Organic Beef Production in Ontario
Table of Contents
Recently some Ontario beef producers established production systems designed to add value to their products by marketing beef with specific attributes (or product branding) that may command a premium or ensure market share.
These systems include producing meat from animals raised with one or more of the following criteria. The animals:
In addition, some production systems have been described as "natural", "pasture raised", or "farm raised".
One challenge in these systems is to preserve the identity and integrity of the product throughout the production system. Since beef production tends to be composed of many independently owned and managed segments within a single supply chain, integration across supply chains is a challenge. Specific criteria required to meet these various branding initiatives have been developed and implemented by various groups. This has led to confusion among consumers about what is meant by the terms used in product descriptions.
Organic producer organizations have developed criteria which describe unacceptable and accepted practices. A consensus version of these criteria has become accepted at the national level through the adoption of a federally regulated certification system for organic production, including beef.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency administers legislation that regulates certified organic agricultural production in Canada.1 This legislation defines production practices that are acceptable in an organic system. Products that meet all of the applicable national organic standards may be eligible for certification by an approved third party certification body, and sold as "Certified Organic". The regulations came into effect on June 30, 2009.
Canadian producers or processors who wish to produce, process and/or market agricultural products or foods as "Certified Organic" and identify them with the Canada Organic label must hire an accredited certification body2 to review their system and provide inspector oversight.
Specific production practices must be followed to qualify for Canadian certification. More detailed information can be found in the Canadian Organic Standards which includes two documents:
Links to both documents can be found in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Organic Products section.
For beef to be marketed as Certified Organic specific production standards for feeds and feeding, breeding, production and health practices must be met. 4
Feeds and Feeding
Production and Health Practices
Becoming a certified organic beef producer brings potential rewards along with challenges. The certified organic designation provides the opportunity to market a differentiated product that meets published standards and is backed by third party certification. Producers may be able to link up with an already established production chain that preserves product identity to the consumer level. Consumers may be willing to pay a premium for the product.
Challenges to becoming an organic producer include higher production costs, sourcing organic feed, pasture and crop management animal health and a two- to three-year phase in period to convert crop production to organic methods. Below are some questions to consider.
Then compare the potential benefits, costs and risks associated with changing over to organic production.
For more information:
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