Survey Says…?

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the August 2021 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.
Canadian beef producer standing in pasture taking BCRC's online beef industry survey
In February’s column I encouraged you to fill out our online beef research survey to help the Beef Cattle Research Council and other industry and government funders develop a clear set of priorities to guide our funding decisions over the next five years. Thanks for responding – we had nearly twice as many responses this time as we got five years ago. The more responses we get, the more confidence we have in the feedback that comes in. Here are some of the highlights of what you told us.

What We Did:

The survey was open between January 5 and March 5, 2021. It asked you to rate a variety of research issues as Extremely, Very, Moderately, Slightly or Not Important in the areas of feed efficiency and utilization, forage and grassland productivity, environmental sustainability, animal health and welfare, beef quality and food safety. We also asked how often producers used different communication channels for production information and how influential they were in their decision making.

A total of 878 Canadians responded to the survey. This article focuses on the responses provided by the 65 seedstock, 497 cow-calf and 33 feedlot producers, as well as the 39 veterinarians (for the animal health and welfare section) and 26 non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives (for the environmental sustainability section). We paid particular attention to issues that were rated as Extremely or Very Important by 75% or more of respondents, as well as issues that were rated as Slightly or Not Important by 25% or more of respondents.

What We Learned:

Feed efficiency and utilization: Cow-calf and seedstock respondents prioritized differences in wintering costs between efficient and inefficient cows, while feedlot operators prioritized the impacts of feed quality and feedlot management practices on feed efficiency. Not surprisingly, feedlot operators rated barley and corn yields more highly than cow-calf or seedstock producers.

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**REMINDER**WEBINAR: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Beef Cluster* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)

The BCRC is hosting a webinar on Wednesday, August 4th for researcher teams intending to apply for funding under the 2023-28 Beef Science Cluster (Cluster IV). 

Have questions? Submit them in advance when you register

This webinar will cover topics including: 

  • Canada’s Beef Industry Strategy  
  • Canada’s Beef Research & Technology Transfer Strategy 2023-28 
  • Research priorities targeted for the Beef Cluster IV 
  • The BCRCs LOI and proposal review and selection process 
  • Tips, cautions and considerations for preparing Letters of Intent and Full Proposals 
  • Researcher FAQs about research proposals 

The webinar will be recorded and posted on www.beefresearch.ca for future reference. 

Please share this blog announcement to students and postdocs in your circles who you are likely to participate in the project brainstorming and proposal development process.

For more information about the BCRCs current Call for Letters of Intent click here

Click here to subscribe to the BCRC Blog and receive email notifications when new content is posted.

The sharing or reprinting of BCRC Blog articles is welcome and encouraged. Please provide acknowledgement to the Beef Cattle Research Council, list the website address, www.BeefResearch.ca, and let us know you chose to share the article by emailing us at info@beefresearch.ca.

We welcome your questions, comments and suggestions. Contact us directly or generate public discussion by posting your thoughts below.

Attn Researchers: BCRC Opens Call For Cluster IV Letters Of Intent *Webinar*



The Beef Cattle Research Council invites letters of intent (LOIs) for the fourth Beef Cattle Industry Science Cluster. The application deadline for this call is October 1, 2021 at 11:59 PM MT.

The purpose of this call is to achieve specific objectives in the Five-Year Canadian Beef Research and Technology Transfer Strategy and the National Beef Strategy. This call for research LOIs is made possible by the recent increase in the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off in most provinces.

Approved projects can be up to five years in length and will commence no earlier than April 1, 2023, subject to the approval of the Beef Cattle Science Cluster by AAFC. Projects will be funded by Canadian cattle producers through the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-Off and matching funding BCRC will apply for through the Agri-Science Clusters Program under the next agricultural policy framework.   Continue reading

The BCRC invites proposals related to proof of concept research and clinical trials

The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) invites proposals related to proof of concept research and clinical trials. The application deadline for this call is September 1, 2021 at 11:59 PM MT.

With increased investment in research through the Canadian Beef Cattle Check-off, the BCRC has committed to provide research funding in two key areas that have previously had limited funding:

  1. Proof of Concept – proposals to help inform whether a concept is worth pursuing as a larger, more defined funding request
  2. Clinical Trials – proposals to validate practices or technologies that have been discovered through research projects and/or to facilitate the adaptation of technologies utilized in other sectors, commodities, or countries

The BCRC has committed funding to short-term projects in these two areas, with a maximum of $50,000 per project regardless of duration. Project duration should not exceed six months to one year unless a clear rationale can be provided demonstrating the need for a longer timeframe. Continue reading

Renewed Research and Extension Objectives Support a Thriving Beef Sector

Strategic and collaborative investments in research and technology transfer bolster the Canadian beef sector’s leadership in responsibly meeting rising global food production needs. Today, the Beef Cattle Research Council and its industry partners released a renewed five-year strategy to help target funding toward achieving highpriority beef research and extension objectives.  

The Five-Year Canadian Beef Research and Technology Transfer Strategy supports increasing productivity while building upon the sector’s leadership in environmental, social and economic sustainability. It builds upon the success of previous iterations and complements the National Beef Strategy’s ambitious 10-year goals 

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Nutritional Qualities of Beef

It’s important to understand how what we eat impacts our health and daily life but it can be hard to sift through the volume of information – and disinformation – that is out there. The BCRC has updated a web page that focuses on facts about beef nutrition. We also encourage you to check out www.thinkbeef.ca, which contains current Canadian beef nutritional information.

Beef is increasingly being portrayed as an optional protein however beef contains a total package of nutrients that are essential at every life stage. Beef contains essential nutrients including protein, iron, zinc, selenium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, phosphorus, pantothenate, magnesium, and potassium. It is impossible to get this combination of nutrients, in a single, dense package, from plant-based foods. In fact, a recent Canadian study demonstrates that gram-for-gram, beef is more nutrient dense and more economical than many other protein foods.

Dietary Patterns

Canadian diets are changing and not necessarily for the better. Nutritional guidelines are largely based on whole ingredients and home-cooked foods, however today, more foods than ever are processed, packaged, and eaten with minimal home-preparation. On average, Canadians are consuming nearly half of their daily calories from ultra-processed foods, which are often high in sodium, fat, calories, and sugar. Meanwhile, only five per cent of their calories are consumed from nutrient-rich red meat, such as beef. Continue reading

Will the Real Superfood Please Stand Up?

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the August 2020 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

“Superfood” is a marketing (not medical or scientific) term used to describe foods with perceived health benefits because of exceptional nutritional properties. Google “superfood” and you’ll see numerous lists claiming health benefits for foods like broccoli, legumes, nuts, salmon, eggs, kale, beans, spinach, and trendy new things like acai or goji berries that marketers are launching. Animal proteins are rarely included, with the occasional exception of eggs or fish.

Meat, and particularly red meat, is often portrayed as nutritionally optional. As one example, Canada’s new Food Guide suggested that plant- and animal-based proteins are nutritionally equivalent, but recommended eating plant-based proteins more often. Like similar reports linking red meat consumption to heart disease and cancer, the new Food Guide has been heavily criticized for selective using evidence to support their recommendations. Continue reading

Feed Efficiency and Beef Quality

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Cattle breeders are often cautioned to avoid selecting too heavily for a single trait. Avoiding extremes is the obvious reason; selecting for small frame size in the 1950’s accidentally resulted in a dwarfism problem in a few breeds. Another reason is that a lot of traits are genetically correlated, meaning that selecting for one trait can have effects on other seemingly unrelated traits, like how selecting for increased growth rate or leanness eventually results in later puberty in heifers and larger mature cows. No matter what trait you’re selecting for, there will always be unintended consequences on other genetic traits. Breeding your way into a corner can happen quite quickly, but breeding your way out can take a lot longer.

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Canadian steer carcasses are 125 lbs heavier than previous audit: Video



The 2016/2017 National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) completed a carcass grade cooler audit to assess marbling and lean meat yield.

Since the previous audit in 2010/2011, the number of Canadian cattle grading AAA significantly increased which has supported the growth of branded beef programs in retail and the restaurant sector.

Table 1: Changes in percentage of A grades from 2010/2011 to 2016/2017. Data source Canadian Beef Grading Agency (CBGA).

Yield grade performance has decreased over the same time period. Due to the increase in fat cover, fewer cattle are meeting the yield class 1 designation. In fed cattle, the cost to industry from discounts on yield grades has increased from $12.57/head or $32 million in 2010/11 to $12.81/head or $33 million in 2016/17.

The average steer carcass rate has increased from 857 lbs in 2010/2011 to 982 lbs in 2017. Larger carcass sizes present challenges because larger muscle sizes require steaks to be cut thinner to fit portion sizes on restaurant menus. Since 1975, carcasses have increased 7 lbs annually.

The ultimate goal is to continue to produce high marbling carcasses and maintain lean meat yield even at heavier carcasses. It is well known that marbling is the last fat to be deposited and has a positive effect on the eating quality of some cuts. However, there is a time-based relationship between muscle and fat deposition and fat will continue to accumulate without increases in muscle at higher live weights. The ideal carcass would be one that meets both a high quality and yield grade, for example Canada Prime or AAA and a Y1 yield grade.

Table 2: Carcasses meeting the AAA/Y1 grade in 2016/2017 compared to 2010/2011. Data source CBGA.

Learn more: 

Click here to subscribe to the BCRC Blog and receive email notifications when new content is posted.

The sharing or reprinting of BCRC Blog articles is welcome and encouraged. Please provide acknowledgement to the Beef Cattle Research Council, list the website address, www.BeefResearch.ca, and let us know you chose to share the article by emailing us at info@beefresearch.ca.

We welcome your questions, comments and suggestions. Contact us directly or generate public discussion by posting your thoughts below.

How much do Canadian consumers enjoy their home-cooked steaks? New video

To understand the satisfaction of Canadian beef consumers, a Retail Beef Satisfaction Benchmark was completed as part of the 2014-18 National Beef Quality Audit.

Goals of the retail beef study were to determine:

  1. the importance of tenderness, juiciness and flavour
  2. consumer satisfaction levels with Canadian beef steaks
  3. the tenderness of Canadian beef steaks

Consumer satisfaction with retail beef in Canada was assessed using four cuts of steak (boneless cross rib, top sirloin, inside round, or strip loin) from 75 stores across Canada. A total of 1200 randomly selected consumers were provided with one cut of steak, instructed to prepare it at home and to provide a score out of ten for juiciness, flavour, tenderness and overall rating. Consumers were screened to ensure they had some experience in preparing beef products and had consumed beef in the past year. The same retailers also provided 680 steaks which were tested for tenderness using a technique called the Warner-Bratzler method at Agriculture and Agri-Food (AAFC) laboratory in Lacombe, AB.

The consumer satisfaction assessment revealed that 79% of the test consumers gave an overall score of 7/10 or higher. Of the 1,200 consumers, 288 gave their steak a perfect rating (10/10). When the rest of the consumers were asked, “Why wasn’t it perfect?”, approximately 12% of study consumers felt their cooking methods were solely or partially responsible. The consumers’ main concern (46%) was with the texture (tenderness and juiciness) of their steak. Flavour and fat content were least often noted as a concern (9% and 6% respectively). Continue reading