I was disappointed with the negativity shown in the “Sad state of the beef industry” guest column by Sylvain Charlebois in the Oct. 30 edition.
Upon further analysis, the negativity seemed to stem from wrongly using the term “beef industry” to apply to everyone in the production chain from the rancher through to the beef retailer. To have a better understanding of the issues we need to differentiate between cattle producers — predominantly family farms and ranches — and the “industrial” side of beef production dominated by corporate giants in the processing and retailing sectors.
This differentiation has important implications relating to what the writer correctly identified as changing consumer demands. The consumer is becoming more interested and informed on their food supply and how the animals are raised and as a cattle producer I see this as a positive thing. We direct-market beef from a proportion of our herd direct to consumers and it’s clear from the phenomenal growth in demand that Canadians still stand firmly behind the farmers and ranchers producing their beef.
Rather than seeing a sad state of affairs I see great opportunity ahead for Canadian cattle producers to reconnect with beef consumers eager to have a discussion about safe, wholesome food production. With more consumers than ever wanting to buy direct from their trusted farmer or rancher, this offers the opportunity to break the stranglehold corporate concentration in the processing and retailing sectors has on cattle producers. Hopefully this will lead to a more prosperous cattle sector and at the same time provide Canadian consumers with a great product they enjoy and trust on a more sustainable basis.