Supply local food markets | Alberta feedlots share information with producers, feeders and packers
A partnership between five Alberta feedlots and the Certified Angus Beef program is the first of its kind in Canada.
The feedlots will be looking for more Black Angus cattle to fit the program criteria and fill the growing demand for the branded program in Canada.
“We are working with the certified Angus beef people and the Canadian Angus Association to build relationships with Angus producers so we can find better ways to procure cattle and share information,” said Ryan Kasko, one of the feedlot owners.
“Their goal is to deliver a high quality product to our customer, which is Cargill.”
The Allied Marketing Group includes Kasko, Les Wall, Ed Stronks, Leighton Kolk and Shawn Murray, all based in southern Alberta’s feedlot alley.
The group was formed in 2010 and manages 11 feedlots with a one-time capacity of more than 110,000 head.
Each business maintains its independence, but they work together to feed Angus cattle and support a database that can link producers, feeders and packers. Information can be passed back from the packer so that producers can see where they fit and if changes are needed in their breeding programs.
“I can tell you exactly how every individual animal did and get that back to you,” Kasko said.
“We want to work with producers who have good cattle and have a desire to make them better.”
There is no specific feeding or health protocol, but the group has already set certain standards, which dovetail with what is required to produce a certified product.
More Canadian establishments are becoming licensed to sell beef that was probably locally supplied, said Larry Corah, vice-president of supply management for Canadian Angus Beef.
“They are trying to cultivate a program to collect Angus cattle that could qualify. The only real criteria we have put on the feedlot is they have to be interested in feeding Angus cattle.”
The program can provide advice on sorting cattle or improving carcasses but mainly allows its suppliers to produce beef the best way they know how and hopefully return premiums to everyone in the chain.
“We give them information on sorting the cattle because a lot of the time sorting will improve the quality grade, but if they use that, it’s up to them,” he said.
Cattle buyers can also source potential cattle for the program through the Canadian Angus Association’s green tag program. The ear tags identify cattle with Angus parentage.
“They can use the green tag system to identify the genetic merit of Angus cattle because the green tag goes back to the sire,” Corah said.
He likes this program because it is building connections from the farm to the consumer. Improved communication between feedlots and producers can only lead to better things and pay more for those with the right kind of cattle, he added.
“I am not aware of anything where a feedlot interfaces with a cow-calf producer,” Corah said.
“To create that perfect eating experience, it has to go all the way back to the ranch and the genetics.”
The program has also started inviting chefs to visit ranches to show them where their beef comes from. It hosted about 60 chefs in Alberta last year.
The branded beef program is celebrating its 35th anniversary and has recorded growth for the last seven years.
The Certified Angus Beef program has reported that more than 60 million pounds were sold a month in its last fiscal year ending in September. Individual sales records were set in 10 of those months. The highest level was in August, with sales of 83 million lb.
Canada produced five million lb. for the program last year with sales up seven to eight percent.
The network, comprising 16,000 licensed partners worldwide, sold 865 million lb. in the year that ended Sept. 30, an increase of nearly seven percent, or 54 million lb.