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By Dan Ferguson
Manager of Producer Relations, 
Beef Farmers of Ontario

& Jaclyn Horenberg
Producer Relations Specialist,
Beef Farmers of Ontario

Canadian beef producers take great pride in their cattle, the environment they raise them in, and ultimately, the high-quality beef they produce for Canadians and people around the world. As an industry, we want consumers to choose to eat Canadian beef, and we want them to feel good about that decision. We need to be a part of the food conversation, telling the story of the responsible production practices of Canadian beef producers through a unified, and credible voice.

The Verified Beef Production Plus Program (VBP+) enables producers to publicly demonstrate their commitment to responsible stewardship of both cattle and the environment. The program has evolved from an on-farm food safety program, to now also covering animal care, the environment, and biosecurity. As a certification body for the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB), the VBP+ program certifies that producers meet the CRSB Certified Sustainable Beef Framework through a third-party on-farm audit.

The CRSB’s Certified Sustainable Beef Framework, known as CRSB Certified, was developed to recognize sustainable practices through third-party certification, support sustainable commitments for retail and foodservice companies, and build consumer trust through credible, science-based claims about sustainable beef production in Canada. The demand for Certified Sustainable Beef (CSB) is growing, and it can be found on items at McDonalds Canada, Chop Steakhouse & Bar, Harvey’s, Loblaws, Gordon Food Service, and most recently, Walmart Canada. Walmart Canada is the first grocery retailer to use the Certified Sustainable logo directly on their “Your Fresh Market” brand beef patties.

The increased consumer demand for CSB is exciting, and it pays for producers to be sustainable. There are financial credits available to producers through the Cargill Certified Sustainable Beef program. This initiative enables Cargill’s retail and foodservice customers to source certified sustainable Canadian beef and market beef products to Canadians with an on-product Certified Sustainable Beef (CSB) logo and claim. In order for cattle to qualify for financial credits, they must be raised on certified sustainable operations their whole life, be age verified, and be tracked through TrustBIX before being shipped to a Cargill plant in either Guelph, Ontario or High River, Alberta. Since its inception in Western Canada in 2018, the CSB sourcing program has paid over $1 million in financial credit payments to producers. These credit payments are made possible thanks to funding by participating customers like McDonald’s Canada, Loblaws, Cactus Club Café, Recipe Unlimited (Harvey’s), Chop Steakhouse & Bar, and Gordon Food Service Canada who share Cargill’s appreciation for the dedication shown by producers who demonstrate the sustainability of the Canadian beef industry through this verification system.

Beef producers can become CRSB Certified through one of three approved certification bodies in Ontario: VBP+ (all sectors), Ontario Corn Feed Beef (feedlot), or Where Food Comes From (all sectors).

Steps to become CRSB Certified through VBP+:

1. Training – Training is currently offered at no cost virtually in a live, 2-hour webinar. Please email jaclyn@ontariobeef.ca for the next available session.

2. Audit Prep – During the training webinar, you will learn about audit requirements and producers can also seek preaudit help if needed.

3. On-Farm Audit – Schedule an on-farm audit with a trained auditor. The audit normally takes a few hours to complete, and is designed to be practical with auditors who have experience in the beef industry.

a) Complete any Corrective Action Requests from the on-farm audit to successfully become a VBP+ Certified operation.

b) Maintain yearly record requirements to ensure that you are still incompliance with the program. On-farm audits are completed once every five years.

For feedlots who are currently certified under the Ontario Corn Fed Beef Quality Assurance (OCFBQA) program, please contact the OCFA office at info@ontariocornfedbeef.com to learn about the steps needed to achieve CRSB certification.

With over 500 feedlots in Ontario already certified under the OCFBQA program, Ontario feedlots are going to be actively looking to source calves from VBP+ audited farms. Financial credits for Cargill’s CSB program are paid on a per head basis, but only for cattle that have been raised at each stage of production on a Certified Sustainable farm and processed at Cargill facilities. This requires all sectors of the industry to be working together to ensure they can capture the financial credits available. Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) is currently investigating the creation of an incentive program to encourage participation in the VBP+ program. More details will be shared through BFO channels as they are confirmed.

Currently, there are more than 1,300 farms audited as Certified Sustainable in Canada. Let’s keep this momentum going by continuing to produce Certified Sustainable beef for consumers who are looking for responsibly raised beef.

To learn more, please visit the following websites:
verifiedbeef.ca | crsbcertified.ca | ontariocornfedbeef.com | cargillsustainablebeef.ca

This article was written for the Summer 2021 Beef Grist. To read the whole Beef Grist, click the button below.