Alberta’s mandatory cattle age verification under review

Alberta’s mandatory cattle age-verification regulations will be under the microscope, said John Brown, executive director of the Livestock Research and Extension Branch of Alberta Agriculture.

Brown said results-based budgeting means government departments review what they’re doing and what value they provide for Albertans.

That will affect the program since that in January, the federal government announced Japan would start accepting beef under 30 months instead of under 21 months, which had been the previous practice.

“The landscape has changed since January so that’s also a factor that we’ll consider when we review this,” Brown said.

Mandatory age verification was required starting in 2009.

“The intent of the regulation at the time was to ensure there was this critical mass of age-verified cattle that could be identified and accepted by export markets that would be under 21 months,” Brown said.

He said now that under-30-month beef is being accepted by markets such as Japan, processors can use  other tools such as dentition to confirm the age of the cattle.

There’s been a steady decrease in compliance since the policy was introduced, but Brown said compliance averages about 78 per cent.  Mandatory age verification hasn’t only been under an in-depth review since the change in Japanese import policy, Brown said. Internal reviews were conducted in the last couple years before the change, he said.  
Fred Hays, a policy analyst for Alberta Beef Producers (ABP), said international markets now accepting under-30-month beef means most products coming out of Alberta are covered.  

“It’s just about a non-issue right now,” Hays said about mandatory age verification. “Anything older than 30 months can easily be recognized.” Hays said ABP doesn’t have a policy on whether mandatory age verification regulations should continue.

“As far as we’re concerned… it’s being taken care of,” Hays said, now that most markets are accepting under-30-month instead of under-21-month cattle. Countries that open to older beef means have the potential to double their imports, Hays said.  

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