Deciding What Research and Innovation to Fund

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

This column usually features Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) projects supported by Canada’s national check-off, mainly through Canada’s Beef Science Cluster. The current Beef Cluster involves the BCRC, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Alberta Beef Producers, the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association, Manitoba Beef Producers, Beef Farmers of Ontario, the Quebec Beef Producers Federation, DuPont Pioneer, the Grey Wooded Forage Association, and provincial government funds from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario. By pooling resources and coordinating funding decisions, funders can avoid duplication and increase the odds that more good projects will go ahead. The Beef Cluster allows Canada’s beef industry to support much more and better research than we could in the past with limited national check-off dollars alone. The BCRC is now deciding which new projects to fund through the next Beef Cluster (2018-2023), so this month I explain how the BCRC decides what research to fund.

The first step is Continue reading

Canadian beef industry works to sustainably increase production with renewed research targets

December 1, 2016

Click to open the Overview of the Canadian Beef Research and Technology Transfer Strategy

Click to open an overview of the Canadian Beef Research and Technology Transfer Strategy 2018-2023

Canada has an opportunity to play a leading role in meeting rising global food production needs responsibly through investments in agriculture research across a variety of disciplines. Today the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) and the national Beef Value Chain Roundtable (BVCRT) released a strategy to achieve high priority beef research objectives that support increasing productivity while remaining environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

The new Canadian Beef Research and Technology Transfer Strategy will support the industry’s ability to manage challenges and sustainably supply demand. This strategy builds upon the success of the 2012-2018 National Beef Research Strategy. The new strategy’s research objectives are to be captured by 2023.

“With a growing global population that desires beef, research and innovation is critical to Continue reading

Results of the Beef Research Priority Survey

How Your Input is Influencing Future Research

Earlier this year the BCRC developed an online Beef Research Priority Survey. The Survey asked participants to rate the importance of research issues listed in the 2012 National Beef Research Strategy.

We were very pleased to receive over 500 responses.

Over half of the respondents were producers. Most were cow-calf producers (49%), with smaller numbers of seedstock breeders (5%) and feedlot operators (4%). Other responses came from veterinarians, researchers, abattoir staff, government staff and industry staff.

Every province was represented. More producer responses came from western (85%) than central and eastern Canada (15%). Nearly half of the responses were from producers 40 years of age or younger. This indicates that the producers who responded to the survey are more likely those looking forward to a long future in the beef industry.

We sifted through all of the responses in detail with greater focus on the responses provided by producers, as well as veterinarians’ responses where appropriate (e.g. animal health, welfare and antimicrobial issues). We paid special attention to issues that were identified as ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important by at least 75% of producers and vets, as well as issues that were rarely rated as ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important. We also compared responses between eastern and western Canada for issues where geography may be expected to play an important role (e.g. forage and feed grain issues).

Here’s what you told us… Continue reading

Upgrading Grading Research

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Youthful carcasses that meet A, AA, AAA or Canada Prime quality grades are also assigned a yield grade. Yield grades estimate the red meat percentage of the entire carcass based on the thickness of the backfat and size of the ribeye muscle between the 12th and 13th ribs. The method that the Canadian Beef Grading Agency uses to calculate lean meat yield from backfat depth and ribeye area was developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers in Lacombe, Alberta. Having yield grade prediction equations developed by an impartial third party like AAFC helps ensures that neither the packer nor the cattle feeder has an unfair advantage in assessing the value of an individual carcass.

The precise relationship between fat depth and muscle area can change over time as Continue reading

High Pressure Processing

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

In high pressure processing (HPP), food is sealed in water-resistant packaging, placed in a water-filled container, and exposed to very high hydrostatic pressures (up to 87,000 psi) for three to nine minutes. High pressure is harmful or deadly to many pathogenic and spoilage bacteria, so HPP can improve food safety and extend shelf life. But two problems remain. One is that high pressure doesn’t just squash bacteria; it also affects the proteins in meat. HPP-treated beef is much darker than fresh beef. Another is that Canada’s Food and Drug regulations classify “foods resulting from a process not previously used for food” as “novel foods.” This means that detailed scientific data needs to be submitted to Health Canada for review and approval before these foods can be sold commercially.

However, HPP may be quite useful if these hurdles can be overcome. Marinating beef also affects the colour of uncooked beef, so perhaps using Continue reading

5 ways cattle feeders can prepare for the fall run

Sometimes small changes or tweaks in production practices can have significant outcomes. The more you know, the more likely you’ll be to spot opportunities to save dollars and solve problems.

If you can carve out some time before things get too busy with the fall run, consider learning more about (or refresh your memory on) ways to promote calf health, feed efficiency and carcass quality.

In addition to having conversations with your veterinarian and local extension specialists, the following webpages can help with… Continue reading

Facts about conventional beef production

As restaurants and retailers look for methods to assure their customers that the beef they sell is a healthy and responsible choice, questions are raised about conventional production. Science-based answers to those questions can be found on 
Our website is full of information for producers, not only to help them make informed decisions about their own production practices, but also to help them answer consumers’ questions and maintain the public’s trust and confidence in Canadian beef.
The blog post Q&A on conventional production of Canadian beef has concise answers to questions like:

  • Can consumers be confident Canadian beef is safe from drug residues?
  • What would happen if the Canadian beef industry stopped using growth promotants?
  • How is the welfare of Canadian beef cattle upheld?
  • Is conventional beef production in Canada contributing to antimicrobial resistance?
  • Why should consumers remain confident that conventionally raised Canadian beef is safe?

Continue reading

Carcass data important for seedstock development research

Access to carcass data as well as other production information through the Beef InfoXchange System (BIXS) will be an invaluable tool for cattle breeders, geneticists and beef researchers in their efforts to build a better beef animal.

Information is the key, and carcass data along with other information from the production chain will not only guide cow-calf producers, but seedstock breeding programs as well, says Jennifer Stewart-Smith, president of Beefbooster. Michael Latimer with Canadian Beef Breeds Council says the information will be useful if it can be connected to a specific breeding program on the farm. And as a geneticist Dr. John Crowley of the University of Alberta says the carcass data will be a useful tool in understanding how the complex world of genetics influences traits in individual animals.

Carcass data is the real report card on Continue reading

Hot Water Treatment of Beef Trim

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Click to view digital issue
Combating bacteria would be simple if they stayed on the surface of beef. In that case, nearly any spray or wash could contact and kill the bacteria or wash them off. But beef isn’t smooth. Shallow cuts and cracks crisscrossing the meat surface can hide and protect bacteria. Killing these hidden bacteria is not simple. Irradiation would work, but isn’t approved for use in Canada yet. Organic acid washes and sprays may not reach the bacteria hidden in these cracks, or the acids may be neutralized by the meat proteins before bacteria can be killed. To kill these bacteria, food safety interventions need to penetrate a short distance into the meat surface. This is particularly important for beef trim (the small pieces of fat and meat that are removed as the carcass is processed into smaller cuts) that is used for hamburger. The late Dr. Colin Gill of AAFC Lacombe showed that exposing beef trim to extremely hot water essentially “cooks” the top few millimeters, and kills up to 90% of bacteria.

This raises an interesting dilemma. Consumers want safe beef, but they also Continue reading

Information is key to fine tuning on-farm breeding program

Les Johnston BIXS 2.0 (Photo credit: Terry Grajczyk)

Les Johnston (Photo credit: Terry Grajczyk)

Les Johnston has long subscribed to the beef management theory, “the more you know about your cattle the more it pays.” Whether the south-Saskatchewan beef producer is raising purebred Simmental bulls for a breeding market, or commercial cross-bred steers for the packing plant, he wants to know how those animals perform.

Being able to receive a steady flow of carcass data on cull livestock or finished commercial steers through the Beef InfoXchange System (BIXS) is a valuable confirmation of whether Continue reading