A new logo labelling Canadian beef as sustainably produced is like a seal of approval.
The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef has released logos for producers and processors who meet environmental, economic and social requirements.
However, consumer surveys testing the logo indicate most Canadians believe beef farmers are already producing beef responsibly and in a sustainable way. Older consumers are the most confident in this aspect, said TJ Clark of Hill and Knowlton Associates, which was commissioned to assess consumer preference and understanding of sustainability logos.
When it comes to price, less than half said they would pay more for certified sustainable beef and that 10 percent more was probably their limit.
“There is a large portion of the Canadian consuming population that look at CRSB as something they would be willing to pay for but at the same time do not necessarily have a negative perception of all remaining beef,” he said at the roundtable annual meeting held in Calgary Sept. 20.
McDonald’s Canada was the first company to add the new logo to its products, but company spokesperson Jeff Fitzpatrick-Stillwell said the intention is not to claim that it makes their beef superior.
However, the new trademark has value, he added.
“People who have the ability to use them on product claims should seriously consider getting there as soon as they can and work with the supply chains because that is how we are going to build credibility with consumers and that is what is going to build this brand,” he said.
Canada was among the first to form a roundtable that includes members from every part of the food chain.
Roundtables are at different stages in Mexico, the United States, Paraguay, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Roundtable members agree there is no right way to produce sustainable beef, but they know consumers are largely unaware of their efforts, said Ruaraidh Petre, executive director of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.
“We haven’t been doing a very good job of communicating our shared values with them,” Petre said at the Canadian roundtable annual meeting.
“We are great at talking to each other about how good we are at doing everything we do. That message tends to be an echo chamber.”
There are knowledge gaps about food production in general.
“The consumer is really starved for knowledge, and in the absence of knowledge, somebody will fill in the vacuum. Currently, the people filling in that vacuum are activists and people who are against our industry,” he said.
While Canada is moving ahead with a full certification program and a brand to show people the beef was sustainably sourced, other roundtable members, such as the United States, focus on education rather than a certified product, said Ashley McDonald of the U.S. Round Table for Sustainable Beef.
The U.S. group plans to introduce its framework next May, but also wants to recognize other beef programs following similar standards.
For full information on the Canadian certified beef program, visit www.crsbcertifiedsustainablebeef.ca.