Sharing information means more money for cattle producers

There’s a growing need to respond to consumer demand for more information about the history of beef

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By Hubert Lau
President and CEO
BIXSco

EDMONTON, AB, Jan 21, 2015/ Troy Media/ – My guess is there isn’t a producer out there who hasn’t heard that there’s a growing need to respond to consumer demand for more information about the history of beef. And I’ll also bet that most producers know another thing: That they’ve been asked to shoulder much of the burden of change, without any proof they’re going to make more money in the process.

A lot of observers tell producers what they should do, where there should do it, when they should do it, and why. But very few – If any – have talked about the how. How can we make the cattle industry more profitable and competitive by sharing information through the supply chain? And how will information help producers put more money in their pockets at the end of the day?

New company takes over BIXS

To answer those questions, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and ViewTrak Technologies formed a partnership with one purpose: To enhance and expand the Beef Information Exchange System (BIXS). Under the partnership, a new privately-held company will take ownership of BIXS, with the CCA and ViewTrak as initial shareholders.

The new company will be stewards of the BIXS database, collecting and sharing valuable information for the benefit of the whole industry – and for consumers who want to know more about how their beef was raised.

cattle producers
Sharing will enhance the competitiveness of the industry

The CCA has known for years that information sharing will enhance the competitiveness of the industry, and allow Canadian beef to dominate world markets. And if we don’t do it, another country will. That’s why the CCA has asked us to partner with them to help take BIXS to the next level – by making it more effective and providing added value the the whole industry.

So, what is the new BIXS going to do to answer the how? First, we will focus on the concept of “collaborative economics.” We believe there is enormous value in collaborating while remaining fiercely competitive with one another – and that is what we mean by collaborative economics. But first, we have to show everyone what’s in it for them — and how everyone can profit by sharing information through the supply chain. There are four specific outcomes we’re focused on achieving through the new BIXS:

  • Better outcomes for producers, who will be able to better manage their businesses, enhance their breeding and marketing programs, and increasing the overall value of their product – leading to increased profits and competitiveness.
  • Better sharing of information that benefits the entire supply chain.
  • The ability to respond more effectively to food safety emergencies, reduce market disruptions, and protect bottom lines.
  • Satisfied consumers who are more confident in their beef supply, more interested in buying beef, and who have more choices about how much they pay for their beef according to the characteristics they value.

And here’s where can begin to show the value of information sharing: It’s only a short matter of time before all retailers demand the full history of birth and care from producers through to processors and packers before they will sell your beef.

We are already seeing that with A&W and Loblaws, which are advertising heavily about the full traceability of their products and getting premium pricing for them. Costco sells grass fed, hormone free beef for 50 per cent more than regular beef. McDonald’s, Canada’s largest retailer of beef recently announced it has chosen Canada, over Australia and Europe, to launch a pilot project to meet their end goal of serving only “sustainable beef” across their entire global empire.

Move benefits cattle producers

The lesson here is, the more information you can provide about cattle genetics, feed management, and medical treatment to consumers, the more in demand your beef will be, and the more producers through to retailers will be able to demand for beef – based on the qualities consumers value.

Still, to make the collaborative economics model successful in the cattle industry, we need to admit one important thing: That we don’t have all the answers. Our first job out of the gate is to listen to industry players from all parts of the supply chain and address everyone’s needs and interests going forward. In order to make that happen, we need everyone to participate in the conversation and be willing to come to the table. That’s our first step—to listen and engage so that we can get more people through the chain participating in BIXS, which is the key to building value. Information is currency, and the more we can get people providing information to and through BIXS, the more value we can provide.

Hubert Lau is President and CEO of BIXSco. With 3 million detailed carcass records and 3.4 million animal birthdate records in the system BIXS is the largest database of its kind in Canada. For more go to www.bixs.cattle.ca.

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