Photo Provided By The Canadian Roundtable For Sustainable Beef

By Barb Keith -Badour
AgriNews Contributor

At the county beef farmer meetings held in January, farmers received exciting news from Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) – they are funding 100 per cent of the audit for producers looking to become VBP+ Certified in 2023. 

The Verified Beef Producer + (VBP+) program is the beef industry’s commitment to consumers to provide beef in a safe, sustainable manner. This is the only volunteer program of its kind in Canada, relating to animal health and care, feeding and sustainable management practices. The program requires a third-party audit of on-farm practices and the general production of producers across Canada. In Ontario, BFO trains producers to prepare for the audit by offering a training webinar, record-keeping templates and a pre-audit review.

“The audit process wasn’t as difficult as anticipated,” says BFO director and Lanark county cow-calf producer, Don Badour. “We went through the certification process in 2021 and we learned I was already recording the necessary information in our cattle management software as part of our farm’s best management practices. The audit was a good review of what we were doing right on the farm and to determine if there were areas where we needed to improve.”

Badour calves approximately 60 cows a year, so it isn’t a large operation but he believes getting certified can only benefit the entire cattle industry. But the industry needs more cow-calf producers to join the program. Of the 67 active audited operations in Ontario, five are located in Eastern Ontario with three of those located in Lanark County. There is no minimum or maximum size of herd to participate.  Increasing the supply of beef to the market starts with cow-calf producers of all sizes, as they are the foundation of the entire supply chain.

Cattle from farms certified as VBP+, immediately qualify under the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) program. With major companies like Walmart, Montana’s, Harvey’s, and Gordon Food Services selling CRSB certified beef and Loblaws and Metro committing to sell it in the future; the demand far exceeds the supply at this time. “We are building trust in the supply chain by validating and verifying what we do to produce sustainable beef,” said Dayna Cameron, communication & marketing specialist, CRSB.

In the 2022 CRSB study, 90 per cent of Canadians said they eat beef and 56 per cent say they would be more likely to purchase beef if they saw the CRSB logo on the package.

CRSB-certified processors need to source animals from certified feedlots, who need to source calves from certified backgrounding and calving operations. Twenty per cent of the Canadian cattle herd are from CRSB-verified operations.

In Ontario, Cargill has offered a premium of $20 per head to cow-calf producers when they process animals that have travelled through the supply chain on VBP+ or Ontario Corn-Fed Beef certified farms. 

Farm Credit Canada has also offered a financial incentive to its customers as part of their commitment to supporting sustainable agriculture.

If you think you might be interested in joining the program, reach out to BFO. The next training webinar will be held on March 1. Over 400 Ontario producers have participated in the training so far.