Glacier FarmMedia – A new partnership with the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency will help Canada’s certified sustainable beef system find out where cattle are dropping out of the supply chain, according to the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.
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It will also allow producers to track certified animals through the value chain, said the CRSB.
Why it matters: Under CRSB standards, producers only get a premium for animals that stay on certified sites all the way from farm to processor, but there’s been little ability for cow-calf producers to know if an animal made it to the end of the line.
“The CRSB is pleased to work with CCIA, a long-time CRSB member and trusted industry partner, on this program improvement that will provide more clarity of CRSB requirements and allow greater success of the Certified Sustainable Beef Framework” said Ryan Beierbach, chair of the CRSB, in an Oct. 11 news release.
To become CRSB certified, producers must be audited by one of the organizations recognized by the CRSB (such as VBP+). Those audits check animal welfare, food safety and natural resource management practices, among other things, against the standards laid out by the CRSB. Producers are then paid a premium for their cattle.
In practice, there are speed bumps between the producer and the payday. Premiums are based on cattle that end their value-chain journey as CRSB-certified, a label that only applies to cattle that pass from the certified farm onto certified feedlots and processors. If the animal leaves the web of certified premises at any point in the value chain, they’re dropped from the system.
Combined with increases in the cost of an audit, that gap has limited returns for cow-calf producers in some cases.
In June 2022, nearly one-fifth of Canada’s beef cattle were raised on certified farms. Between 2018, when CRSB standards came into play, and that point, about 29 million pounds of beef had been sold through the system.
But that certified beef takes up much less than a fifth of all beef sold in Canada. Between July 2021 and June 2022, about 10 million pounds of sustainable beef found its way to the market. Canada produces about 3.36 billion pounds of beef annually.
In 2019, in the early days of the CRSB framework, Cargill estimated that 6.5 million pounds of eligible beef was dropped from the certified sustainable pipeline due to a lack of certified feedlots, the Manitoba Co-operator reported. At the time, Cargill said its demand for certified beef far outweighed its supply.
Since then, more partners on the back end of the value chain have joined the system.
Earlier this year, Cargill and the CRSB unveiled a plan to bolster farm payments. That pilot promised to top up money paid to producers that were certified, but had not seen at least $400 in premiums.
The new partnership with CCIA will piggyback on the tracking database in which all beef cattle already participate. It also brings chain of custody verification under one roof instead of the prior three, said Kristine Tapley, chair of the CRSB’s framework program committee.
“We have one entity tackling chain of custody, so it really streamlines things on the CRSB side,” she said.
It will also allow more data to be extracted. The CRSB can use that information to refine its framework, such as identifying areas where animals fall through the cracks and finding fixes for those issues.
The CRSB is mainly concerned about creating a framework that stands up to scrutiny, said Tapley, but she indicated that plugging holes in the pipeline may help address the supply issue.
The partnership with the CCIA will also allow producers to look up certified cattle in the database to see if animals are still certified after they’ve been sold to the feedlot.
Before, “you put them in the black box and hopefully at the end of the day you get a cheque out at the end, which is why it was very frustrating,” said Tapley.
“This isn’t going to fully fix all of that program, but it’s a really big step in the right direction.”
– This article was originally published at the Manitoba Co-operator.