July 29, 2022

New report says harmony between beef and plant protein industries beneficial to all

Simpson Centre hosts roundtable of industry members to discuss the challenges and opportunities for protein producers
Members of the plant and beef protein industries gather at a roundtable hosted by the Simpson Centre to discuss opportunities and challenges faced by the industry.
Members of the plant and beef protein industries gather at a roundtable to discuss opportunities and challenges. John Bailey

While social and mass media will have you believe that beef versus plant-based protein is a competition, Canadian producers of these proteins say working together is best.

The Simpson Centre for Agricultural and Food Innovation and Public Education recently gathered participants from the beef and plant protein industries in Canada to discuss the challenges and opportunities for these industries and their stakeholders.

The consensus of the participants, published in the Protein Roundtable Policy Report, was that governments should look upon the beef and plant protein industries as one protein market with multiple commodities.

“Canadian farmers sustainably grow a variety of food that feeds both Canada and the rest of the world, much of it very high in protein,” says Allison Ammeter, a central Alberta farmer who attended the roundtable.

Ammeter says land best suited to producing one type of protein, like beef, often does not work well to produce another type of protein, like legumes.

The Simpson Centre is an applied research policy institute at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. Its goal is to mobilize research for better policy-making and decision-making to realize a more sustainable agricultural industry.

Dan Brewin, an industry consultant and former CEO of the Plant Protein Alliance of Alberta, says there have been instances where heritage protein producers appear disappointed or frustrated that the up-and-coming plant protein products are eating away at their own opportunities. However, he says, it is important to remember the industry is reacting to – and trying to capitalize on – global demand.

“Even if it is not a general feeling, there has been a perception by politicians and policy-makers that supporting the new kids on the block may risk their political support from beef producers,” says Brewin, BComm'94.

This perception can be alleviated, according to the report, with proper branding that shows consumers, investors and governments that the beef and plant protein sectors are aligned, not in conflict.

By presenting a united front, the protein industry has a better chance of lobbying governments for mutually beneficial changes, attracting more investments for infrastructure to increase efficiency and reliability, educating consumers on the synergies between the industries and branding Canadian protein as a sustainable, reliable and abundant market.

The participants identified one of many beneficial synergies that could take place between the as using the by-products from plant-protein production to feed cattle, which helps with sustainability and is environmentally friendly.

According to the report, governments need to consider opportunities like these that a united protein market can provide for Canada.

For Brewin, an ecosystem where the beef and protein plant sectors work together would also go a long way towards developing Canadian food sovereignty.

“Further, we would have the benefit of higher value, creating jobs and sparking further innovation,” he says. “All of these things are great for all Albertans, Western-Canadians and Canadians.”

Ammeter says a unified industry will benefit all.

“Each industry needs the other to succeed well,” she says. “Together, we achieve the most.”