Steering committee will review past work, future directions
by Tom Walker
SMITHERS – The possibility of a larger scale, federally inspected beef processing plant for BC is getting a boost from the province with $450,000 to support further study.
BC agriculture minister Lana Popham announced the funding at the BC Cattlemen’s Association annual general meeting in Smithers on June 1.
“Bringing a federally inspected beef processing plant to Prince George comes with so many benefits,” says Popham. “Eighty full-time, good-paying jobs by 2020, and up to 650 spin-off jobs.”
BCCA general manager Kevin Boon says multiple opportunities would follow the plant’s construction, which is estimated to cost up to $27 million.
“We see it as an opportunity to grow not only the cattle industry but also the feeding industry as well as the grain industry,” he says.
Boon cautions that the study is just the next phase in a careful planning process.
“Don’t start buying fence posts to build your own feedlot yet,” Boon told AGM delegates.
The new funds will support an industry-wide steering committee that includes people familiar with cattle industry production levels and economics, as well as operating and building packing plants.
The steering committee’s job is to thoroughly question plans for the project.
“We have told them we really want to be challenged on this,” Boon says. “We have to have people at the table who will tell us when something won’t work. We don’t want a failure.”
The committee’s first job will be to assess the three previous studies and see if they should proceed to the next phase.
“We started with a value chain market analysis,” says Boon. “We looked at what consumers in the Pacific Northwest want and what they are willing to pay more for.”
The work found that BC product can demand a premium, as can beef free of hormones and antibiotics. Animal welfare is important to customers, but they’re not willing to pay more for it.
The most recent study examined the viability of locating a plant in Prince George versus shipping cattle to Alberta. Prince George’s central location puts it within 700 km of producers, the range considered ideal given the economics of transportation.
“This gives feedlots that are already in the province more opportunity to fatten,” he says. “It will also support the growth of a larger feeding industry, likely in the Nechako area, and more feed grains to be grown in the Peace region.”
A business plan targets a daily run of 200 head or a total of about 50,000 a year. This is approximately a quarter of BC’s annual calf production, plus additional backgrounded animals.
Adding value to the BC industry is the aim of the new, local plant, Boon explains. The cattle industry in BC is really untapped for processing, he says.
“We can get a significantly higher return per whole carcass if we can process here and seek specialty markets both at home and in Asia, Europe and the Middle East for individual cuts, rather than exporting whole carcasses or selling all into the local market,” he says.
While a federal plant is required for export, retailers in Western Canada also require it to move product across provincial lines, Boon adds.
There are nine go/no go stages in the process. The first one will follow the committee’s discussion of previous work on the project.
By the end of August, if the project is a go, they will take the concept to producers for feedback. The new funds will then support work on a governance model, with the venture likely taking the form of a next-generation co-op.
“We have an extraordinary amount of work to do yet,” Boon says. “But maybe put those posts for a new feedlot on order. I think this could work.”
Vol. 104 Issue 7
STORIES IN THIS EDITION
What on earth?
Opposition slams ALC bill
Sidebar: Protection & pushback
Editorial: Truth in labelling
Back Forty: So you don’t believe in climate change
Viewpoint: Don’t blame the cows for global warming
Ag council’s lobbying efforts produce results
Learning a new skill
Foundation’s nest egg for funding projects increases
Province will hold the line on piece rates
New CEO aims to kindle team spirit at co-op
FIRB decision prompts rethink of pricing scheme
Beekeepers see potential in technology transfer
AgSafe markes quarter century
Raspberries hit hard by harsh February
Blueberry growers anxious for new varieties
Biological controls for pests in demand
Sidebar: Pesticides in play
Growers urged to focus on fresh
Westgen celebrates 75 years of excellence
Top seller was no-show at Holstein sale
Spring show attracts exhibitors from Quebec
Cheesemakers unite to grow niche market
Range use permits under greater scrutiny
Sidebar: Range use plans go digital
Market Musings: Top bulls sell for top dollar at spring sales
Grapegrowers share sustainability objectives
Grape specialist honoured for dedication
Hazelnut production expands across BC
Sidebar: Pest pressures
Supporters take to AITC’s Sips & Sprouts
Research: Cultured meat fails to impress researchers
UAVs undergo testing for pesticide delivery
Sustainability goes beyond saving farmland
Father and daughter roll with the last of the steel wheels
Woodshed: Susan Henderson is warming to country life
Wannabe: Farming is more than just a job
Surplus, cull fruit finds new purpose as tasty snacks
Jude’s Kitchen: Special food for special moms