Contributed by Justin Gerber
I believe that increasing global food trade will have more positive effects for farmers than the local food movement will because the local market is somewhat limited in the number of different products that can be sold and the supply chains for a global market are far better established than the local supply chains. The beef industry demonstrates both of these points. With cattle most people know of the grades AAA, AA and A, the former two the most known in restaurants. These grades have to do with the level of marbling in the meat, but there is a higher level that is lesser known, Canada Prime. Meat getting this grade has a high fat content and is not eaten here; it is shipped to the Asian markets where it is a delicacy. Without the global market this product would take more processing to be used or would be ground into hamburger, reducing its value.
The lack of an established supply chain for a labeled local product, or in this case Ontario Corn Fed Beef marketed by Loblaw’s, was also shown. A few years ago Loblaw’s took on the label at their stores, sales rose dramatically and Loblaw’s wanted to expand to more stores, but the supply was not there, cattle prices were down and many yards were empty. The extra cost associated with a provincial program and the down turn in the economy was the reason for the label being kicked out in spring 2009. Loblaw’s had stated the program was working well to increase sales but in the end it was dropped. It should be said that a local supply chain could work but it will require time and effort that I think most companies are not willing to exert. It will come down to already established and easily maintained national and global supply chains that open up farmers to new and different markets with hopefully better prices.