Producers given tips to market district beef

FORT FRANCES—More than a dozen livestock producers from across Rainy River District gathered at La Place Rendez-Vous here Friday morning for a marketing workshop sponsored by the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association.
Ken McKinnon, president of the local cattlemen’s association, noted it was beneficial to all producers, but especially those on the Rainy River District Regional Abattoir committee.
“We are right in the middle of getting our abattoir proposal together,” noted McKinnon, who also is a member of the committee. “The consultants were very knowledgeable on abattoir construction, operation, and the whole thing.
“They were able to share a lot of information with us,” he added. “You can’t beat talking to people who have the experience and they’ve been involved in abattoir projects across Canada.”
“It was really to talk to the district about a marketing plan for branding our beef, but there was a lot of representation from the abattoir committee,” said Trish Neilson, who also is a member of the committee.
“It reminded us what the important items are regarding the business plan and marketing issues surrounding the abattoir,” she added. “And we weren’t really that far off—it just reinforced the direction we had to go in.”
The consultants from Mallot Creek Strategies Inc., located in southern Ontario, presented an overview of business strategies, such as supply challenges and opportunities, as well as the structure, facility, and finances.
They also discussed a marketing plan, including key selling points, the target market, positioning and vision statements, and branding considerations.
“They gave us an example of organic beef—they weren’t trying to say we should do that here—and they had us look at the attributes of the product we are trying to sell,” Neilson said.
“They got us talking about that and narrowing it down to the main attributes . . . natural, grass-fed, and clean-pristine environment certainly came up.
“People also thought the name ‘Rainy River’ was a marketing point.”
McKinnon noted the seminar also touched on marketing added-value products.
“Say if you have a product on your farm, you can load it in your truck and send it somewhere else, but maybe there’s another way of marketing that product and adding some value to it,” he remarked.
“It might put a little more money in the pockets of the producer. And that applies not only to the independent farmers, but also businesses,” McKinnon stressed.
He indicated the consultants also had some ideas to help establish an abattoir here.
“For example, a lot of people think it is going to be too small to be economical, feasible, and to exist in the long-term,” McKinnon said. “But in talking to the consultants, they feel we’re in a unique situation here.
“We don’t have any major competition. In fact, we have an isolated little market that hasn’t really been tapped.
“And there’s certainly room for expansion,” he added. “Like Kenora, Dryden, Sioux Lookout, Red Lake—all those communities and tourist camps—there’s a market there.
“If we could just get established and expand on it, it would beneficial to the local producers and the abattoir.”
McKinnon felt there was a good turnout to the marketing workshop and was happy with how it went.
“I didn’t talk to anyone who attended who wasn’t pleased that they had taken the time to attend,” he said. “They found it very educational and beneficial.”
“The workshop was just a great refresher course for me on marketing and business planning,” echoed Neilson. “It was really well done, especially from the agricultural side. . . .
“We got a lot of valuable information.”
McKinnon was especially pleased because the RRCA had to lobby to get the consultants into the district. They originally were going to come only as far as Thunder Bay.
“We were able to get them to listen to us and they came, which is quite exciting,” he enthused. “I don’t think any of our local producers would have put out the expense to go to Thunder Bay to it.”
Neilson noted Mallot Creek’s consultants also offered themselves as a resource as the abattoir project proceeds.
“If someone wants to pursue the idea of branding beef or other products, we could set up a steering committee and they could come back and give us some guidance on that,” she explained, adding she’d like to see them return.
“It made you feel as though what we are trying to achieve [with the abattoir] is not impossible, but it does take a very focused effort to achieve it,” Neilson stressed.
“It’s not going to be easy, but it’s certainly doable—that’s what I took away from it.”
“I think it is a great thing to know that there is someone out there with the experiences and resources to help us get started,” McKinnon agreed.
(Fort Frances Times)