Alberta organic beef producers see opportunity as Earls opts for Certified Humane beef from U.S.
Organic ranchers may be able to seize opportunities as buyers look for humane, antibiotic-free options
Some experts say Earls decision to source Certified Humane beef from the U.S. because of a shortage from its Alberta suppliers highlights a changing market that could bring other opportunities.
Certified Humane beef is documented to be raised and slaughtered humanely and produced without antibiotics, steroids or growth hormones.
While they receive a different kind of certification, some local ranchers suggest the restaurant chain's decision shows there's room to grow in the specialized, organic beef they produce.
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While some say there is also a shortage of supply of their products, beef producers are noticing a steady increase in demand that may lead others into the market.
Paul Schneider operates a small operation called Premium Organic Farms southeast of Calgary.
"I've a waiting list," he said with a laugh. "And I don't advertise."
Schneider says organic certification means no chemicals, antibiotics and growth hormones as well as different animal care standards.
Tim Hoven, who runs Hoven Farms near Eckville, says his operation has been organic since 1997.
"Every year we see increased demand and increased knowledge for our products," Hoven said.
Hoven believes many Alberta farmers follow humane animal care practices, but going organic would require some changes.
"It can be quite a costly and lengthy process. Now is it beneficial? I believe it is."
University of Saskatchewan agricultural economist Eric Micheels says recent certification demands by some restaurant chains are a sign of the times in a competitive market.
"Well I think it's somewhat of a realization that there's no one size fits all approach to marketing agricultural products anymore," Micheels said.
But that also means consumers may have to pay more for those standards.
With files from the CBC's Dave Gilson