Colonies Use VBP As Good Management Practice

CANADA - A group of Alberta’s Hutterite colonies (a religious community) are now verified beef production (VBP) registered as part of their management efforts.
calendar icon 3 October 2011
clock icon 3 minute read
Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development

By the summer of 2011, a total of 10 of the province’s Hutterite colonies had joined the official national beef on-farm food safety programme and proceeded to the voluntary audit stage.

“That’s a substantial endorsement of the industry’s efforts to continually strengthen on-farm food safety, and an important message to all consumers of Canada’s beef products, says Eileen Leslie,” provincial coordinator for the VBP programme in Alberta.

“Hutterite Colonies are typically well managed, progressive operations, and the commitment of this many colonies to documenting on-farm beef food safety are exactly the kind of producer attitudes the industry can build upon.”

The VBP programme establishes a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs), designed to ensure that proper food safety procedures are being followed in beef production. The programme advocates strong record keeping, providing clear documentation that SOPs are followed. It also offers an optional process whereby operations can undergo a third-party assessment confirming good adoption of the programme, and can earn registered VBP status as a result.

While each colony operates on its own, a quick check of some of the 10 involved to date shows some common threads among their motivation to promote beef on-farm food safety.

Pine Haven Colony, near Wetaskiwin, slaughters its own beef and is building a reputation for marketing the product directly to consumers. The Colony is an early adopter of the VBP programme and sees first-hand the value it offers.

“It’s important for us to have clear, effective protocols to support good management and get consistent results in our products,” says William Hofer of Pine Haven Colony. “It also really helps our marketing to be able to show this to our customers. We believe it’s the way of doing things for the future.”

Pine Haven Colony’s beef operations, a feedlot that produces 3,200 head annually and a 400 cow-calf operation, are both officially registered with VBP.

Morinville was the second colony in the province to become VBP registered. The reason the Morinville Colony got on board are simple, says Jonathan Wurz.

“It’s better for records. It supports safe beef.” The 200 head cow-calf operation is run by Wurz and two other workers. VBP helps them keep well organised and identify simple ways to fine tune their processes for better results. “It’s not a lot of extra work,” says Mr Wurz. “The programme is step-by-step and easy to follow.”

Approaches like VBP will become more common with the increased marketplace focus on food safety protocols, he believes. “We figured if we get a head start and get familiar with it there’s an advantage to that.”

Another early adopter is the O.B. Colony near Marwayne. Gideon Hofer says the programme is made up of common sense approaches and signing on was an easy decision.

“It’s a good way to make sure the beef we raise and put on the shelf is up to high standards. Adopting the program provided peace of mind that things were being done the right way, in line with well accepted HACCP approaches and other industry best practices,” says Mr Hofer. “We’ve found it has very good structure and a lot of good reminders and good precautions.”

The decision to adopt VBP was a quick one for Codesa Colony. “When we first learned about the programme, we were in the process of shipping cattle,” says Steven Wipf. “We saw the protocols would help us with that job and others. There was no reason to wait and see. We were ready for it.”

Johnathan Tschetter at Birch Hills Colony says, “We just want good management practices. Learning ways to improve is good. Everything in the program are things we should already be doing.”

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