New facility will help officials study, promote beef

Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence CEO says new centre will do for beef what the Canadian International Grains Institute does for grain

A centre of excellence is opening to showcase Canadian beef. 


The federal government announced last week that more than $3.8 million from the Western Economic Diversification fund will assist the Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence, a new facility in Calgary that will work as a teaching and demonstration centre. 


Canada Beef Inc. is contributing close to $1 million to help build the facility that includes a full commercial kitchen, coolers, a retail style meat case, classroom, dining facilities and broadcast capabilities. 


With close to $5 million on hand, the centre can be built and operated for the next three to four years without borrowing money, said Rob Meijer, chief executive officer of Canada Beef. 


It will be located next to Canada Beef’s offices in northeast Calgary.


The facility is expected to be operating by early next year and will be used to test new products and teach chefs, as well as show local and international customers what Canada has to offer. 


Some of the cooking equipment, including Rational ovens, will be donated and restaurants will be able to test them at the centre. 


The high-powered commercial ovens are used in restaurants to cook multiple steaks at once to customer specification.


The concept is Meijer’s brainchild. He believes the centre is needed to build brand loyalty. 


“Without driving a brand strategy it is very difficult to market and promote anything, as we don’t have brand identification,” he said. 


In many ways, the 2,200-square-foot facility is similar in concept to the Canadian International Grains Institute in Winnipeg, where new grain and oilseed products are developed and tested, said Meijer.


Packers like JBS and Cargill Meat Solutions are also interested in using the centre to test products, said Chuck MacLean, chair of Canada Beef. 


The facility will also have a media centre. Companies like Cargill said it could make a video for prospective customers to show them what happens from the kill floor to the final stage where beef is handled in a kitchen. 


“JBS has already said they could be here a day a week,” MacLean said. “We can have guys cut up a primal and put it up on video and send it around the world. 


“We are only limited by our imagination.” 


The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada could also use the facility to test products before they reach consumers. 


There is also a plan to work with the meat cutting schools like Olds College, the culinary program at SAIT Polytechnic or Agriculture Canada’s Lacombe Research Centre to explore possible synergies. 


“I want to talk with them and see if we can put programs together,” said Meijer.