1.1 The Industry

Industry Overview

The Canadian Beef Brand Promise – The Canadian beef Industry has a rich heritage and tradition, produced with integrity by people who are recognized as world leaders in quality and safety. Canadian beef is raised and processed here in Canada with a strong commitment to stewardship. We are passionate about Canadian beef.

  • Quick Glossary
  • cow/calf
  • backgrounding
  • feedlot

The Canadian beef industry is a vital part of the Canadian agriculture industry and the Canadian economy for over 300 years. In 2011, the industry contributed approximately $34 billion to the Canadian economy.

Even though the industry has had challenges to overcome in the past decade and has experienced a reduction in the national cow herd 2.9 billion pounds of beef are still produced annually. 40 per cent of this national production is exported creating an approximate value of $2.2 billion with 85 per cent of this value traded to the United States. While the United States may be the beef industry’s primary trading partner,  Canada exports beef to 70 different countries with Mexico being the number two export market. Canada has ample domestic demand for beef with approximately one billion tonnes consumed on an annual basis. 20 per cent of this domestically consumed product is imported from other countries with the majority originating in the United States.

In Canada 63,500 farms raise beef cattle with an average herd size of 63 animals – cows and calves totaling 10.9 million head. The Canadian beef industry remains a family run industry with the majority of cow/calf, backgrounding and feedlot operations run as family businesses.

Industry Overview


Verified Beef Program (VBP)

The Verified Beef Production (VBP) program is the national on-farm food safety program for beef cattle production in Canada owned by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Assocation (CCA). It’s a voluntary program developed for the farm, ranch or feedlot to uphold consumer and customer confidence in the nation’s beef producers.

  • Quick Glossary
  • Verified Beef Production (VBP)
  • Canadian Cattlemen’s Assocation (CCA)

VBP has a very simple goal: to ensure confidence in Canadian beef across Canada and around the world. Food safety has become a major factor in consumer buying decisions. Good food safety starts on the farm and the Verified Beef Production program is designed to address those concerns. The VBP program was developed by the cattle industry with involvement of veterinarians, beef processors and industry technical experts.

Verified Beef Program (VBP)


Canadian Livestock Traceability

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) states that traceability is the ability to follow an item or group of items – including animals, plants, food products and agricultural inputs such as feed, seed or ingredients – from one point in the supply chain to another.

  • Quick Glossary
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)
  • Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA)
  • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
  • traceability
  • age verification

The Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) is a non-profit, industry-led organization dedicated to the implementation of technologies and services supporting Canada’s national cattle identification program.

The purpose of implementing a traceability system is to ensure the protection of animal health, public health and food safety; improve response times in emergency situations, as well as limit economic, environmental and social impacts. Traceability also provides the means to increase market share for domestic and international markets by creating confidence in Canadian products. A strong and credible traceability program will help to ensure Canada remains a leading producer and marketer of beef, with a stable demand for products at all times.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology will ensure the Canadian cattle industry can continue to meet and exceed domestic and international requirements for animal health and food safety through an efficient traceability and age verification process.

An approved CCIA RFID tag is applied to the animal’s ear prior to leaving the herd of origin.  All approved CCIA RFID tags are visually and electronically imbedded with a unique identification number.  The unique number on an animal’s approved CCIA RFID tag is maintained to the point of export or carcass inspection for traceability purposes.

Canada maintains a strong commitment to the control and elimination of serious animal diseases through its National Animal Health Program. This program, administered by the CFIA, requires ongoing surveillance for diseases in the Canadian cattle herd. Although many diseases may be eradicated from a particular herd, there may be a risk of re-occurrence. The best management practices that enable producers to manage the risks of endemic disease within their operations may have a cumulative effect when applied across the industry.  This facilitates the reduction of diseases that are considered endemic.

Canadian Livestock Traceability


National Check-Off

Check-off is a mandatory levy of one dollar collected every time an animal is sold. The levy is collected by the provincial association, using their existing collection systems involving auction markets, order buyers, brand inspectors and others who handle cattle sales.

  • Quick Glossary
  • provincial association
  • Canadian Cattlemen’s Assocation (CCA)
  • Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC)

Beef producers in Canada are represented both nationally and regionally.  The national organization is the Canadian Cattlemen’s Assocation (CCA) and regionally by their provincial association.

The goal of the National Check-Off is twofold — to fund marketing and promotion of Canadian beef worldwide and to improve the competitive advantage of Canadian beef production, through research and innovation.  The National Check-Off generates over $8 million annually and is a critical source of revenue to fund initiatives that will advance the industry and build strong markets for Canadian cattle and beef.

These goals are implemented through funding for Canada Beef Inc. and their work in domestic and U.S. marketing, and market development in Mexico, Asia and more recently Russia, the Middle East and other emerging markets. The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) is responsible for the industry’s national research program.

The research council has developed a National Beef Research Strategy, setting research priorities in five key areas: Beef Quality, Food Safety, Animal Health and Welfare, Feed Grains and Feed Efficiency, and Forages and Grassland Productivity. The BCRC identifies key research projects in these areas and others that will serve to improve production in Canada.

National Check-Off