The general manager of the Manitoba Beef Producers remains optimistic in the wake of a major beef recall at one of the country’s largest slaughtering plants.
While the world put Canadian beef in international trade purgatory following the discovery of a cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy in 2003, MBP general manager Cam Dahl doesn’t expect the impact of the recall at XL Foods to have a major impact on trade relations.
“The confidence in Canada’s food safety system remains very high,” Dahl said.
Cattle prices have continued to recover since the BSE crisis, particularily in the past year after several markets re-opened their borders to Canadian cattle. While the price increases can only be seen as a positive for producers, some countries have continued to institute restrictions on Canadian cattle.
Those restrictions, which Dahl doesn’t believe, are anchored by the scientific data, should be lifted, he said.
“We want to get back to science-based trade,” Dahl said. “That’s critically important and has allowed us to come out of that shadow (of the BSE crisis) or at least partly. We’re not all the way out of it yet.”
Dahl expects consumers to remain loyal to Canadian beef because of its proven track record. And in the short term it might not be the biggest quandary.
High feed prices caused by a drought in the United States’ Midwest that extended into parts of Manitoba during the later months of summer has meant the cost to feed and care for livestock has increased.
“We see higher prices for the calves, which is good for the producers that are selling them, but at the same time we’re seeing higher prices for feed, so that squeeze is definitely there for our feed lot sector,” Dahl said.
Higher feed prices due to weak supply coupled with poor hay crops due to a lack of moisture may result in a feed crunch in the months following summer grazing.
The high price of feed may also be a reason why some producers wish to take animals to market sooner than later, but the beef recall has slowed production at a facility that is set up to slaughter between 3,800 and 4,000 cattle daily.
“This doesn’t just hurt the processing side of things and XL itself, there is a big trickle down impact on the beef production sector,” Keystone Agricultural Producers policy analyst James Battershill said. “It really does hit producers hard because they are the ones that are forced to hang onto the cattle for much longer.”
At the KAP’s general council meeting held Thursday in Portage la Prairie, several resolutions were passed, including one that encouraged the federal government to take more responsibility for on-site inspections of processing plants.
“The recall affects consumer confidence in food safety systems in beef in general, which could have a significant negative impact on the industry,” Battershill said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 27, 2012