The newly elected chair of Alberta Beef Producers (ABP), Kelly Smith-Fraser, said a main goal over the next year will be spreading the message that eating beef is healthy and good for both the environment and economy.
Smith-Fraser operates a cow-calf operation in Pine Lake, Alta., and has been involved with ABP for a number of years, both as a delegate and board member.
“I feel one of our main challenges is consumer perceptions and really getting our good story out there,” said Smith-Fraser, who was elected chair in December 2019. “We are doing a lot of great work in that aspect and I think we are moving the bar, but we still have a long way to go.”
She added ABP will focus on common misconceptions about cattle farming.
“We need to make sure we get the story out there that we are good for the grasslands, that we are part of the solution for carbon issues and that we have great things going on,” Smith-Fraser said. “We know how important it is to have cattle on these grasslands where, typically, crops couldn’t grow, and really how essential it is to helping the environment.”
With the growing trend of meat alternatives on the market, she said misinformation is leading some to believe beef is no longer a healthy option.
“Some people will say that plant-based patties or plant-based burgers are better for you, or you shouldn’t have as much beef in your diet,” Smith-Fraser said. “[Beef is] definitely part of a healthy diet. Beef is the most nutrient-dense protein that you can find, and beef is the highest source of iron. We need to make sure we are letting people know that we are part of a healthy diet.”
Representing about 18,000 producers, ABP advocates for the industry and promotes Alberta beef provincially, nationally and internationally.
Smith-Fraser took over chairmanship from Charlie Christie, and does so at a time where the organization is undertaking a major restructuring, one of the largest changes in its 50-year history.
“As an organization, we took a lot of time last year really looking at how we represent our producers,” she said. “We’ve come up with a new plan, a new proposal and our delegates passed it at our annual general meeting in December .
“So, we are going to restructure ABP. It is going to take a lot of work and a lot of regulatory work over the next year. We feel we are going to better represent producers.”
Every five years, ABP performs a strategic plan review, with the latest leading to the 2020 changes.
Under the restructuring, Smith-Fraser said, the number of zones will change from nine to five, the number of delegates in each zone will increase from six to seven for a total of 35, and the board of directors will move from 16 members to 12.
The new strategic plan will also involve a change in the way delegate meetings are conducted and when they take place, she added.
“What we are going to do is move to a nearly full-day event (instead of the previous three-hour meetings) – one held in each zone, when we will hear from all of our different industry organizations like Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Beef Cattle Research Council, Canada Beef. That way, producers can hear what their industry organizations are doing on their behalf,” she said.
“It will also give them really good information that the producers can utilize on their own operations. And we will have information sessions on the different programs that are out there and available to producers.”
The meeting may also include research breakout sessions, she said, “where you can learn about things you can utilize, such as different calving techniques or new feeding techniques.”
“It’s going to be really exciting to be getting all that information out there. It is really going to be a day of networking and getting to visit with your fellow producers,” Smith-Fraser said. “I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for our producers to hear what we are doing, and also for us to hear what is important to our producers.”
The meetings will be held in November and December.Some of the proposed changes can be made internally, Smith-Fraser said, while others will need the approval of the provincial marketing council, a division of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry that oversees agriculture boards and commissions. Council approval is required to change the number of delegates and zones, she said, adding changes will be reviewed and approved at the semi-annual general meeting in June, if all goes to plan.