Volume 7 Issue 7 •July 16, 2012

In This Issue ...


A win for science as Codex approves ractopamine

Earlier this month in Rome, the United Nations' food standards body, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, agreed on a set of maximum residue limits (MRLs) for the cattle and hog feed ingredient ractopamine (producers may know this by its brand name Optaflexx in cattle and Paylean in hogs). This is an important development for Canada's cattle industry as it removes any justification for a non-scientific trade irritant that has hindered trade in Canadian beef to key Asian markets like Taiwan and China. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA) congratulates the Canadian Codex delegation for its hard work on this matter which resulted in the Codex Alimentarius Commission in reaching its decision through vote.

Rome marked the fifth time that Codex has considered approval of a ractopamine standard at its annual commission meeting. The CCA undertook a significant effort to ensure the approval would not be delayed again. The CCA coordinated with its partners from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Mexico through the Five Nations Beef Alliance to ensure that each government was making a strong effort to encourage other countries to vote in favour of the standard. The CCA also sent a strong message at the International Meat Secretariat (IMS) annual meeting in June that this year's Codex Commission meeting would represent a watershed moment in determining whether Codex could continue to be relied upon as a scientific standard setting body.

We are very pleased that the Canadian government Codex team was particularly active and successfully encouraged several countries that had previously voted against approval to abstain. In the end, the approval succeeded by a vote of 69 in favour versus 67 opposed. There were seven abstentions which clearly indicates that the active advocacy efforts made the difference.

It is paramount to note that the approval of the ractopamine standard is a victory for scientific decision making at Codex. The safety of meat derived from animals fed ractopamine has been confirmed three times by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), a group of independent experts convened by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) that provides scientific support to Codex. The JECFA recommended approval of a ractopamine standard in 2004, 2006 and 2010 and the use of ractopamine is supported by 27 regulatory authorities around the world. Unfortunately, ractopamine continues to be viewed unfavourably in some markets despite these rigorous scientific assessments that showed the proposed levels of residues were not a human health concern.

The tight vote reflects the non-science based controversy over ractopamine, a growth promotant used in the U.S. and Canada. As such, CCA expects that European countries will continue to ignore the Codex standard for ractopamine, just as they have banned all growth promotants, but the value of the Codex approval will come in Asian markets that have struggled to accept anything other than zero tolerance in the absence of an internationally agreed standard.

The ractopamine MRLs set by the Codex Commission are 10 PPB of pig or cattle muscle or fat, 40 PPB in liver and 90 PPB of the animals' kidneys.

Volumes to markets not taking ractopamine are impacted by the limited production of product that can guarantee zero residual. Occasionally very low levels, less than one-tenth of the now approved standard, have been detected due to cross-contamination from feed handling equipment. Consequently, some processors have not been willing to risk exporting any beef to zero tolerance countries.

Since Taiwan and China adopted zero tolerance policies in early 2011, it has been a challenge to export any beef to those markets despite the easing of BSE restrictions. In 2011, exports to Taiwan were down 61 per cent at 924 tonnes from 2,349 tonnes in 2010.  In the first quarter of 2012 volumes are up from very small volumes in 2011 at 231 tonnes. We have exported 82 tonnes of beef to China in the first quarter of 2012.

The Codex Commission decision is expected to lead to an increase in the volume of UTM beef exports to Taiwan and China once the governments in those countries complete their domestic legal processes to implement the new standard. Taiwan is already taking steps to do so and the CCA will be following up in China as well.

Once the standards are implemented, Canadian beef exporters will finally be able to realize the potential of those markets since the easing of BSE restrictions. Of course, the CCA will remain focussed on achieving further lifting of restrictions to gain bone-in and eventually over-thirty-month (OTM) access in these markets.

It is also noteworthy that the Codex Commission placed another important feed ingredient, zilpaterol (also known as Zilmax) on its priority list for scientific evaluation by the JECFA.


Canada-Jordan Free Trade Agreement becomes law

On June 29, 2012 the Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity Act received Royal Assent making the Canada-Jordan Free Trade Agreement law.

The agreement, which is part of Canada's pro-trade plan to fortify Canadian business, will see the elimination of tariffs on the majority of Canadian exports including Canadian beef. Under the terms of the agreement Jordan has eliminated the five per cent tariff on beef cuts, the 10 per cent tariff on genetics and the 21 per cent to 28 per cent tariffs on prepared beef products.

CCA Director, Government and International Relations John Masswohl said that the agreement has enabled Canada to regain equivalent terms of access that the U.S. beef industry has enjoyed in Jordan since 2001. "As Canadian beef exporters direct their primary efforts in the Middle East to markets like Saudi Arabia, it is beneficial to have access to the neighbouring Jordan and others," he said.

The CCA welcomes the news of any country that removes prolonged BSE restrictions for Canadian beef and hopes that others markets in the Middle East will soon follow Jordan's lead.


Beef and sheep production need to be more productive

Canfax Market Briefs

Understanding international cost of production in the cattle sector is valuable in determining Canadian advantages and disadvantages on the international scene. In 2012, Canada joined 'agri benchmark' with funding from the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) and the Alberta Beef Producers. Canfax Research Services is managing the project, collecting data on cow-calf and feedlot cost of production in Western Canada with a standard methodology that allows information to be compared internationally to competitors.

Growing demand, rising prices and costs as well as land scarcity will require further productivity increases in beef and sheep production if production is to be maintained or increased, agreed the participants of the 10th 'agri benchmark' Beef and Sheep Conference which took place recently in South Africa. More than 25 countries are represented in the global network including Brazil, Australia, Argentina, the United Kingdom and United States.

The international comparison of production systems and their economics is the core competence of 'agri benchmark' and were discussed in the context of rising and more volatile costs for feed and other inputs.

Click here to read the article in full.


Enhance consumer confidence

Today's consumers have many questions about the food they eat. They want to know about food safety and whether animal health products used by beef producers are safe. The Verified Beef Production™ (VBP) program offers a straightforward solution that contributes to the production of great tasting and wholesome beef.

As Canada's on-farm food safety program for beef, the VBP program identifies industry-sanctioned practices for animal health, shipping, feed and other important areas of cattle production for producers to follow. These practices provide transparency around how cattle are raised and help enhance consumer confidence in the beef that they buy.

Producers understand that backing up how they say they raise their cattle with a set of records can help to build a stronger relationship with consumers. The VBP program also assists with the 'professionalizing' of farms and feedlots by ensuring industry-sanctioned practices throughout the production process.

Two-thirds of Canada's beef production comes from VBP-trained operations. Nearly 16,600 beef operations have taken the VBP program workshop and many feedlots use it to train new employees or as a refresher for existing staff.

VBP program guidelines are provided in the VBP Producer Manual and sample records are available in hardcopy, on-line or electronically.

Producers interested in the VBP program can take a workshop or the online version by contacting their provincial VBP coordinator. Producers can access the list of coordinators across Canada here and find out more information about the VBP program at www.verifiedbeef.org.


Research: The Foundation of Progress

The Canadian beef industry has seen numerous valuable improvements in the past 50 years as direct and indirect results of research investment.  Practical, applied research is funded through levies paid by producers when their animals are sold, which is then typically leveraged for government funding. The research allocation of the mandatory $1 national check-off, managed by the Beef Cattle Research Council, leverages funds from the federal government at a rate of 6:1, and sponsors research of priority to the industry.  In addition, many provincial cattle organizations fund research through their provincial check-off.  With the introduction of refundable provincial check-offs in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and the potential for the national check-off to become refundable in Alberta as of March 31, 2013, industry investment in Canadian research, and all of the related leveraging, may be substantially reduced.  Decreased research investment negatively impacts the profitability, sustainability, and competitiveness of the industry.
A recent article by the Alberta Beef Producers provides examples of benefits to producers and industry stakeholders across Canada as a result of investments in research, and outlines the need for long-term, consistent funding commitments in order to deliver meaningful research results to Canada's beef industry.  Click here to download the article.


CCA Action News

Staff Contributors: John Masswohl, Mark Klassen, Brenna Grant, Terry Grajczyk
Contributors: Karin Schmid
Written, edited and compiled by: Gina Teel and Matthew French

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The Canadian Cattlemen's Association is the national voice for nearly 83,000 Canadian beef cattle producers.

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