One of the benefits of becoming VBP+ certified is the opportunity to market cattle into supply chains sourcing from operations audited for sustainable practices. In return for the opportunity to label their products with this stamp of approval, processors and retailers may offer producers a price premium on their cattle. Furthermore, certified producers have access to buyers that source from a smaller group of operations that adhere to their standards, giving them better access to more sale opportunities.
VBP+ is also a third party auditor for the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB). This means that VBP+ certified producers can market their cattle within the Certified Sustainable Beef Framework, which includes supply chains leading to major retailers like McDonald’s, Walmart, and more.
Opportunities to market cattle into these streams exist across the country. From the Maritimes in the east to British Columbia in the west, processors actively seek out VBP+ producers to provide them with the extra value that comes with certified cattle.
In the Maritimes, Atlantic Beef Products Inc. sources all its product from PEI Certified Beef Producers. Along with specific program requirements, they recommend that their producers be registered under Verified Beef Production Plus. The program relies on values like animal care, environmental stewardship, and food safety and quality, all of which align with VBP+ requirements.
Just to the west in Quebec, Meyer Natural Foods also takes pride in working with VBP+ producers. “Meyer Natural Foods holds the highest standard when it comes to humane handling,” says Scott Coakley, Head of the Procurement Team for Meyer Natural Foods. “Meyer has partnered with the VBP+ program. Both Meyer and VBP+ standards meet or exceed the human standards that the industry is looking for. Meyer is a strong supporter of VBP+ and is looking forward to working together in the coming year.”
These sourcing opportunities demonstrate processors’ response to changing industry standards, leading producers to markets that reward them for evolving over time. Luckily, producers can be granted value beyond additional marketing opportunities.
True North Foods of Manitoba offers a consistent price premium for cattle that meet the requirements for their grass fed program. This comes out to a 20 cent premium above current market bid.
Duane Vaags, Grass Fed Beef Program Auditor for True North Foods, expressed how easy it is for VBP+ certified producers to integrate into this program. “I have always been impressed with VBP+ producers and how the program runs,” says Vaags. “They are very prepared and have all their documentation ready to go.”
For True North Foods, documentation is especially important, since their program relies on traceability via RFID tags. Additionally, the animal welfare component of their program aligns with animal health and care standards adhered to by VBP+ producers. So, being certified with VBP+ is an easy ticket to accessing price premiums like this one.
A well-known name encouraging producer participation in sustainable beef supply chains is Cargill. Working from CRSB’s Certified Sustainable Beef Framework, Cargill developed the Canadian Beef Sustainability Acceleration pilot to offer some value back to producers throughout the chain. For cattle that are raised and fed entirely on VBP+ certified operations and go on for slaughter at Cargill, each producer along the supply chain is eligible to receive a credit. These premiums have reached up to $20 per head.
In Alberta, Sendero Limited manages the chain of custody for Harmony Beef, sourcing cattle that qualify for CRSB’s Certified Sustainable Beef Framework. Like other processors, Harmony Beef can offer a price premium on qualifying cattle. We talked to Virgil Lowe, CEO of Sendero Limited, to dig into what drives this supply chain.
“End user demand is driving Sendero and Harmony Beef to work together to source CSB Certified cattle,” says Lowe. “Supplying CSB Certified beef enables restaurants and retailers to tell a positive story about the beef industry to their customers.”
Regardless of geography, processors’ interest in sourcing cattle from supply chains with standards for animal care and health, environmental stewardship, and food safety is a constant. With these same standards, VBP+ can help producers continue to access a broad consumer base well into the future.