I just got back from the Canada Beef School at Olds College,
so please call me for any facts and definitive answers to questions about the
Canadian beef industry you may have. Heck, I’ll even make it global – call with
any questions you have about beef on the planet. I now have all the answers.
Seriously, it was a great three days at the school. This was
the seventh school that Olds has staged – they usually run it twice a year. It
is an excellent learning opportunity for cow/calf producers, feeders and any
one interested in learning how the beef industry in Canada runs. In my
business, we writers are notorious for writing about things we know nothing
about. Well, now, for me, a few more pieces of the puzzle are in place. There isn’t
an awful lot of information about daily beef herd production issues. But, as
they say, this school is a look under the hide. What happens after the animal
leaves the feedlot?
So it is about carcass quality, carcass grading, and meat
cutting. What are the primal cuts and how are they broken down into retail
cuts? What are the challenges (and
options) that packers and retail cutters face in trying to present good quality
beef to consumers. (Photo at right, Allan Wilson, beef producer from Bentley, AB gets serious with a primal cut.)
here was a lot of good information and discussion about
factors affecting meat quality and carcass quality on the farm or ranch. What
can producers do to hopefully produce cattle with more of those AAA Yield Grade
1 carcasses? And there was also discussion about whether cow/calf men and women
should be striving to produce those AAA carcasses. What is the most economical
and the most marketable grade?
And it isn’t just classroom time. You’re in there like a
dirty smock (not a good analogy to use when we’re talking about cutting meat
and proper hygiene), but you can be up to your elbows learning what’s involved
in inspecting and grading carcasses, and then wrestling these sides on to the
cutting table and getting hands-on training on how to properly cut meat.
There were about 20 of us in the class. Most where cow/calf
producers, although there were a couple feeders, one representative from
Loblaws (President’s Choice) foods
in Ontario, an animal health company rep, and me.
Jim Hansen, an Alberta Agriculture beef specialist based in
Cardston, came across a similar school in the U.S. a few years ago and brought
the idea back to Canada. Working
with Olds College, they developed a course outline, course materials, and lined
up well qualified, and knowledgeable instructors to deliver the course.
Working with Jim to organize and deliver the course is Brad
McLeod, co-ordinator and instructor of the meat program at the college. Then
over the three days you hear from several specialists like Neil French, college
instructor; Kellie Jackson a food
safety specialist; Mick Price, retired beef specialist University of Alberta;
Sandy Stafford, a provincial meat inspector; Richard Heninger, with the
Canadian Beef Grading Agency; Russ Horvey, a former beef specialist with
Alberta Agriculture; Pat Ramsey, a current beef specialist with Alberta
Agriculture; Susan Church with Alberta Farm Animal Care; and Duane Ellard, with
the Beef Information Centre, to name a few.
You’ll read more about these and other instructors and their
topics in the coming issues of Grainews.
I had thought about going to this school for some time, but
every time I got serious, the class was full. This fall, I had the good fortune
of being offered a seat in the classroom by the Canadian Hereford Association
(CHA). The Canadian and Alberta Hereford Associations were main sponsors of the November 2008 school. The Alberta group supplied the
cross bred steers that made the ultimate sacrifice to provide the carcasses the
class learned on. And the Hereford associations also covered the costs of some
great sweat shirts for the whole class. If you ever need to go to an event that
requires you wear an item of clothing with a carcass meat-cutting chart on it,
then this is the sweat shirt you need.
It was just by coincidence that we learned at this school
that Hereford and Hereford-cross cattle consistently (99.9 percent of the time)
produce AAA and Prime carcasses, with an 85 percent meat yield, are the most
flavorful and most tender, are the most docile, have the highest feed
efficiency, have 99 percent conception rates, do best on plain straw, and can
be trained to close the gate behind them when they leave a field. I bet a lot
of you didn’t know that. (Actually I made most of that up, but I thought I owed
CHA a really good plug).
The school was great. Unfortunately, unless they start
running it on a weekly bases, it will be difficult for many producers to get in
because it is so popular, but it is worth a try. For more information on the
next course call 1 800 661 6537 Ext. 4677 or visit their website at: www.oldscollege.ca
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