Canadian beef may soon have easier access to European markets, thanks to upcoming revisions to the production and processing protocol governing imports of Canadian beef.
These changes would be very significant, said Mark Klassen, director of technical services for the Canadian Cattlemen s Association.
The changes, the result of a five-year effort, will give Canada a good opportunity in one of the world s largest markets for beef, he said.
Because Europe is expected to increase imports, due in part to declining domestic production, it s a significant opportunity now and a growing opportunity, said Klassen.
The beef-export protocol, created in 1996 in response to Europe s 1989 ban on growth-enhancement products (GEPs), is so strict and complex that few producers are able to comply. Consequently, the Canadian beef industry has sent almost no beef to the European Union (EU) despite recent access to duty-free quota.
With the present state of the beef industry, there were practices that had changed and recognition that things could be made easier, said Klassen. We prioritized a number of changes to try to reduce the cost of the program. If you re not using GEPs, you re already down roughly $100 in lost growth efficiency and carcass yield. You re already under water and you can t afford to add much more in terms of cost.
The Canadian government made our protocol before the U.S. made theirs. We were first off the block and when you re first, it s maybe a little trickier. We did make a protocol that, in my mind, offered very strong assurances, but was so difficult to implement that it almost certainly did affect participation and ultimately our exports.
Klassen said he expects the new protocol will be acceptable to European regulators, given many of the revisions mirror practices they already accept in U.S. and Australian exports.
The updated protocol includes five important changes:
” Given that today s CCIA RFID tags fulfil the EU s tamper-proof and unique identifier ear tag requirements, an EU-specific ear tag which is both expensive and often difficult to purchase has been deemed unnecessary.
” Urine tests will be conducted on carcasses at the processing plant rather than on live animals at the feedlot, increasing ease and safety.
” Approved veterinarians will be required to conduct farm visits less often, with a goal of reaching the U.S. average of two visits per year for feedlots.
” Less paperwork. For example, transfer certificates will be simplified so scanning of individual animals can happen at the feedlot as opposed to on a cow-calf producer s farm.
” The availability of animals that can be sold to EU markets will be widened.
Unlike other markets, you can t send just any animal to the EU, said Klassen. This revision is trying to make it possible to procure EU-eligible animals through the auction mart.
Antimicrobial treatments considered
There s good news on the processing side of the industry as well. North American processors widely use antimicrobial interventions such as steam or hot water carcass pasteurization and lactic or acetic acid spray to kill pathogens that might be present on the exterior of the carcass. Europe has long prohibited the use of any antimicrobial treatments but officials are now prepared to consider these treatments.
We ve got them to accept steam and we re still working on getting them to accept hot-water carcass pasteurization, said Klassen, adding he is hopeful that spraying of lactic acid, an organic acid, will be accepted within the next year.
It can be difficult to understand why the EU has not encouraged the use of these antimicrobial interventions earlier as there is strong scientific evidence for their effectiveness, he said.
I think the argument is that employing these treatments on the carcass may reduce the incentive to implement hygienic practices on the slaughter floor. However, we know that in Canada these interventions are part of a comprehensive food safety system where due diligence at each step contributes to the achievement of strict microbiological standards. Further, while cuts from the carcass may be exported to the EU, the trim is typically sold in North America where buyers often require these treatments to be used.
Once approved for exporters, domestic processors in Europe would also be able to use antimicrobial treatments to enhance food safety, he noted.
Changeswillgive Canada agood opportunityinone oftheworld slargest marketsforbeef.
Mark Kla ssen