Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of monthly columns by Melissa Downing, Alberta’s Provincial Coordinator with VBP+. This post focuses on VBP+ as a whole, while subsequent articles will address specific aspects of beef production through the VBP+ lens.
Verified Beef Production (VBP) has been around for awhile now and, like many of us, it is getting better with age!
VBP+ is a way for producers to show their customers that they are being responsible stewards of their land and livestock. The program does not make any specific claims about production method, therefore it can act to support producers regardless of how they raise cattle (conventional, organic, raised without antibiotics, etc.).
In 2018, VBP+ became recognized as an accredited certification body for the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) Sustainable Beef Production Standard. This means that all VBP+ certified producers are now automatically credited with CRSB Certification through their VBP+ audit, allowing VBP+ producers to participate in value chains which are sourcing CRSB Certified beef. To date, there are several initiatives across Canada which have built value chains around this certification and are rewarding producers for participation – you may have even spotted the CRSB logo at some of your favourite restaurants or retailers!
The first step to getting involved is to go through VBP+ training, which is available anytime on the VBP+ website, www.verifiedbeef.ca. Webinars and in-person training workshops are also available (please contact your regional representative if you would be interested in hosting a VBP+ training or information session). Once a producer has completed VBP+ training, they can decide if they wish to continue with an on-farm certification audit.
While a certification process may sound daunting, many producers go through the training and realize they are already meeting many or even all of the program requirements. An important part of the program is keeping records on animal treatments and recording withdrawal checks when shipping. VBP+ is not prescriptive on how you keep records – the important thing is that the information is available for review, whether you prefer to use an app on your phone, a tried-and-true notebook or another method that works for you. The end goal is that we are doing the right thing and we can PROVE it. Ultimately, this will position the industry to tell our story in a positive way and encourage more people to feel good about choosing beef.
Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) is a voluntary, national, industry-developed assurance program which started in the early 2000’s as a means to ensure we have the best quality product for consumers. In order to boost consumer confidence in beef, we need to validate what we are doing on-farm and the VBP+ program offers a way to do that. The program is managed by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and delivered regionally – in Alberta it is delivered under the oversight of Alberta Beef Producers.
The original focus of the program was to provide education and verification related to on-farm food safety, with a strong emphasis on reducing broken needles and preventing cattle on a withdrawal period from entering the food chain. While on-farm food safety continues to be one of the pillars of the program, in 2016 the program evolved into Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) with the “Plus” referencing the expanded scope including environmental stewardship, animal care and biosecurity. VBP+ continues to provide education and verification services for beef production all the way from cow-calf operations to finisher feedlots.
If you are interested in learning more about Verified Beef Production Plus, please contact your regional representative.