The beef industry is looking forward to seeing the results of Alberta's Beef Competitiveness Study.
The study was initiated last year when the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development approached Alberta Beef Producers, Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association, and the Canadian Cattle Association.
The focus of the study is to look at the apparent lack of packing capacity to build resiliency through the beef supply chain.
Since COVID 19 and the challenges in the supply chain a number of key risk factors have been brought to the forefront.
Melanie Wowk, Chair of the Alberta Beef Producers says hopefully it's going to help industry and government understand the best approach to diversity, and how to build some capacity and resiliency in the meat processing sector.
"We're also trying to get some information, addressing concerns around price discrepancy and transparency. It's something we've been asking for and hopefully this study will get us some answers. "
She says they want to come to government with some solutions as to how we can get some of the profit trickling down the chain a little bit better than it has been.
The beef competitiveness study has three key components.
1) Provide a better understanding of the barriers to entry and expansion for the packing sector.
2) Address confidentiality concerns through price transparency in Canadian boxed beef prices.
3) Provide a literature review of the price discovery conversations around fed cattle in North America, including an evaluation of U.S. proposals in the Canadian context.
Focusing on price discovery and transparency the Alberta beef industry is hoping to identify which data should be reported at each stage of production, and highlighting potential interventions when margins become excessive.
Wowk says Alberta's Beef Competitiveness Study was initiated a year ago and is expected to be completed by the end of November.
Meantime, the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association has called on the federal and provincial governments to conduct a pricing investigation to address the significant imbalance in cattle and beef pricing markets.
SSGA President Garner Deobald says ranchers and feedlots are operating at a loss, forcing many ag businesses to make the difficult decision to reduce their cattle numbers or even exit the business.
In citing the need for an investigation Deobald pointed out that both packers and retailers are reporting strong profits as consumer demand and willingness to pay higher prices for beef products remains strong.
"Producers are tired of working so hard for little or no return on investment."
Callum Sears, President of the Western Stock Growers Association says this is simply not sustainable.
"Consumers are paying high prices without knowing the breakdown of where their dollars are going. This is a disservice to both the consumer and the beef producer."
Sears notes as the cow herd shrinks, there is increased conversion and a loss of all the services grasslands provide.
"Biodiversity, habitat for wildlife including species at risk, water cycle regulation (storage and purification), and carbon sequestration."
Sears notes Alberta's Competitiveness Study could help inform the discussion.
"But we would like to see action starting before then, like yesterday. "
He adds they look forward to seeing the results of an investigation and would like to see other provinces ask for the same.