|Bison Industry Response To Food Safety|
By Bob Ford
Farm direct marketers are on the front line and have been answering consumers’ food safety questions as long as they have been marketing their bison products. In discussions with experienced farm direct marketers across Canada , it is clear that the types of food safety questions and assurances their customers are seeking are of two varieties.
According to Gary Fakeley, Edseland Bison Ranch Inc., Ardrossan , Alberta , “Some food safety questions are very direct. I am often asked, “Was the product processed in a provincial or federally registered plant? Were any antibiotics fed to these animals?” and over half my customers ask, “Is this product 100% bison?”
Farm direct marketers agree that direct food safety questions are very common and must be directly answered. They indicate that most potential consumers are satisfied with an explanation that addresses the question.
Other questions are more subtle. The customer may not recognize that they are indeed asking a food safety related question. Questions such as “did you produce this animal?” or “what was this animal fed?” indirectly addresses an underlying consumer concern. Farm direct marketers note that in traditional market settings, the consumer does not have the ability to directly ask the supplier these questions, but know their customers are asking these questions on a daily basis.
The questions asked show that consumers’ knowledge of food safety issues is becoming much more advanced. Tim Belch , Peterborough Buffalo Farms in Ontario , has been direct marketing for several years. According to Tim, “Prospective customers are beginning to ask questions about how the animals were raised. I have been asked about feed and water sources, fertilizer and pesticide applications to specific ingredients in value-added products by customers seeking a ‘natural’ product.”
Bernie Kot, K-1 Bison Ranch, Weyburn , Saskatchewan , also has customers asking questions that address production practices. “My customers are seeking assurances that they are buying safe, high quality products. This includes my production systems and feed sources as well as questions related to BSE and the use of growth hormones and antibiotics.” Bernie Kot, Co-Chair of the Canadian Bison Association’s Food Safety Committee, says, “The Canadian Quality Bison On-Farm Food Safety program will help assure my customers that I can back up my answers to their questions with documented proof if need be. As a further marketing effort to maintain consistent product quality, I now record the animal’s identification on each meat label so that I can trace back and correlate any comments related to the quality and safety of the product I sell to every single animal.”
There are plans to develop a National Trace Back System for the Canadian Bison Industry. These programs, once fully implemented, will provide consumers with assurances that the bison they consume is a high quality, safe product. The Canadian Bison Industry will be able to provide assurances to their customers that food safety concerns are being addressed and documented at the farm level.