Prince Edward Island Certified Beef is finally bringing better prices for beef farmers in the province, 10 years after mad cow disease crippled the industry.
The new government certification program, which started in October, is helping to market Island beef in Ontario as a high quality product to restaurants and buyers.
Producers of Prince Edward Island Certified Beef receive a premium price, reflecting the extra care and attention that goes into raising each animal.
To meet the criteria, farmers can’t give their cattle synthetic hormones. Cattle must also be born and raised on P.E.I., fed high quality food and must be humanely handled.
'Consumers want to know where their food is coming from and that it's being treated humanely' - Amanda Miller, P.E.I. Cattle Producers
So far, 18 farmers sell beef through the program.
“We've had over 340 animals go through the program which equates to a little over $15,000 going directly back to producers and they're seeing a great benefit in it, it's just an extra bonus for them,” said Amanda Miller, the Atlantic verified beef program coordinator for the P.E.I. Cattle Producers.
She said the way cows are treated is an issue that is on consumers’ minds.
“Consumers want to know where their food is coming from and that it's being treated humanely. They want to know that animals are happy and healthy and that the animals are being treated fairly,” she said.
Tim Dixon is one of many farmers who has seen the damage done by mad cow disease. He took over Dixon Farms when beef prices were so low some farms were shutting down.
His father, Eric Dixon, said when his son arrived, prices were poor and it was hard to sell. So the Dixons started selling breeding stock on top of finished cattle. They also grow asparagus and soy beans to bring in a bit more money.
But it was important to them to keep their cattle.
“We stayed with it all the way through. We never increased, we never decreased, we stayed the same. It's just one of those things where you stay the even course,” said Tim Dixon.
Like most beef farmers on P.E.I., the Dixon’s say they racked up debt. The P.E.I. beef certification is helping them to re brand their product and make an extra buck.
Currently there is a list of farmers trying to qualify for the beef program, which has no cap.