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

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

Attention researchers: OMAFRA Food Safety Research Program accepting LOIs

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has announced the 2016-17 OMAFRA Food Safety Research Program Call for Letters of Intent. Submission deadline: Wednesday, June 29th, 2016 at 11:59 a.m. EST

For more details, visit the OMAFRA Food Safety Research program webpage:


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

Dry Chilling (and two other things)

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

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The muscle tissues of healthy animals are essentially free of bacteria until carcasses are skinned. At that point, it is impossible to eliminate the transfer of bacteria from the hide and the environment to the meat.
Many of those bacteria are harmless, but some can cause meat to spoil faster. Others, like verotoxigenic E. coli (e.g. E. coli O157:H7 and others) can pose a very serious risk to human health. Well-managed packing plants can minimize the transfer of bacteria from the animal to the carcass, but they can’t eliminate it completely. Many food safety interventions such as Continue reading

Performance Improving Product Approvals

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

Last month’s column summarized a North Dakota State University research project where young female pigs were fed burgers made from tofu or beef from naturally-raised or implanted cattle to see whether they reached puberty sooner. They didn’t. That is no surprise, because researchers, pharmaceutical companies and government regulators invest a lot of time, effort and expense in assessing the risks that any new animal health product may pose to human health before it is approved for use. Dr. Sang-Hee Jeong described the risk assessment process in a 2010 article “Risk Assessment of Growth Hormones and Antimicrobial Residues in Meat” (Toxicol. Res. 26:301-313).

The first step is to determine efficacy (effectiveness). In other words, a new growth promotant must be able to improve growth rate, efficiency or carcass composition before it will be approved for that purpose. But these products Continue reading

These Little Piggies Ate a Quarter Pounder a Day

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

Does eating beef from implanted cattle cause young girls to reach puberty sooner?

Hormonal growth promotants have been used in beef cattle for a long time. The newest one (trenbolone acetate) has been around for nearly 35 years, while implants containing estradiol have been around for 60 years. Growth promotants improve growth rates and feed efficiency, but also reduce environmental impacts. A 2012 paper by Capper and Hayes (J. Anim. Sci. 90:3527-3537) estimated that producing the same amount of beef without growth promotants would require 12% more cattle, 11% more feed, 10% more land, 7% more fertilizer, 8% more fuel, produce 10% more manure and greenhouse gas, and increase retail prices by 8%.

Consumer concerns around the safety of the beef from implanted cattle are more recent. Plants also contain estrogen-like hormones (phytoestrogens), so a counter-argument is that ‘there are more hormones in the bun than in the burger’. Continue reading

Consumer MisReports

Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center released its “Beef Report” on August 25. A number of questions, concerns and criticisms have been raised by the North American Meat Institute, the International Food Information Council, Business Insider, and others. Rather than answer the specific questions raised, Consumer Reports has encouraged people to read the report more closely.

Unfortunately, reading the report more closely simply raises more questions about the expertise and/or integrity of Consumer Reports and its “policy and action arm,” Consumers Union.

Here’s one example.

The Danger of Superbugs” heads a section on Page 10 and 11 detailing the health hazards posed by Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STECs, like E. coli O157). This directly implies that antimicrobial resistance will make STEC infections more difficult to treat. This is not true.

Antibiotics are not used to treat STEC infections in people. Instead, 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