Value of Research

Research and innovation are key to driving competitiveness and innovation in the Canadian beef cattle industry and driving increased consumer demand for beef products on a global scale. Funding for research by producers through the National Check-off is important for leveraging government investments. Combined contributions create opportunities for research projects to answer the questions and develop the technologies necessary to continually find better and more efficient methods of producing high quality beef and beef cattle. Research has the opportunity to create numerous benefits for producers, processors and consumers.

This episode of the Beef Research School provides the perspectives of a research funder, industry representative and producer on the value of research in the Canadian beef cattle industry:

Improving Competitiveness

New or better ways of producing cattle and beef can improve producers’ bottom lines. Examples include improvements in carcass weight, feed efficiency and post-weaning survival rates.

Over the past 30 years, carcass weight has improved by an average of seven pounds per year due to improvements in genetics and production methods. In 2011 alone, this improvement was worth $30 million dollars to the Canadian beef industry, based on the 10 year composite value of $1.7070/lb and the 2011 fed slaughter of 2,511,876 head.

Similarly, feed conversion efficiency has improved by 30% over the past 30 years; a further 1% improvement in feed efficiency would save the feedlot sector $11.1 million annually.

Returning weaning-to-slaughter survival from current rates (86% in the 2000’s) to those seen in the recent past (90% in the 1990’s) would save Canada’s backgrounding, grass and finishing sectors $160 million annually.

Further improvements in such areas are of priority for the BCRC.

Consumer Confidence

Applied beef and cattle research can also contribute to industry competitiveness and sustainability through improved consumer confidence and science-based regulation. Examples include the areas of antimicrobial use and resistance and livestock transport.

Antimicrobial use and resistance have received considerable negative, inaccurate attention from the media, activist groups and legislators throughout North America. Research funded by the BCRC and conducted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada in collaboration with commercial feedlots has demonstrated that fewer than 1% of the antimicrobial drugs used in feedlot cattle are of very high importance in human health. This explains why 2% or less of E. coli samples isolated from feeder cattle, cattle entering abattoirs and retail beef have resistance to these drugs. This information has been used in communications with the policy makers and the government, including an appearance before the Standing Committee on Health in the spring of 2011. New technologies may allow the genetic sequencing of bacteria to more precisely determine and monitor whether antimicrobial resistance is transferring from livestock to human pathogens.

Unfounded concerns around livestock transport lead to calls for tighter regulation, reduced hours in transit and/or increased frequency and length of feed, water and rest stops. Research funded by the BCRC and conducted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, in collaboration with transport companies, demonstrated that over 99.9% of cattle reach their destination without any signs of injury. This research appears to have had a positive impact, with indications that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is moving towards outcome-based regulations in this area. These results will also contribute to the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle, which is currently being revised through the National Farm Animal Care Council.

Return on Investment

An independent study evaluating economic benefits from the National Check-off shows that Canadian beef cattle producers' funding of research activities delivers a 46:1 return on investment.

The extremely high return to research was mainly attributed to research being historically underfunded, and the fact that applied research tools are directly available to producers.

Study Q&A (PDF)
Full Study (PDF)
Supplemental Report (PDF)

Impact on Canadian Economy

Advancements in Canada’s cattle industry also positively impact the nation’s economy. In 2012, the beef sector contributed $33 billion to Canada’s GDP through direct and indirect sales of goods and services. The beef sector generates 228,811 jobs in Canada with every job in the sector yielding another 3.56 jobs elsewhere in the economy. In addition, for every $1 of income received by beef industry workers and farm owners, another $2.08 is created elsewhere. Consequently, advancements in research that positively contribute to the growth and sustainability of the Canadian beef industry are beneficial to the broader economy.

Opportunities for the Future

Canada is in a position to respond to global growth in beef demand, supported by favorable production and regulatory conditions, and a continued focus on overall industry competitiveness. Future growth in productivity to enhance competitiveness depends in large part on investment in research that helps the industry manage costs and increase efficiency.

Research will also play a critical role in supporting the industry’s Canadian Beef Advantage and value proposition to provide high quality grain-fed beef and be a global leader in animal health and food safety.

Research will continue to be the underpinning for the industry to take a leadership role in informing regulation and advocacy areas such as food safety, animal health practices, animal care and the environment. Research will play an increasingly important role in the area of expanding beef exports and trade, to inform science-based regulations and trade agreements.

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