Bring­ing home the beef

The Compass - - Editorial -

All that’s old is new again. Or is that, all that’s pork is beef again? Last Tues­day, the provin­cial gov­ern­ment asked for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est from farm­ers who would like to take part in a pro­gram to bring pure­bred beef cat­tle to the prov­ince.

“Bring­ing su­pe­rior qual­ity, pure­bred cat­tle to New­found­land and Labrador will even­tu­ally al­low pro­duc­ers to look within the lo­cal in­dus­try to ac­quire breed­ing stock and to pro­duce qual­ity beef with­out the ad­di­tional high costs of trans­porta­tion from out­side the prov­ince,” the news re­lease said, adding that it’s look­ing for ap­pli­ca­tions to ap­ply for a herd of five Here­ford cat­tle.

We could use more lo­cally raised meats and lo­cally grown pro­duce, and set­ting up breed­ing stock is a good first step - but while gov­ern­ments are good at first steps, it’s the later ones they of­ten miss.

A re­port done by the Har­ris Cen­tre in 2012 pointed out that there’s been plenty of talk about food se­cu­rity and the value that we could get from lo­cal food supplies. In 1991, the re­port said, there was the Re­port of the Task Force on Agri­foods, with a series of rec­om­men­da­tions. A few of those rec­om­men­da­tions were then in­cluded in Chal­lenge and Change: A Strate­gic Eco­nomic Plan in 1992. But, the Har­ris Cen­tre re­port notes, “none of the rec­om­men­da­tions were ever im­ple­mented.”

What did hap­pen is that the gov­ern­ment de­cided in 1993 to close its pork abat­toir di­vi­sion, leav­ing the prov­ince’s pork farm­ers - who had built up a dis­ease-free herd that was well enough re­garded out­side the prov­ince to ex­port breed­ing sows - out in the cold. We had a red meat in­dus­try - and then, we didn’t.

As the lat­est gov­ern­ment seeks to en­large cat­tle stock in the prov­ince, the old hur­dles arise.

As the Har­ris re­port notes, while there’s po­ten­tial for growth in the in­dus­try, “this pro­duc­tion po­ten­tial is be­ing curbed by a se­verely lim­ited ac­cess to the mar­ket. In or­der for meat prod­ucts to be sold in large gro­cery store chains such as Sobeys or Do­min­ion, the an­i­mal must be slaugh­tered in a fed­er­ally li­censed fa­cil­ity. New­found­land and Labrador has no such fa­cil­ity, and with­out such a fa­cil­ity lo­cal pro­duc­ers are un­able to pro­vide their prod­ucts in the na­tional chain stores.”

Lo­cally pro­duced meats can find their way to cus­tomers, but the hur­dles are large and carry ad­di­tional costs that can’t al­ways be suc­cess­fully passed on to con­sumers - es­pe­cially to con­sumers mea­sur­ing prod­uct solely by their own bottom lines.

To be clear, set­ting up a beef herd can be looked at as a good first step - but there are many, many more steps to come, and gov­ern­ments of­ten seem to lose their way (and of­ten their en­ergy and in­ter­est) as those steps be­come more ex­pen­sive.

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