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Expanding locally sourced beef in Northern Ontario through the co-operative model NORDIK Institute Sault Ste. Marie, ON. David Thompson, MBA. Northern Ontario. 87% of Ontario’s landmass (more than UK & France combined) Three urban centres

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David thompson mba

Expanding locally sourced beef in Northern Ontario through the co-operative modelNORDIK InstituteSault Ste. Marie, ON

David Thompson, MBA

Northern ontario

Northern Ontario

  • 87% of Ontario’s landmass (more than UK & France combined)

  • Three urban centres

  • Small towns (forestry / steel/ mining /agriculture industries)

  • Distance from markets, aging population, youth outmigration

Northern agriculture areas

Northern Agriculture areas

Intro to northern beef

Intro to Northern Beef

  • 80% of agriculture is dairy and beef.

  • 752 beef cattle farms

  • $24.5 million in cash farm receipts for cattle and calves in 2009

  • Mad cow crisis in 2003

  • Struggling abattoirs (slaughterhouses)

Co operative difference

Co-operative difference

  • Penokean Hills Farms (Algoma/Sault Ste. Marie)

  • Eat Local SudburyCo-op

  • Golden Beef Co-operative (Temiskaming)

  • True North Community Co-operative (T-Bay)

  • Ontario Northeast Meats (Cochrane)

  • CrEATive Meats (Sudbury)

  • Rainy River District Abattoir (Rainy River)

Research participants

Research participants

How can northern co ops

How can northern co-ops…

  • Contribute to develop sustainable food systems in the North

  • Increase Northern Ontario’s food processing capacity to keep small slaughterhouses in operation

  • Produce, process and distribute food in a way that lessens environmental degradation

Research question

Research Question

How can marketing co-ops and place-based businesses in Northern Ontario stabilize or raise incomes in the value chain through selling differentiated beef products in the local market?

Some secondary questions

Some secondary questions

What is the demand for differentiated beef products in Northern Ontario?

Some secondary questions1

Some secondary questions

How can beef farmers in Northern Ontario work effectively within a value chain to achieve a greater market share for their products in the local market?

Some secondary questions2

Some secondary questions

What influences the participation of Northern Ontario beef farmers in marketing co-operatives and place-based businesses?

Literature review

Literature Review

  • Consumer preferences (beef/locavores)

  • Effective value chains that build relationships

  • Co-operative entities in value chains

  • Challenges in Northern Ontario with co-op model



  • Action research approach to tackle real-world problems

  • Leaders of value chain partners (abattoirs, retail co-ops, producer co-ops) that produce, process or sell Northern beef

  • Eight organizations, eleven participants (board members, farmers, managers)

  • Semi-structured interviews / grounded theory to analyze data

Value chain

Value Chain

Findings and discussion consumer preferences marketing

Findings and discussion:Consumer preferences & Marketing

  • Direct marketing – farmers’ markets, building relationships and community organizing.

  • Local food co-op retailers – resurgence of food co-ops, staff/volunteer turnover is a frustration

Findings and discussion csa for the north

Findings and Discussion:CSA for the north

  • Community Supported Agriculture that reach Ontario’s Far North

  • Co-operatives that access Nutrition North Canada subsidy program

  • Partnerships through co-operatives and First Nation communities and NishnawbeAski Nation

Findings and discussion strengthening the value chain

Findings and discussion:Strengthening the Value Chain

  • Intermediary marketing – communication issues, loss of direct relationship, additional resources

  • Restaurant sales – beneficial depending on scale, marketing opportunity

  • Institutional market – infrastructure gaps to meet market needs (federally inspected abattoirs), farmers’ trying to produce premium products; scale is an issue.

Findings and discussion strengthening the value chain1

Findings and discussion:Strengthening the value chain

  • Quality – from the producer and the slaughterhouse; grading capability is not there for some. Local beef is not linked to quality.

  • Scale – ability to scale local processing is difficult without producers working together with common protocols.

  • Staffing – attracting and retaining workers in rural areas is increasingly difficult.

Findings and discussion strengthening the value chain2

Findings and discussion:Strengthening the value chain

  • Government regulations that limits opportunities for value-added meats

  • Lack of federally inspected slaughterhouses in the North; limits expansion to markets, but also expensive

  • Push towards higher standards for slaughterhouses (HACCP) adding significant costs

Findings and discussion membership engagement

Findings and discussionMembership Engagement

  • Socializing and organizing important factor in development

  • Volunteer fatigue amongst farmers

  • Global forces can quickly alter engagement

  • Collaboration between co-ops is stifled



  • Local beef producer co-ops are stretched

  • Pervasive quality and consistency concerns

  • Need for direct marketing for the North

  • Local food co-ops with an engaged membership and minimized overhead

  • Distribution networks to bridge hubs

  • Future research? Local food co-ops and First Nations; local food co-op startup challenges (reliance on funding vs. membership engagement)

Thank you

Thank you

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