My name is Cecilie Fleming and I am a seedstock and cow calf producer from west of Granum, in southwest Alberta. Our operation is a longtime established farmstead surrounded by ranching and feedlot production. Our place consists of farmland, riparian areas, and tame and native grassland ecosystems supporting native species. Is everything perfect on our place? – No. But being a part of Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) as Registered Producers has helped us look inward at our operation to see how we can improve and minimize risk.
I sit as the National Chair of the VBP+ Management Committee, the roll of which is to set policies ensuring the VBP+ program is meaningful and usable for beef producers and delivers value. The management committee consists of national producer representation by Province or Region. VBP+ is something that beef producers in Canada can be proud of as an excellent and affordable tool to help them tell their story of beef sustainability to the world.
We are a business based on science, selling to consumers, who often choose based on emotion, through marketers who interpret what consumers need. This relationship is why it is critical for beef producers in Canada to be involved to ensure marketers are telling our truths. VBP+ is the national program that can help producers help themselves by being a part of the Sustainable Beef movement.
Who: Registered VBP+ farms, ranches and feedlots are run by producers who recognize the need to be a part of a national verification system to meet the needs of some of our end users. They are producers willing to invest time and resources to confidently make the claim of VBP+ Registered status as VBP+ positions itself to be a delivery agent of beef sustainability verification nationally.
What: A Registered VBP+ Producer takes training in on-farm food safety, biosecurity and animal care, they assess their operation’s environmental wellbeing, as well as the operation’s human resources and community involvement. The training and assessments ensure producers document, keep records, are prepared to meet a 3rd party audit, and take part in annual assessments to maintain their registered status.
When: A producer can become involved with VBP+ any time of year by contacting their Provincial VBP+ Coordinator and initiating the process. There are 3 modes of training: scheduled in person workshops, scheduled webinars and anytime online training. Once training is complete, producers begin keeping appropriate records for a set period of time (6 months for cow-calf, 3 months for feedlots) leading up to their first audit. They prepare by completing a pre-audit checklist and then a 3rd party auditor will be assigned to their operation. The auditor contacts the producer to schedule the on-farm audit at the producer’s convenience.
Where: Everywhere beef production takes place in Canada. VBP+ is a national verification program available to all beef producers in the supply chain.
Why: We have end users asking for beef raised sustainably. If the end user is going to make the claim that some or all their beef products are ‘sustainably raised’, they must be a part of a robust program with documentation, audits, rigor and transparency to backstop those claims. VBP+ and the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) are working together to establish equivalency so Registered VBP+ beef operations would qualify to be recognized as Verified Sustainable Operations. Clearly, we did not want multiple end users building lists of sustainability criteria where producers would face trying to meet the needs of many differing platforms. The CRSB has been a great venue to collaborate and come to consensus on what defines beef sustainability in Canada. The guidance enables producers to tell their story and demonstrate they are doing things right and on a path of continual improvement. Being a Registered VBP+ Producer in good standing would, in time, allow you to make the claim of Sustainably Raised Beef.