Value Chain Opportunities for BC Beef

The BC beef supply chain has evolved over the last 50 years to maximize efficiencies of scale by sending the majority of cattle to Alberta for finishing and processing in large-scale operations. This beef is sold as a commodity, competing on a world market.

But some BC producers are wondering if it makes more sense to set up value chains to serve a growing number of consumers who are looking for local, specialty products.

With partial funding from IAF, the BC Association of Cattle Feeders and the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association, a market and logistics research project for two new BC beef value chains was completed by students and researchers at Thompson Rivers University.

Okanagan’s Finest Angus Beef value chain is led by Southern Plus Feedlot who work with approximately 20 cow/calf producers.

They hand pick Angus calves from ranches in the interior of BC. They are nurtured to limit stress and fed an optimum diet containing locally-grown hay and corn silage. They are processed and dry-aged at a provincially licensed abattoir.

Healthy Steppes Cariboo grass-finished beef includes about 10 ranchers who retain ownership of their calves, back-ground them through winter, finish them on grass as yearlings, then process them at a local facility.

Grass-finished beef is expected to have a higher percentage of Omega 3/Omega 7 fatty acids than beef finished on grain.

“As we started strategic planning, it became very clear that more market research was needed before we invested more time and money in this.” states David Zirnhelt, member of Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and leader of the Healthy Steppes value chain. “The analysis in this study helped us identify which market segments we should focus on and the logistics research told us what kind of scale we need. Now we have some good hard numbers to work with to ensure our value chain will be economically sustainable in the long run.”

Funding: $83,801 through the federal Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program. (A0633)

Adapting to Climate Change

When it comes to adapting to one’s environment, you can’t beat a farmer. Climate change, however, and its potential impact on food production, presents an unprecedented assortment of challenges.

This is why IAF felt it was important to support the BC Agriculture Council (BCAC) in assessing the risks and opportunities that climate change could pose for BC’s agricultural sector.

Thanks to the input provided by producers across the province, a series of reports are now available which highlight potential climate change impacts for BC agriculture at a regional and commodity specific level, as well as possible approaches to support adaptation efforts.

Among other challenges, producers could contend with an increase of extreme precipitation events in spring and fall, more extended dry periods in the summer, and associated shifts in stream flow and water supply. Difficulty managing pest, disease and invasive plant outbreaks is also a concern, given possible shifts in their range, distribution and survival rates.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to overcome, however, is raising awareness of these potential risks.

“It’s a common misconception that climate change just means warmer and more favourable conditions for food production in BC,” says Allen James, Chair of BCAC’s Climate Action Initiative, “but the projected changes would create a more complex and challenging environment for BC’s agricultural producers.”

So will BC be prepared for these challenges?

“We’re on the right path,” according to Emily MacNair, Coordinator of the Climate Action Initiative. Managing climate change impacts to BC’s food system will involve decisions, infrastructure and resources that “go well beyond the farm gate.”

“Adapting to climate change is a collective challenge,” MacNair observes. “Planning and collaboration are needed in our communities and the province as a whole.”

Despite their awareness of the potential risks facing agricultural producers, both MacNair and James remain confident about the sector’s ability to adapt and thrive.

“The assessment has provided a critical foundation to help enhance BC agriculture in a changing climate,” James emphasizes. “Successful adaptation depends on the participation and leadership of the industry, and BC agriculture is well positioned to assume this role.”

For more information on the BC Agriculture Climate Change Adaptation Risk & Opportunity Assessment please visit: http://www.bcagclimateaction.ca/

Funding: $72,114 provided through the former federal-provincial Safety Net framework and Sustaining Fund. (A0630)