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Tuesday, 31 January 2012 08:41

Producers can have a hand in steering the future of the cattle industry

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By Jamie Woodford
Southern Alberta
A lot has changed in the beef industry over the years, but perhaps the most significant evolvement is how consumers are essentially plotting the course of the industry.

“Traditionally, the beef industry in North America — Canada and the United States — has really been what I would call a ‘commodity industry’,” said Larry Corah, vice-president of Certified Angus Beef. “In other words, we produce beef, but what has changed is because of pricing and because of consumer preferences, we’re all of a sudden seeing a consumer demanding certain type of cuts, certain levels of flavour and tenderness, and they are willing to pay for the right kind of product.”

To help those within the industry understand the best way to market their beef, Certified Angus Beef and Elanco Animal Health hosted a feedlot conference in Lethbridge Jan. 25. It pointed out consumer preferences and how producers can steer their business in the right direction.

“One of the things that we wanted to talk about with cattle producers is what does the market look like, what’s evolving, what are opportunities for cattle producers, what needs to be some targets for them to look for?” said Corah.

“There’s an awful lot going on in the beef complex, and the whole protein and meat complex in terms of both global demand as well as domestic demand, and of course prices that changed dramatically in the last few years.”

Speakers touched on everything from economics in the sales sector such as packing companies, as well as those in branding like Certified Angus Beef or food service distributors that work with restaurants and retail companies.

“We’re going to cover the gamut of how beef is marketed to consumers and what are evolving trends,” he said. “Our target audience is the feedlot industry in Canada, there are very few of these types of meetings or symposiums held for feedlot operators, so our target audience is really the cattle feeding sector, but we’ll have cow-calf producers, we’ll have those that are in the feed stock as well present.”

Although marketing has always been an integral part of the industry, focusing on consumers rather than just industry players, is just the next evolution of beef, said Corah.

“In agriculture in general, and I would say beef producers certainly fits this category, there’s an inherent desire to produce what the consuming public wants,” he said. “There are also economic reasons that you better do that, or else all of a sudden, the consumer has choices to make, and these are individuals that have made their livelihood in the beef industry, and obviously they want to keep an eye on what the consumer is looking for.”

The morning sessions of the conference featured presentations on the future of the market and market opportunities as well as information about the Canadian packer perspective on what consumers and Canadian retailers want.

The afternoon sessions included food service and restaurant wants, how carcass traits create a positive eating experience and what a U.S. feedlot manager learned about garnering premiums.

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