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)