Eastern Cargill plant taps into sustainable beef

Cargill’s Guelph plant is now ready to supply certified sustainable beef and the company hopes to grow that value chain

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Glacier FarmMedia – Cargill says it is on its way to opening up Eastern Canada for its certified sustainable beef supply chain.

The company says its Guelph processing plant had just been certified according to sustainability standards, as set down by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, when the COVID-19 pandemic gained steam.

“It was end of February, end of March when that was finalized,” Emily Murray, Cargill’s general manager of beef sales to McDonald’s, said. “So it was truly just before the pandemic.”

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Why it matters: Cattle certified under the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef are eligible for a premium.

Cargill’s High River location in Alberta, which was forced to temporarily close due to COVID-19 earlier this year, was previously the company’s only outlet for the certified value chain.

The shutdown, along with processing slowdowns or shutdowns at other Alberta beef plants, created a downslide in the general beef market, as animals backed up to the farm gate.

Processing in their sustainable value chain “flexed” with the industry in general at that time, Murray said.

She added that the company is, “in conversations with our eastern supply chain now, coming into Guelph, to work with feedlots in that area, producers’ organizations, VBP+ representation, to see how we can grow the supply chain in the east as well, and that also is going to flip the switch for several of our customers that are very eastern focused on what they’re able to do.”

Nuts and bolts

Last year, Cargill announced that it would expand its sustainable beef value chain pilot into a standing program. The program creates a segregated value chain for animals raised and processed according to CRSB standards. Farms, feedlots and processors must all pass an audit through either Verified Beef Production Plus or Where Food Comes From Inc. to be eligible for the program. Beef is then earmarked for the program’s end-use partners, such as McDonalds and Harvey’s.

Producers then earn a per-head payment, assuming they are moved only to other certified sites. As of the end of 2018, those payments came out to $18.48 per head and are determined by number of cattle moved through the system quarter to quarter.

McDonald’s became the first end user to source meat from the supply chain in 2018. The restaurant promised that 30 per cent of the beef in its Angus burger line will come from CSRB certified farms.

Harvey’s later echoed that promise, and has committed to sourcing at least 30 per cent of the beef going into its Original Burger from CRSB certified farms.

Murray says it is too early to tell how many cattle from the sustainable value chain will be moving through the Guelph location, given the impact of the pandemic.

“We really weren’t able to spend last quarter as we had planned focusing on that supply chain,” she said.

Cargill says it will be working with partner organizations in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba in the near future to help flesh out those details.

This article was originally published at the Manitoba Co-operator.

About the author

Glacier FarmMedia staff

Alexis Stockford is a Manitoba reporter for Glacier FarmMedia.

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