against Mexican and Canadian feeder cattle.

“We told them not to do it. We told them Mexico would retaliate and win. They didn’t listen and it happened,” Doud was quoted as saying, adding that “this unfortunate 1998 debacle was imposed by a group in our very own industry.”

Meanwhile, Canadian exports continue to show renewed strength in most major markets. The unofficial January to June import reports show a 99 per cent increase in volume and 79 per cent increase in value to Japan, Taiwan sales are up 52 per cent for the first half of the year at an 88 per cent higher value while Hong Kong/Macao sales increased by 86 per cent in volume and 124 per cent in value.


Pat Rutledge, a cattle producer from Monitor, Alta., was good enough to send us his reflections from the International Livestock Identification Association (ILIA) conference held in late July in Calgary.

Listening to the speakers from around the world they either accidentally or by design made a good case for animal traceability.

The first speaker, Dr. Jere Dick, an associate deputy administer with the United States Department of Agriculture, pointed out that if Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) was introduced into five locations in the U. S. it would be five days before any animal would be diagnosed. By then animals from those five locations would have spread to 23 states. It would take another four days before they could issue a stop movement order on all livestock in the U. S. By then 1.6 million cattle would be infected. The only good news from this particular example was that none reached Canada. Would we have the border closed in time? Like Canada they are working towards a national traceability system to minimize the effect on the industry should such an event happen. The U. S. goal is to be able to trace an animal within seven days, 95 per cent of the time. At the moment they are a long way off that.

Dr. Martine Dubuc, the vice-president of the science department of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) told us they have 7,000 employees (the biggest bureaucracy in the country) protecting the Canadian food system now and in the foreseeable future. In her view traceability positions the food system for effective risk management. With the Canadian program we would have a fast, targeted response to a disease outbreak, if it were to occur. So the CFIA goal is to reduce the number of animals that need to be slaughtered and reduce the length of any trade embargos.

She says CFIA is working on a huge database to collect information from the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) and Alberta’s Livestock Identification Services (LIS) and other players to provide feedback as needed.

Dr. David Fly, state veterinarian for New Mexico, indicated branding is mandatory in that state. So they have a pretty good brand-traceability system. It is not perfect, as it does not track individual animals. As in Canada, brands in the U. S. are not registered nationally so the same brand could be used in various states. In some cases up to 10 per cent of animals have multiple brands. He mentioned cattle from Mexico come in with tags. However, rodeo cattle lose their tags fairly quickly. They move around a lot so have the potential to transmit disease and really are not traceable. They have done some work on eye retinal scans but it is a lot of work to do this type of identification. They have tried electronic-chipped rumen boluses for animal identification but that technology needs work as well. So they will likely use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, similar to those used in Canada.

Next we heard from Dr. Alejandro Ramirez, the manager of the State of Chihuahua Animal Health Committee in Mexico. The state borders Texas and New Mexico. He says they have an effective state program that utilizes metal tags, and stores information online through an organization called SICOMORA. Chihuahua exports a large percentage of its cattle to the U. S. If any disease problems arise the border can be closed quickly, and Mexican cattle are suddenly worth 50 per cent less than they were the day before. There are 61,000 Chihuahua producers with a premise ID. Every animal tag number can be quickly traced through the Internet. This program is producer driven and designed mainly for disease traceback.

Dr. Ted Schroeder from Kansas State University pointed out that producers tend to focus on costs of a program. In reality cost-benefit is more realistic. So what are the benefits? Are markets opened as a result of RFID traceability? Are there trust issues? Would some customers pay more for beef if there were some sort of certification of traceability? It raised some eyebrows in the U. S. when Canada signed a beef deal with China. At the moment Kansas imports 80,000 head of cattle per week from all over the U. S., Mexico and Canada. How could they hope to trace an individual animal with their present system? In 2004 Schroeder says the U. S. lost about $3.5 billion as a result of closed borders. That’s about $9.5 million per day. The World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) has indicated that we need to have world- wide traceability. It’s the new global standard. Three reasons: trust, animal health and zoonotics (transfer of disease from animals to people)

Dr. Jill Hobbs, an economist from University of Saskatchewan says when food retailers are held responsible for health outbreaks they begin to make demands down the supply chain. So the new buzz is identification — traceability — verification. Traceability may lead to increased competitiveness and lead to increased marketability. When looked at as private good verses public good she says there may be an argument for public funding for some of the extra costs.

Glenn Brand with Beef Information Centre (BIC) says animal traceability does not rank high as a consumer concern in North America. Only three to four per cent of people surveyed believed it is important. Food safety ranks about ten times higher. So unless consumers connect food safety with traceability it is not an issue in Canada or the U. S. And this may be part of the problem in the field, when defining what animal traceability is.

Jose-Luis Bretones, director of Global Supply for McDonald’s, says they serve 2.5 million hamburgers in Canada and 60 million in the U. S. per day. Customer trust is important for their business. McDonald’s needs to meet customer expectations each and every time they serve a meal. They use 1.6 billion pounds of beef and 1.3 billion pounds of chicken per year plus 3.1 billion pounds of potatoes and yet do not drive the industry.

The EU is running out of beef but they are still fussy about imported product. McDonald’s needs to have product safety at competitive, predictable prices. For them it is not necessarily the lowest price that is important but predictable prices together with value and quality. They try to buy locally as much as possible when sourcing ingredients but need to be flexible in case of sourcing emergencies. Russia and China do not have enough animals to supply McDonald’s markets in those regions. Brazil has a small number of large companies that are gaining huge markets through consolidation. This will change the industry for McDonald’s in the near future. The company now spends a considerable amount of time on animal welfare issues (the trust factor).

Gordon Cove, the CEO of the Alberta Livestock Marketing Agency says some customers are willing to pay extra for a guarantee of tenderness. Goldfinch Canada is doing research on hyperspectral testing to identify tender animals.

Garry Edwards, an Australian director of the Alberta company Integrated Traceability Solutions, claims traceability leads to market access, price competition, domestic food safety, disease traceability and income profitability. Premise ID is necessary for a traceability program. Electronic ID is more efficient than other methods but tough performance standards are required to make a program successful. Edwards says to be effective tags should be able to be read as animals run up a chute. No exceptions. Also, a national database with data integrity is an important component of any program. The system also needs to operate at the speed of commerce. A standardized platform is required for an effective program.

What about program delivery? Edwards suggested that a private program is preferred to a government-run operation. Governments are good at developing regulations but are not good at running businesses.

In addition, the program should be linked to the present tracking system such as brands. Set the bar high and let people meet expectations, do not keep lowering the bar. Shift the focus to cost-benefit, not cost alone. You need to be able to scan at the speed of commerce and have the ability to correct errors quickly. In the Australian program it takes 30 seconds to a minute to send 1,000 records

Brent McEwan is the executive director of the traceability division of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. He says premise ID and animal ID are required to have a traceability system. From his perspective the government brought in traceability to speed up commerce. For example, if importer countries closed their borders to trade the traceability system would minimize the time that the border might be closed; if would also minimize the number of animals that would have to be eliminated in case of a disease outbreak. Another area of support for the system might be useful in case of an environmental disaster where animals need to be located quickly. This, however, might be reaching a bit.

All in all this was an interesting conference and the organizers should be congratulated.



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