Canada s beef producers continue to show their commitment to on-farm food safety. Recent participation figures for Verified Beef Production (VBP), the national beef on-farm food safety program, shows an increasing percentage of the national herd participating in the program.
That s an important message for Canada s domestic and export customers, says Terry Grajczyk, manager of the VBP program for the Canadian Cattlemen s Association. It is the kind of information that will be useful in ongoing efforts to build marketing confidence, such as Canada Beef Advantage marketing promotion.
The VBP program is a dynamic program to uphold consumer confidence in the products and good practices of Canada s beef producers. It is completely voluntary. Producers take workshop style training to learn program fundamentals and how they can use Standard Operating Procedures to enhance animal health and feed management. They have the option of having their records audited by an independent validation auditor to verify their efforts.
There are more than 80,000 beef producers across the country and because of that number and their geographic distribution, producer training has been the primary goal of the program, says Grajczyk.
All producers in all regions of Canada have access to the VBP program. To date, more than 15,400 producers have participated in VBP training workshops, including over 750 producers who have chosen to complete the online version of the training course. The online version has been designed as easy to use, even for dial-up Internet connections.
Using a weighted average approach that means that 55 to 60 percent of Canada s beef production is covered under the VBP program, says Grajczyk. As well, more than 700 of these producers have opted to proceed to the next step of having their cattle operations audited and become Registered.
Support from provincial governments has helped participation, adds Grajczyk. For example, support in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and PEI for workshops, equipment purchases and on-farm auditing is one reason producers are able to participate.
However, VBP will continue to require good planning and support, she says. While more producers are identifying VBP as part of a differentiated product, and they know it s the kind of information Canada s competitors are using in their marketing efforts, one challenge is to find ways to bring value back to producers who make the effort.
Canada s beef producers already have a reputation for acting responsibly, but VBP takes that to a new level. Grassroots driven and industry-led, the program is part of a broad effort by Canada s food providers to ensure on-farm food safety. It is based on the principles of an international food safety program used widely in many industries, called Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), which has been specifically adapted for VBP.