by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Loblaw Companies Limited, one of Canada’s largest grocers, wants to ensure 100 per cent of the beef and pork products it sells in most of its store banners is Canadian by the end of this year.
That means Canadian only meat would be found in meat cases in stores such as Loblaws, Independent, Zehrs and Superstore. The “hard discount banners,” including No Frills, would be excluded, Brad Porter, Loblaw senior category director meat and seafood conventional banners, told producers attending the Ontario Cattle Feeders’ Association’s annual convention in London last week.
Porter says the company is also exploring in 2012 how to introduce traceability for beef products “within the next year or so.” The ideal is that a customer could pick up a T-bone steak, scan its QR (quick response) code with a cell phone and find out the age, breed of cattle, the farm where it was raised and how old it is. “It’s a pretty ambitious target,” he admits. But “how cool would that be?” he asked delegates rhetorically.
As well, the grocery chain is considering launching an ingredient traceability system for its proprietary brands. It has established a committee to look at the possibility and work is in the beginning stages, Porter told producers.
There are no plans to pass any costs a traceability system might add to customers, he says.
One of Loblaw’s goals is to become 100 per cent free from antibiotics and growth hormones in its meat products, but achieving that is farther down the line, Porter says. The approach would be phased in rather than introduced to all of the company’s 1,000 stores across Canada.
Porter told producers that the company is keeping an eye on retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s decision last fall to introduce triple A or choice beef into the majority of its U.S. stores. That puts pressure on Loblaw to follow suit if the trend reaches Canada. “It puts a lot of strain on our target margins,” Porter says. BF