Canada Pork campaign aims to reduce exports by promoting quality and providing food safety assurances
OTTAWA — One-third of all pork consumed in Canada is imported and the industry has created a program to encourage Canadians to eat domestic pork.
Canadian farmers produce two million tonnes of pork a year, of which 1.15 million tonnes were exported in 2014. Another 193,400 tonnes were imported, mostly from the United States.
“Canada exports pork to 125 different countries around the world. We are a free trade country, so we always have some product coming in to our country, although we are a significant producer of pork,” said Rick Bergmann, chair of the Canadian Pork Council.
“If there is a processor who has a deal or a contract to supply a certain cut of pork to a different country, that al-most creates a bit of a void in Canada, so that is when products enter our country.”
An ambitious campaign called Canada Pork was developed last year to encourage Canadians to try more home grown product.
The new entity is the national market development arm of Canada Pork International and is supported by all the major packers and producers outside Quebec.
It has a $500,000 budget for 2015-16 and is working to displace imports, add more value per carcass and encourage more Canadian consumption of domestic pork, said Derrick Ash of Canada Pork International.
Canada exports 70 percent of its production as live hogs and meat. The consequences could be disastrous if borders closed for any reason.
“We could not possibly consume the amount of pork available on the domestic market,” he told the Canadian Meat Council’s annual meeting in Ottawa in May.
Provincial organizations produce good marketing programs, but domestic consumption is still falling, said Ash.
Annual per capita pork consumption is about 21 kg, down from about 30 kg in the late 1990s.
Canada Pork has introduced the Verified Canadian Pork brand to help increase consumer awareness and confidence in domestic product. It displays a red maple leaf and is intended for the exclusive use of supporting packer funders. Promoters hope the logo will catch the eye of Canadian shoppers, who may not realize they are buying imported meat.
The brand is backed up by the pork quality assurance program, which covers food safety, animal care, hazard analysis critical control point standards and traceability.
About 3,000 new meat charts have been distributed to help promote the domestic product. They display pork cuts including the under-used ones.
As well, brochures describing new merchandising ideas introduce a concept called “pork stars.” They feature innovative ideas for using all primal cuts, including the shoulder, belly, tenderloin, leg and collar butt.