The livestock crisis

Toward a New Analysis and New Solutions

CONTAMINATED MEAT RECALL FOCUSES ATTENTION ON BROKEN BEEF SECTOR

Punishing. This is what cattle farmers are saying about how the E. coli O157 contamination of beef at XL Foods is affecting them. They are losing sales and receiving lower prices for their livestock as a result of CFIA’s closure of the XL plant. Farmers say that the livestock leaving their farms are safe. Food safety issues only enter the system downstream of the farmer. Nevertheless, farmers who are blameless in the mismanagement are punished financially for the failure of processor and regulator alike, over whom they have no control or influence.

Predictable. That is what the National Farmers Union is saying about Canada’s largest recall of beef, which was processed by XL Foods. Canada’s beef packing and processing industry is highly concentrated. Just two packers – XL Foods and Cargill – process 80% of Canada’s beef. XL Foods alone processes 30,000 head a week. A failure in one part of XL’s systems causes a cascade of consequences from that point onward. Such a systems failure threatens the health of thousands of Canadians, negatively affects the Canadian brand and turns cattle farmer’s hard work and investment into garbage for the nearest landfill.

Preventable. How did the beef sector come to this point; why, and when? More importantly, what can be done to improve the situation? A prescient NFU report issued in 2008, The Farm Crisis and the Cattle Sector: Towards a New Analysis and a New Solution, provides an in-depth analysis of the beef sector. In the report, the NFU goes further, proposing solutions to address the problems identified.

We have a crisis. We have a need for new thinking. We have a need for bold solutions.

The NFU's 2008 comprehensive report on the crisis in the cattle sector analyzed why cattle prices are depressed. The report clearly showed that the problems facing producers were due to policies that promoted corporate concentration and allowed the packing and retail sector to take more than their fair share of the beef dollar. After the report was published, and in cooperation with other organizations, local farmers and ranchers, the NFU held a series of meetings in rural communities to highlight the findings outlined in the report. Members gave presentations about what was causing the crisis and the solutions proposed to raise farm income. At that time, the consensus among farmers was that the cattle sector needed major changes. Today, that consensus - along with the analysis and recommendations outlined in the report - iseven truer.

Read the Executive Summary.

Read the Full Report.

 

LATEST NEWS

October 11, 2012: THE NFU CALLS FOR OVERHAUL OF FEDERAL POLICY ON MEAT INDUSTRY

(Saskatoon) - The National Farmers Union is reminding policy makers about its analysis of the beef sector, including 16 recommendations outlined in our 2008 report, The Farm Crisis and the Cattle Sector: Toward a New Analysis and New Solutions. Problems related to the beef sector that we identified then have only become more severe. (Read more...)

October 10, 2012: IT IS TIME FOR A NATIONAL DEBATE ON THE FOOD INDUSTRY by Neil Peacock, NFU Board member

The XL Foods recall has really got people talking about the food system all across Canada. Concern for the safety of our food unites us whether we are urban or rural, farmers or consumers, regardless of which part of the country we live in. Some people are saying we need a national debate on the food industry,  and I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. (Read more...)

October 3, 2012: CATTLE FARMERS PAYING FOR GOVERNMENT AND XL FOODS SAFETY FAILURES, SAYS NFU

(Sexsmith, AB)- The National Farmers Union (NFU) asserts that federal agriculture and trade policy created the conditions that led to Canada’s largest recall of beef from stores, homes and restaurants all across Canada due to E.coli 0157 contamination which has now temporarily shut down the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alberta. The massive concentration in the meat packing industry and increased self-regulation of these few high-volume, high-speed processing plants are due to policy that helps the biggest companies increase both profit and market share in pursuit of global competitiveness by allowing them to reduce costs for meat inspection. (Read more...)