Manitoba packing plant gets certified to send beef to US |

Manitoba packing plant gets certified to send beef to US

A Manitoba-based packing plant reports that it is now USDA certified, making it ready to ship beef in to the U.S. market. The certification occurred in the past three weeks.

The Manitoba Co-operator reported that the company currently kills about 200 head of cattle per week, but could double that number by fall. The plant, that has been in operation since 2014 and is Manitoba’s only federally inspected (for Canada) plant, now intends to ship beef to the United States very soon, said the story.

CattleFax spokesman Kevin Good said that the North American cattle industry needs shackle space to kill cattle so the ability for a Manitoba plant to ship cattle to the U.S. is a win for producers in both Canada and the U.S.

“It’s a North American market. U.S. and Canada combined,” he said. Good said that there is no distinction between the two country’s industries and that processing more cattle is good for the entire industry – no matter where the cattle originate or where the beef is headed.

“There is a chance they could process U.S. cattle but it’s unlikely.” He said that some feeder cattle and a few fed cattle do travel north, but that most often, cattle and beef are coming south instead.

“Essentially, it’s demand. Creating more demand, not worrying about where that beef is going but it’s creating more buyer demand for fed cattle in North America.”

If the plant succeeds in increasing their slaughter numbers to another 200 per week, it would calculate to about 10,000 head per year which is minimal when considering the U.S. harvests about 26 million head per year. “But it’s a trend of increased packer capacity which is positive for fed cattle. It will help ranchers, not hurt,” he said.

South Dakota seedstock producer and R-CALF USA committee chairman Vaughn Meyer, Reva, South Dakota, has concerns.

“I’d really be opposed to this if they are allowed to label it as U.S. beef,” Meyer said.

It was recently revealed that meat packers are legally able to re-wrap imported beef and market it as product of the United States. “At one time we thought it was being ground or something significant – undergoing a ‘substantial transformation’ in order to be labeled as U.S. beef,” he said. “But really, it’s just a matter of re-wrapping the boxed beef and putting a USA label on it.”

Consumers deserve honest labeling so they can make informed decisions, he said, adding that imported beef does have a negative impact on U.S. cattle prices.

The company’s website says it is a smaller plant that offers more personalized attention to carcasses – they can process one or two head for a producer or will put in a bid on a semi load.

The meat plant is able to barcode each carcass and maintain that information throughout the cutting process – to provide full traceability of each cut of meat back to the livestock producer.

In The Manitoba Co-operator, the company’s owner said some Canadian retailers require USDA certification, so they will now be equipped to market to those companies, but shipping to the U.S. is key, too.

“It’s really a huge step forward for us because, I guess, the obvious thing is that it opens up the entire U.S. market to beef coming out of True North Foods, so that in itself is just huge because the market is 10 times the size of Canada,” True North Owner Calvin Vaags said in The Manitoba Co-Operator.

The story also reports that the company hopes to eventually make deals with the EU as well. The plant could potentially kill 1,000 head per week but would need to increase cooler space.