RECOGNITION IS NICE; being recognized five times on an international level is incomparable.
|WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW|
• The Ontario Corn Fed Beef Program received (OCFB) its fifth 3-star Superior Taste Award for the quality of the beef it produces.
• Introduced in 2001, the OCFB program focuses on feeding high-quality grains and forages to top-quality cattle.
• The program represents a farm quality assurance system to show how cattle have been produced.
• Corn is Ontario’s largest crop by volume, and a little more than 10 per cent is used in beef production.
• Increasing the usage and value of Ontario grains through market diversification and promotion is a strategic objective of Grain Farmers of Ontario.
Last June, the Ontario Corn Fed Beef Program received its fifth 3-Star Superior Taste Award for the quality of the beef it produces. The award program carries a tremendous amount of cachet, given its representation by members from prestigious culinary institutions in Europe. The Ontario Corn Fed Beef Program (OCFB) received a grade of 90 per cent, exceeding the 70 per cent mark required for a Superior Taste Award of one, two, or three golden stars.
It is also a testament to the brand loyalty of the Ontario Corn Fed Beef Program and the collaborative efforts of the Beef Farmers of Ontario, the Ontario Cattle Feeders’ Association, and Grain Farmers of Ontario.
In 2001, beef producers and cattle feeders launched the highly successful, highly respected approach of feeding high-quality grains and forages as part of a balanced diet and ensuring they are fed to top-quality cattle. Twenty-two years later, the Ontario Corn Fed Beef Program is equally valued by consumers here at home and is a matter of pride among members of the organizations involved in its production and marketing.
“The Ontario Corn Fed Beef Program is the flagship brand of the Ontario Cattle Feeders’ Association (OCFA),” says John Baker, director of brand management and business development of OCFB. “The brand has been the pride of the OCFA and its members since its inception.”
Beef producers, he adds, have a passion for what they do and represent to their peers, their local community and agriculture as an industry. The program represents a farm quality assurance system designed to show how cattle have been produced with a specific set of guidelines that is a benefit to consumers.
“The ultimate goal of the OCFB Quality Assurance Program is to produce a naturally great-tasting product that’s consistently tender and juicy,” says Baker. “Over time, the brand has become recognized as a premium product in the marketplace.”
It is well-known in agriculture that consumers want to know more about who produces their food and the processes involved. The Ontario Corn Fed Beef brand offers a story and an opportunity for transparency in cattle production and provides a platform for creating additional value for producers across the province and Canada. It is also an approved certifying body for the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and has enabled producers to qualify for financial credits earned through the program. Those credits are shared by producers in all sectors of cattle production.
ALL THAT CORN
Increasing the usage and value of Ontario grains through market diversification and promotion is a strategic objective of Grain Farmers of Ontario. Dana Dickerson, market development manager with the organization, calls the Ontario Corn Fed Beef Program a vital enabler of that objective where it relates to corn.
“Corn is our largest volume grain crop, and in 2022, Ontario produced just under 9.5 million tonnes of corn,” she says. “According to our 2020 grain utilization study, just over one-tenth of the province’s corn is used as feed in beef production, making it a significant market category.”
Additionally, a little more than a third of Ontario’s corn crop is used for ethanol production. For every bushel of corn used in ethanol distillation, roughly 15 pounds of dried distillers’ grain and a little less than a pound of distillers’ oil are left over after processing. These co-products are fed to cattle as a high-nutrient animal feed, maximizing the potential value-added opportunities for grain. Given the size of the beef market for Ontario corn, it is significant to Grain Farmers of Ontario that the Ontario Cattle Feeder’s Association has a program that aims to drive market share by celebrating the contributions of Ontario-grown corn in Ontario-fed cattle.
“Distinguishing Ontario corn-fed beef as a high quality, premium product supports market retention and has helped develop new market opportunities for both our organizations,” says Dickerson. “This program is reflective of the integration, collaboration, and circularity of the Ontario agriculture sector. Grain Farmers of Ontario is just as proud to champion the merits of Ontario Corn Fed Beef as Ontario Cattle feeders are to champion the merits of Ontario corn.”
That kind of intra-industry recognition is important, and Mike Conlin understands and appreciates all that the OCFB represents, from corn production to cattle feed to processing the finished product. A producer from Middlesex County and a board member of the OCFA for the past 12 years, he has been certified with the Ontario Corn Fed Beef program since its inception in 2001. He is also certified by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.
“The OCFB program provides us with recognition around the quality of the cattle we produce,” says Conlin, a fourth-generation producer with two sons who are also involved in the family farm. “The packers recognize the consistent quality that the OCFB program provides.”
He speaks glowingly of the impact of the Superior Taste Award, noting the loyalty of the Corn Fed Beef program’s customers, including tours from Japan that his family has hosted. The OCFB program affords transparency on how producers raise their cattle, which in turn has tremendous value for those customers.
“We’ve had Ontario Corn Fed Beef retail customers from Japan tour our operation and later sit in our kitchen and meet with our family,” says Conlin. “They tell us how much they appreciate the Ontario Corn Fed Beef program and how their customers love the taste and consistent quality of our beef.”
He encourages producers to join the OCFB program; the audit process does not require a lot of extra time or effort, and most of it is based on best practices already in place. •