Beefing Up the Island Brand

Atlantic Beef Products successfully developing new markets for Island beef industry

When we talk about how beef makes it to our kitchen table or our favourite steak house, we like to conjure up images of cattle grazing on green pasture, friendly grocers or butchers packaging up our favourite cuts, and chefs firing up the grill. Where we rarely let our imagination go is to the place where ‘cow’ ends, and ‘meat’ begins – the slaughterhouse.

Yet the processing of our cattle is an essential part of the food supply chain, often determining whether a local meat industry thrives or dies. Here on PEI we’re fortunate to have Atlantic Beef Products (ABP), the only federally inspected beef processing plant east of Ontario.

“Atlantic Beef Products’ number one reason to be here is to serve the beef and dairy industry in our region,” Atlantic Beef Products president Russ Mallard said. “When the pork processing plant in PEI closed several years ago, many pork producers in our region left the pork industry for good. We want to do everything we can to ensure the beef plant is here for the agricultural community for generations to come.”

Tucked away in Borden-Carleton, it’s easy to remain unaware of the significant role ABP has played in sustaining the industry. If you’re a Sobeys shopper or a restaurant-goer, however, you’ve undoubtedly come across one or more of the brands the company has developed to promote Island beef.

“Our brand story has been developed to answer questions consumers have about our sustainability practices and beef quality,” Mallard said. Building viable brands and new markets for ABP beef is integral to the company, as it provides beef producers with the assurance that they will have a buyer for every pound of beef they produce.

The past year, in particular, has been a coup for ABP’s brand-building strategy. Sobeys, which boasts 13 retail locations across the Island, launched two ABP brands – PEI Certified Humane Premium AAA Beef and Island View Farms.

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“Sobeys [is committed] to supporting local growers and producers throughout Atlantic Canada,” Sobeys Atlantic manager of communications, Shauna Selig said. “We knew the quality of product available from local cattle producers and ABP was top-notch and [that] supporting local would resonate with our customers on PEI – and we were right.”

PEI’s small size has allowed ABP to make big leaps in its beef branding efforts. The industry on the Island is almost exclusively comprised of small, family-run farms with head of cattle ranging from two to a couple of hundred. As such, Island cattle are not subjected to the restrictive, unnatural conditions of CAFOS (Contained Animal Feeding Operation) so prevalent in other parts of Canada and the US.

The Island View Farms brand provides assurance that the beef was raised on a small family farm with ample access to high quality grass and fodder and the use of sustainable environmental practices.

“Customer response has been overwhelmingly positive – in fact beef sales have increased significantly in our PEI stores since our launch in September compared to the same timeframe last year,” Selig said. “Customers are [telling us they are] happy . . . because they know the beef is top quality and it’s local, and that’s important to them.”

This marks a big win-win for consumers and Island beef producers. Today, 80% of shelf space in the beef section at Island Sobeys locations is dedicated to the two ABP brands, displacing beef previously sourced from far-flung ranches in Western Canada.

ABP, Island beef producers, and Sobeys Atlantic have proven that they are not only listening to their customers, but genuinely responding. If local-sourcing, pasturing and humane handling remain top priorities vocalized by consumers, the Island beef industry is primed for a sustainable future.

About Shannon Courtney

Shannon oversees all content creation for Salty and may be ‘slightly’ obsessed with proper apostrophe usage. When she’s not writing about food, she’s either cooking, eating, talking, or thinking about it. Her food adventures have included milking a Jersey cow in Australia, almost overdosing on maple syrup in Prince Edward County, and studying local food systems in Vermont as part of her Master’s thesis research. Shannon is also a holistic-nutritionist-in-training and strongly believes you CAN make friends with salad.

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