Keywords: bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE, Canada, USA, farm producers, risk management, trade, mad cow disease, market vulnerability, exports, government policy, market diversification, cattle industry
Lessons learned from bovine spongiform encephalopathy for the future management of the Canadian cattle industry
Globally, Canada is only a minor beef producing country, and yet ranks fourth among countries exporting beef products. That fact alone shows considerable market vulnerability. When coupled with dependence on corporate-owned slaughter capacity and heavy reliance on only one export market (the USA), that vulnerability is magnified. Economic losses from BSE in Canada following the occurrence of the first domestic case in May 2003 were disproportionately incurred by the farm producers. The debate around enhanced BSE testing to regain lost markets highlighted the lack of influence of farm producers on BSE risk management policy development, and the inability of Canadian groups such as the Canadian Beef Export Federation to reduce market vulnerability by accessing new markets. In future, government policies should promote and support market diversification. One possible approach to reduce market vulnerability would be to move towards a New Zealand style producer-owned model.