Cuts of beef are seen at a supermarket in Montreal on June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Cuts of beef are seen at a supermarket in Montreal on June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

World body says Canadian beef officially poses ‘negligible risk’ for mad cow disease

Beef producers are finally able to turn the page after an international watchdog gave the industry an all-clear

Canadian beef producers are finally able to turn the page on the mad cow era, the federal agriculture minister said Thursday after an international animal-health watchdog gave the industry a long-awaited all-clear.

The Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health voted to approve Canada’s bid for the “negligible risk” designation — the most favourable category, which requires proof of extensive control and surveillance measures, as well as at least 11 years since the birth of the last infected animal.

“This has been extremely difficult for family farms, and for the industry — an industry that is built by families,” Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in an interview

”It’s kind of a page they can turn and they can look to a brighter future.”

Beef producers and the federal government have been working to restore the industry’s lustre ever since the first domestic case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE — better known as mad cow disease — was detected in Canada in 2003.

That discovery prompted a global shutdown of Canadian beef exports — a body blow to an industry that exports fully half of what it produces. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association estimated the losses at upwards of $5 billion over the following three years.

The impact has been resonating ever since, due to the increased cost of additional processing measures and the persistent chill on export markets that has persisted for nearly 20 years.

An estimated 26,000 producers left the industry entirely between 2006 and 2011, and more than 8,000 square kilometres of pasture lands were converted to other uses during that period, the association said.

Thursday’s decision “is a historic closing of the BSE era for Canada, which brought unprecedented hardship to our industry,” president Bob Lowe said in a statement.

Lowe thanked the government, veterinarians, and Canadian farmers and ranchers, as well as domestic beef consumers, “who supported Canada’s beef industry during the hardest times of BSE when Canadian beef couldn’t be exported.”

The decision will give Canada additional new leverage in its efforts to find new and expanded export markets for the country’s cattle and beef products, Bibeau said.

Canada has been deemed a “controlled-risk” country for BSE since 2007. The U.S., by comparison, secured negligible-risk status in 2013.

Bibeau said she’s hopeful that the decision will help bring new levels of efficiency and integration to the industry in both countries, now that processors in the U.S. will no longer need to manage American and Canadian cattle separately.

She warned, however, that those efficiencies won’t reappear overnight.

“We hope that now that we have reasonable-risk status, it will ease our collaboration and to export together to South Korea, for example,” she said.

“But it’s not something that because we have a negligible-risk status today, that starting today allows us to open up this discussion.”

Bibeau also said she remains hopeful that the U.S. won’t resurrect country-of-origin labelling rules for beef, which were repealed in 2016. Currently, imported beef can be sold as an American product, even if it was raised elsewhere but processed in the U.S.

Opponents of the measure, including Canada and Mexico, have successfully argued at the World Trade Organization that the measures only increase costs, diminish efficiency and run counter to the principles of North American trade.

Bibeau said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who has publicly expressed support for the idea of new labelling rules for beef products, has assured her that the U.S. will not proceed with any measure that is not “trade-compliant.”

“On both sides, we are doing the best to support our industries,” Bibeau said.

“At the same time, we are so integrated and such close partners that we may challenge each other once in a while. But overall, doing business together is so important in the (agriculture) sector that we’ll have a strong but fair conversation.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Beef Industry

Just Posted

(Facebook/Kelowna Cabs)
Kelowna Cabs reaches tentative agreement with dispatchers union

The tentative agreement could help end the dispute between the taxi company and the dispatchers

sdaf
Lake Country home destroyed in large blaze, 11 dogs rescued

Fire crews are responding to 10839 Hallam Drive

Festivals Kelowna president Richard Groves and executive director Renata Mills wrap themselves in the flag during the announcement of preparations for the 2018 Canada Day festival. (Alistair Waters/Capital News)
Festivals Kelowna cancels Canada Day celebrations for second year in a row

The group cited logistic issues in their announcement

Central Okanagan Public Schools is assisting with the distribution of a donation of $500 to every Grade 12 graduating student in the school district. (File photo)
Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads get $500 surprise

Anonymous donor gifts $500 to every Grade 12 student

A vehicle was fully engulfed in flames before around 11:10 p.m. Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Kerry Hutter - contributed)
UPDATE: Kelowna man cuffed after carjacking in Vernon

Crime spree: Man robs couple at Coldstream lookout at gunpoint, sets a vehicle ablaze

Bear wanders Kelowna on June 15. (Michelle Wallace/Facebook)
Bear climbs fence, uses crosswalk in Kelowna

The bear was spotted on Baron Road Wednesday evening

Jeanette Megens
KCR: Volunteering is sharing your story

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

This photo of the small wildfire burning above Naramata was taken at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021 (Monique Tamminga Western News)
BC Wildfire on scene of small wildfire above Naramata

Smoke has been showing since earlier in the day

Students in the Grade 10 entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School have completed a cookbook with international recipes. (Contributed)
Summerland students create virtual international cookbook

Entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School uses virtual cookbook as fundraiser

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Hundreds of people, young and old, joined the three-day Walking Our Spirits Home procession, honouring residential school survivors, those who never made it home and all those affected by the institutions. Here people walk the third portion on June 13. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Walking Our Spirits Home from Kamloops provides path to healing

First Nations in and beyond Secwépemc territory join in to honour residential school survivors

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

201 First Street West 1980s. Prior revitalization. (Photo from Revelstoke Museum and Archives)
Man who redesigned downtown Revelstoke honoured with lifetime achievement award

Robert Inwood has worked on historical projects across the province

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

Most Read