Canadian meat producers target the Middle East

| 24/09/2008 | Reply
A group of farmers from Alberta, Canada will soon be launching an
office in Dubai to market their meat products throughout the Middle
East.

Operating as Prairie Halal Foods, the partnership of
seven companies plans to sell Halal beef, bison and elk meat to top-end
restaurants in the region explained general manager Wahid Kandil.

“Canada has really good products but they’ve just been under-marketed
internationally for a long time. We haven’t been telling people about
them.

“Australia and New Zealand have built a brand for their
meat products and a reputation for quality. It all comes down to
successful marketing.

“Here in Canada, we have the same or even higher quality products and we feel it’s time to share that with other markets.”

The primary attraction of the Middle East lies in the rapid development
of the food and beverage industry, and regional restaurants’ demand for
a consistent supply of high-quality products said Kandil.

“We attended Gulfood this year and were blown away by the size of the market.”

“There’s a new restaurant opening almost every week, and a lot of the
outlets are very high-end, which is exactly where our products are
placed.”

Prairie Halal Foods (PHF) is a joint venture between
several well-established companies based in the Canadian province of
Alberta. Shareholders include Prairie Heritage Beef Producers, a group
of natural Angus beef ranchers; Canadian Rangeland Beef and Bison, a
beef and bison production and marketing company; Aliya’s Foods Ltd, a
Halal certified value-added meat processor, and The Meat Grinder, a
Halal meat marketing and distribution company.

Other founding
partners include value-added meat processor New Food Classics, poultry
processor Lilydale, and Halal-certified slaughter plant Canadian
Premium Meats, but Kandil added that many other companies would market
their products through PHF’s marketing network.

“The idea is to
provide an entire basket of authentic Canadian products, which all have
similar standards in terms of production and quality, as this will make
it simpler for chefs to consolidate their orders,” he explained.

By having an office in Dubai, PHF would be able to ensure high standards of service for the Middle East market, he added.

“With the geographical distance it’s important to have an office on the
ground. It means we don’t have to deal with time differences and so on,
and we can really get to understand the market and consistently deliver
exactly what our customers want, when they want it.

“It also
demonstrates the level of our commitment to the potential clients –
we’re investing in the market, opening an office rather than trying to
supply from Canada.”

Located in the Jebel Ali Free Zone, PHF’s
office will begin operations in September and from there, the company’s
products will be distributed throughout the GCC and the rest of the
Middle East said Kandil.

“Our plan is to start with Dubai, but
that’s not the end goal. We want to get into the rest of the region as
well, using Dubai as a starting point.”

Market opportunities

Canadian Rangeland Beef and Bison’s CEO Thomas Ackermann said he was
optimistic that his company’s products would be a major hit with Middle
Eastern chefs and diners.

“There’s a lot of call for different
meats. The Middle East is a higher-end market where people aren’t too
concerned with price – they have a taste for something special and
that’s what we target,” he said.

“The goal is to establish
bison in the higher-end outlets, not only focusing on the tenderloin
and strip loin but also showing how versatile the meat is.”

Ackermann
added that in Dubai’s competitive foodservice climate, more unusual
meat products would provide a point of differentiation for restaurants.

“With bison you can tell a story to the customer. The meat’s produced
on natural pasture where the animals are left to live pretty much as
they would in the wild.

“This is definitely not a commodity product.”


Ackermann also pointed out that bison and elk are very lean meats.

“Bison has about 30% of the fat of beef and the nutrients are very compact.”

“It’s important to remember that bison is not a better beef. It’s a whole different animal.”

Commitment to quality

The beef available from PHF also has its own unique selling points
according to the co-founders of Prairie Heritage Beef Producers,
Christoph and Erika Weder.

“Our ranchers raise their beef
without the use of antibiotics, artificial growth hormones or animal
by-products,” said Dr Christoph Weder.

“With our Heritage Angus brand of beef, we can guarantee traceability from pasture to plate.

“We can track every animal from when it’s slaughtered all the way back
along the supply chain. We’re also currently testing a DNA trace-back
system,” he added.

“This would allow us to take a swab of a
steak in Dubai, analyse it and trace it back through our computer
database to see exactly which cow it came from, on which ranch, and
what date the meat was processed.”

Prairie Heritage adopts a very different approach from the typical, ‘commodity beef’ method of production said Weder.

“Our programme isn’t meant to feed the masses. We’re trying to get into
markets where there’s a high disposable income because you pay a
premium for this type of product.

“That’s why I think the
Middle East is an ideal market. People are able to appreciate excellent
quality and there is high demand for exclusive products.”

While
there are several branded natural beef programmes in the US and Canada
already, Prairie Heritage beef is the only one to be priced on a ‘fair
trade’ model, according to Weder, which “takes into account what it
cost to produce the beef, plus a fair return for the rancher”.

“As well as providing safe and fair working conditions for ranchers and
considering quality-of-life issues for farmers and their families, we
also ensure the health and humane treatment of our animals.”

All the ranchers that participate in the Prairie Heritage programme are extremely “eco-committed” Weder added.

“Our land is home to wildlife such as deer, coyotes, bears, moose, elk, cougars, ducks and all sorts of other creatures.

“This is something that’s very important to us personally, and also in
terms of promoting the product – we’ve found that for some people it’s
really important that the food they eat also sustains biodiversity.”

Most industrialised models of beef production are dependent on feeding
large quantities of grain to cattle in order to promote rapid growth,
but this method has a negative impact on the animals, and on the
environment, according to Weder.

Instead, grazing on natural
grasslands accounts for more than 70% of Prairie Heritage’s cattle’s
growth and the animals are finished by feeding a balanced diet of
silage and barley, allowing the ranchers to supply beef year-round
while maintaining the uniformity of the product.

“We don’t produce our meat as fast, but it’s actually more efficient long term,” said Weder.

“We believe the health of the land and the health of the cattle are key
to producing healthy beef,” said Prairie Heritage co-founder Erika
Weder.

“The chefs that have tried our meat have noticed a big
difference in flavour. It has a beefier taste and, because we’re not
using steroid implants, there’s not a lot of connective tissue in the
muscle, so the meat is more tender,” she explained.

“Our meat
is a prime product, but consumers can also feel good about it because
it supports families that are looking out for the environment.”

Category: Meat & Poultry, The Americas

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