CALGARY, AB — Now that country-of-origin labeling (C.O.O.L.) has become a reality in the U.S., retailers are leveraging the label requirements to build unique and different store brands using Canadian beef, according to Canada’s Beef Information Centre (B.I.C.).

During the past five years, B.I.C.’s market development team has worked with U.S. clients to build branded programs designed to meet the unique demands of individual retailers and their customers. C.O.O.L. has proven to be an opportunity for Canadian beef rather than an issue.

“Retailers and distributors recognize that the development of private-label and branded-beef programs are critical components to profitability,” said Marty Carpenter, senior director U.S. marketing for B.I.C. “Canadian beef can deliver on the consistency and quality attributes required for a successful branded program, with these brands meeting the requirements for country-of-origin-labeling.”

Florida-based Colorado Boxed Beef Company is a major distributor providing beef products to grocery retailers throughout the Southwestern U.S. The company wanted to differentiate itself from competitors and create a unique value proposition. It approached B.I.C. for assistance and after months of development and sourcing, a Canadian branded-beef program was created using Angus beef with precise physical attributes including color, grade, white fat level and box size. Launching this month, the program is called High River Canadian Angus.

Another example of a Canadian beef partnership involved Stauffers of Kissel Hill (S.K.H.), a retailer with eight stores in the Lancaster, Pa. area. S.K.H. wanted to develop a brand that would be widely recognized and accepted in its market area, with attributes that could not be easily matched by competitors. The resulting program paired S.K.H. with an Ontario packer to source a certified corn-fed, AAA grade Canadian beef program. This program is labeled “Stauffer’s Choice Beef” and the on-pack labels identify the beef as “Product of Canada.”

The program has been extremely successful, B.I.C. said. S.K.H. has reported a strong double-digit increase in meat department sales over the past two years. Canadian beef has answered the company's needs for the beef case, according to John Gerlach, S.K.H. meat manager.

Canada is the largest supplier of grain-fed beef to the U.S. with more than 300,000 tonnes exported each year. In a recently-completed study of U.S. consumers, Canadian beef is judged acceptable by significantly more American beef buyers than beef from any other listed country.

Country-of-origin labeling is not an important purchase motivator for the American consumer, according to the same study. Country-of-origin is listed tenth on the list, well behind freshness, price, leanness, color, tenderness, flavor and safety.

According to B.I.C., Canadian beef can help retailers build branded programs that increase customer satisfaction and maximize profitability. B.I.C. said Canada takes a world-class, systems-based approach to beef production from genetics, on-farm food-safety programs, mandatory cattle I.D. system and grain finishing in a pristine, uniquely Canadian environment to modern U.S.D.A.-approved processing facilities with mandatory H.A.C.C.P. programs and quality grading systems.