From FCC Express, by Owen Roberts
Traceability could set Ontario beef apart from its counterparts in other provinces and earn it a premium from safety-conscious consumers, says a new report.
The report from Oakville-based Value Chain Management International is based on a fact-finding mission carried out earlier this year in Australia by VCMI and the Beef Farmers of Ontario. The mission was designed to look at lessons Ontario could learn from Australia’s National Livestock Information System.
VCMI says Australia was selected for the study because the beef industry there (like Canada’s) heavily depends on exports. As well, its 10-year-old traceability system is considered by industry to be one of the world’s best. VCMI says the Australian system is estimated to have returned more than AU$200 million to producers in a comparatively short timeframe.
The system is credited with greater operational efficiencies, competitive advantage and more market-focused innovation than would otherwise have occurred, says centre CEO Martin Gooch.
He attributes that success to traceability, which he distinguishes from simple livestock identification.
“ID and traceability are two separate matters,” Gooch says. “ID enables traceability to occur, but they are not the same and Canada’s current traceability systems and how they are implemented do not adequately reflect this reality.”
Of particular note to Ontario is that it’s not just Australia’s major cattle-producing regions — such as those that would be the equivalent of Western Canada — that are realizing economic benefits from the system.
“The smaller states of Victoria and Tasmania provide excellent examples of how relatively small cattle markets can distinguish themselves and add value by utilizing well-designed traceability systems for marketing initiatives,” says Richard Horne, Beef Farmers of Ontario manager of policy and issues. In one small-market case cited in the report, producers with traceability ear tags proving an animal had moved through the system from birth to slaughter received a 15 per cent premium.
Horne says traceability is more imperative than ever, given emerging markets in the European Union where lifetime traceability is an expectation.
“Other importing nations also view lifetime traceability as an important differentiator and a source of value added,” Horne says. “The lessons learned in Australia demonstrate there is an opportunity for Ontario to differentiate itself from other jurisdictions by implementing full-chain traceability.”
The report says the estimated annual operating cost of the national system in Australia is C$5 million. This covers staff, hardware and software updates. The greatest proportion of costs is incurred by the information system’s help desk, which employs up to 50 people.