A rancher-owned beef brand in B.C. is a step closer to reality with the lease of a federally inspected packing plant.
The plan to launch a B.C. Beef brand is moving ahead after several years of work by the province’s beef industry, with the project’s steering committee announcing its lease of the KML processing plant at Falkland, signed on Oct. 1.
“I’m very excited about the prospects of it for B.C. producers,” Kevin Boon, general manager of B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, told Country Life in B.C. in early October. “I think this is a huge opportunity for them. We will never get a better chance at a more reasonable buy-in than we are getting right now.”
By processing B.C.-raised beef and selling it locally, the goal of this new program is to offer the province’s producers greater financial benefits.
A steering committee of the province’s beef industry representatives originally explored the possibility of building a new packing plant specifically for this initiative. To do so would have cost up to an estimated $8 million, and the cost to initially operate the plant before making a profit would have been very high and taken a number of years.
As well, the committee’s study found that in order for a new facility to be financially viable, approximately 500 head per week would need to be sourced and slaughtered, and at this time the province’s finishing sector is unable to meet that demand.
Instead, the committee decided to lease a plant already in operation and source cull cows, allowing both beef and dairy producers in B.C. to take advantage of this program. These animals are to be sourced from Verified Beef Production Plus-certified farms and ranches to process into ground beef.
The terms of this lease will allow the plant to sell a portion of the beef coming into the facility through the KML brand.
BCCA led this initiative, working with other industry stakeholders to launch the B.C. Beef brand. However, a rancher-owned corporation, the B.C. Beef Producers, will hold the lease to the plant and provide leadership. The plant will be managed by Mark Ishoy, formerly the president of Ontario’s Eastern Meat Solutions.
The corporation is to have a maximum of 50 shareholders, who will be required to provide one animal each year per hook share. This system is designed to ensure the facility has a consistent supply of cattle for slaughter, something that Boon indicated to Country Life in B.C. can be an issue for rancher-owned processing groups. In addition to being paid market price for their cull cows, shareholders will receive any profits as dividends.