Why an Island company is offering a new incentive for better beef
Atlantic Beef Products president says consumers care about quality and sustainability
Atlantic Beef Products is offering a new financial incentive for cattle producers who can verify that their animals well kept and well fed.
The company is offering two cents more per pound for all cattle that grade AAA or higher, weigh a minimum of 750 pounds dressed, and are registered with The Verified Beef Production Plus (VPB+) program.
We have a very good group of very conscientious producers in this region that work very hard to make sure their animals are well kept and well fed.— Russ Mallard, Atlantic Beef Products
The program focuses on food safety, animal care and environmental stewardship.
"We like to believe we're providing a leadership role," said Atlantic Beef Products President Russ Mallard. "We're one of the smaller packers in Canada so the fact that we've been able to do this I think has been widely noticed by other beef producers in other markets in Canada."
He says consumers want to know the beef they consume had a good life, and was raised with sustainability in mind.
The premium could mean approximately $15 to $20 more per head from farmers. He said that cost won't be passed on to the consumer.
Many producers already meeting criteria
According to Mallard, much of the criteria for VPB+ is already in place for many producers on the Island — since many here are smaller producers or hobby farmers — and that taking advantage of the premium could be as simple as keeping up with the paperwork to prove it.
"We're providing an incentive to producers down here to basically verify what they are doing anyway," said Mallard.
"Because we have a very good group of very conscientious producers in this region that work very hard to make sure their animals are well kept and well fed and that their farms are run in a way that ensures that farming in this region can continue for a long time."
Mallard says there are currently four producers in P.E.I. signed up with VPB+.
Hoping to see more producers sign up
Once a producer registers with the program, they need to document their adherence to a list of standards and practices, ranging from conserving energy and improving production efficiencies to keeping pens dry and comfortable, and ensuring animals are transported and slaughtered with care.
Bruce Andrews, procurement and logistics manager with Atlantic Beef Products, says it could take four months to one year before Island beef producers are taking advantage of the new financial incentive — but he's optimistic that many will.
"There's not a lot of producers enrolled yet," said Andrews. "But now we're getting into discussions with people who said: why would I bother going through the audit, I don't really see a financial benefit. Well now they do, so we're expecting and hoping to see an uptake in the next number of months."
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- A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the cattle must weigh a minimum of 750 pounds undressed. Also Bruce Andrews's surname was spelled incorrectly.Aug 15, 2018 4:55 PM AT