Today, I am directing my column to larger beef producers in our region who might be interested in a new market. Recently, the first group of cull cows were processed at a facility leased by this new initiative in Westwold and will be sold as B.C. Beef.
Westwold is south of Kamloops and not exactly local but more local than where most of the cull cows go to be butchered and turned into hamburger.
B.C. Beef Producers Inc. is a producer-owned company which is the result of a Government of B.C.-financed initiative. Originally, it was thought that Prince George might be a central location and would be able to export beef from B.C. to Canada and the rest of the world.
The feasibility study and the subsequent business plan resulted in a business model that is being tested as we speak.
The market studies show that more than 80 per cent of consumers would consider buying beef product B.C.-bred, raised and processed if they had the chance.
Fifty-five per cent of meat (beef, pork, chicken) is in the form of ground product. Hamburger mostly comes from older cows, which don’t need to be fat to be made into burger. Juiciness, which most consumers like, happens in animals that have adequate fat. Feedlots do this.
It is early days, but the launch needs support and commitment from some of our medium and larger players in the beef business.
B.C. Beef Producers is selling shares in the form of “hooks,” which hang an animal after slaughter. One hundred and seventy-five dollars buys a shareholder the right to supply one animal a year — 10 hooks, 10 animals.
If your herd has 70 mother cows, you probably retire 10 cows for various reasons. Failing to get pregnant is the most common reason. So you could buy 10 shares and ship the processing plant that many cows.
Once you agree to provide a certain number of cows, you have to supply them on the dates agreed to. The price is based on CANFAX records of sales of this kind of (“market”) cow.
Of course, I am just hitting the highlights here. More information can be found by calling the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association at 250-573-3611 or looking on the Internet at bcbeefproducers.com.
I urge producers to consider this market for the cows they are retiring.
A lot of time and effort has gone into investigating whether more B.C. beef could be finished and marketed in BC. It is the processing — we don’t have enough slaughter facilities in the region — and marketing that gets in the way of “ gate to plate” supply chains.
There are other B.C. brands but little in the way of marketing infrastructure. Producers wanting to sell directly to consumers are mostly on their own. This new company will do the marketing with the “Genuine B.C. Beef” brand.
If not enough producers buy into this venture, the “hooks” will be filled with custom-processed cattle, that is cattle from non-owners. Commitments may be made to non-owners to process their cattle on a regular basis in order to have enough product processed.
In that case, would-be owners who need to sell unproductive cows may not have the opportunity to help fill the consumer wish to buy “local.”
Profits will be distributed to purchasers of “hooks,” thus helping the financial viability of ranchers. A lot more money stays in the B.C. rural economy when processing and sales occur here in B.C.
Those interested in this new opportunity have to get on it or lose this potentially rewarding piece of the beef value chain.
COVID-19 and the problems of the massive slaughter plants suggest that if we want food security, then we need to support more local processing. Check it out!
David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake.