VALUE-ADDED experts tell us that to get higher incomes, farmers must break out of the commodity business by differentiating their product. How do you do that with cattle and beef?
In Canada the answer might be blooming under our noses – namely the blue flowers of flax and the white flowers of peas – which are feed ingredients with the potential to give Canada the ability to create designer beef stamped with the Maple Leaf.
Canada is a leading producer of both crops and growers are eager to expand their markets. Research is revealing that adding flax and peas to feedlot rations can boost cattle productivity and improve the taste and healthful qualities of the beef.
Research at Kansas State University, funded in part by the Flax Council of Canada, and elsewhere, is providing increasing evidence that adding flaxseed to cattle diets dramatically improves carcass value, strengthens the calf’s natural immunities and may enhance the level of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids in the meat.
Nutrition scientists have found most people don’t have enough Omega 3 fatty acids in their diets and this deficiency contributes to heart disease and other maladies.
Egg producers have already found that feeding flax can create a profitable Omega 3 niche on grocery shelves. Pork and milk producers are trying it too and beef producers shouldn’t be left behind.
In other studies, researchers have found that feeding flax oil or other vegetable oils to cattle can reduce their emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas.
Research at North Dakota State University indicates that using peas in feedlot receiving diets helps encourage rapid weight gain in weaned calves. Indeed they can be used in many aspects of cattle feeding if the cost is right.
Early results from this research also indicate that beef from pea-fed cattle tastes better than that from corn-fed.
More research must be done to confirm these results and to determine the most economic way to use these crops in cattle diets. But on the face of it, by feeding these grains, Canadian beef producers would get beef that stands out from the crowd in terms of health and taste.
And it doesn’t end there.
The beef could be marketed as ecologically friendly, playing up the attributes of peas in producing their own nitrogen and improving the tilth of the soil, and flax oil’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas production.
Putting these attributes together with Canada’s cattle traceability program that enhances its safety produces a powerful package to raise the value of Canadian beef above the rest of the world.
Advertising experts say the key to marketing is providing the customer with a story that they can believe and share with family and friends.
What is a better story than tasty, healthy beef that is good for the planet?