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Shipping Beef from Canada

Are you thinking about importing beef from Canada to sell in the United States? If so, then it’s important to be aware of how imports from Canada work — particularly


Canada Cross Border Freight
April 21, 2021
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Are you thinking about importing beef from Canada to sell in the United States? If so, then it’s important to be aware of how imports from Canada work — particularly beef products. Importing Canadian beef from farmers and ranchers in the country can be a difficult process with a variety of moving parts that will need to be navigated. That said, it is certainly not impossible to import Canadian beef from Canada and to do so legally. You could also see significant benefits from taking this step, including being able to offer your audience a product that they can not access elsewhere on the market.

 Shipping beef from Canada is big business. To make it part of your business, you must make sure that you are using Government Agency Form CFIA/ACIA 5733. This document is filled out by the individual or commercial business that will be exporting the meat to you in the US. It requires information on the country of origin as well as the foreign establishment order. 

Canadian Beef vs American BeefCanadian Beef vs American Beef

The main difference between Canadian beef and American beef is the grading. It might be true to say that Canadian beef is generally of a higher quality than beef from the United States. This is because the Canadian grading system relies on higher standards.

The main difference between Canadian Beef and American beef is with the marbling. One study found that there is a massive degree of association of 85% after sampling the marbling standards of over 4,6000 different carcasses. Since this study which took place in 1994, there have been significant shifts with Canada opting for the official USDA marbling photographs. This includes slight, small and slightly abundant.

Another key difference between the two types of meat is that the grading system in Canada is hierarchical. This means that minimum standards must be met over a range of different variables including fat color, muscles and general color. In contrast, America has a weighted system. This means that one area can have more of an impact than another. As such, a higher level for one point can compensate for a deficiency in another. There are no quality attribute offsets in the Canadian grading system. 

The prime grade for Canada is virtually identical to the option for the U.S. with the exception that Canada does not allow for dark colored meat to be used. It will also not allow for older animals to be used, for yellow fat to be apparent or for any off-quality characteristics. This is the same for all other grades of Canadian beef with the system constantly favoring a higher level of quality by all standards. 

Why Canadian Beef?Why Canadian Beef

There are many reasons why you might favor Canadian beef beyond the obvious and apparent benefits that it provides over products that you can purchase from the U.S. Even looking at the grading system, it’s clear that the beef produced in Canada is developed with a firm commitment to quality that is not typically rivaled.  

Indeed, Canada Beef recently ran its own campaign to market why their products are a great choice. Some of the reasons mentioned included the commitment of farmers and ranchers to uphold a certain level of standards and values. This includes good old fashioned hard work, as well as resourcefulness. The brand also suggested that Canadian beef is a cut above the rest because there is a clear understanding of the value it provides to Canada. This makes farmers keen to ensure that it is the best option available. 

Furthermore, Canada has a commitment to international regulations, ensuring that the meat products that they ship do meet the right levels of standards to ensure safe quality. The Canadian Cattlemen Market Development Council has also developed an industry-wide strategy that is understood globally, titled the Canadian Beef Advantage. The main purpose of this brand is to ensure that farmers can expand into other areas of the market. Some of the commitments part of ensuring that this does happen includes:

  • Production of high-quality beef
  • Beef carcasses that are high-yielding
  • The best beef genetics in the world
  • An identification system that ensures the source and age of the cattle can be effectively traced.

These are just some of the commitments that have been made to guarantee that there are absolutely no doubts about the high level of quality you gain when you choose beef from Canada.  

Where Does Beef Come From in Canada?where does Beef Come from in Canada

You might be wondering where the beef comes from Canada. Most of Canada’s beef comes from Alberta, as 41.6% of the country’s cattle and calves come from this province. Additionally, 20.7% of Canada’s cattle and calves come from Saskatchewan; 13% from Ontario; 9% from Quebec; 8.8% from Manitoba and 7% from other provinces.

Canada’s beef market is impressive with the red meat industry tallying a total $21.1 billion through 2018. This includes both fresh and frozen meat. 

This should give you an idea of just how important this industry is to Canada. That’s also why there are farms all across the country. Beef farming often takes place on farms that are based on the production of wheat as the cattle are fed a high grain diet. 

Producers delivering meat from Canada do live up to the CBA promise so you can ensure that no matter where you purchase your beef from you will be delivering what your customers want. 

What are the Grades of Beef in Canada?

What are the grades of beef in Canada?

One of the key differences between beef in Canada and US beef is certainly the grades. It’s important to understand the different grades and what they refer to. As you are about to discover, beef from Canada is substantially different, particularly as you get to the bottom levels. There are four main grades of beef in Canada. These are:

  • Prime
  • AAA
  • AA
  • A

The vital difference here is that even the lowest A grade does not permit dark meat or yellow fat. The same cannot be said for beef that may be purchased and produced in the US. The grades are defined by:

  • Marbling 
  • Maturity 
  • Meat Color 
  • Fat Color 
  • Muscle 
  • Meat Texture 

Prime grade beef has marbling that is slightly abundant, is youthful and bright red in color. The meat texture must be firm and yellow fat is certainly not permitted. 

The A grade beef is trace, youthful, bright red only with good muscling. 

This is substantially different from U.S. grades with a standard grade that is practically devoid of marbling, has an A & B maturity class and is permitted to have dark-cutters as well as yellow fat. There is also no minimum requirement for cutting and the texture of the meat can be soft. 

The marbling standards for Canada were changed in 1996. This was to ensure that it mirrored the copywriting standards for the U.S. 

Canadian Beef Suppliers

Something that you are going to need to consider is Canadian beef suppliers. You need to be able to trust that all of your beef is being shipped legally which is why you need to use a trusted supplier. If this is your first time having beef from Canada shipped, then you are going to have to use reviews of different suppliers to decide which supplier to ultimately use. There is going to be a variety to choose from, so you are going to have to go through them all individually, systematically working out which has the most benefits for the needs that you have. 

For example, Canadian American Boxed Meat, Northern Meat Service and Canadian Rangeland Bison & Elk are the first hits if you type it into Google. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that any of these companies are who you will end up using. You are going to have to look further than the first three results to figure out which supplier will be best for you.

Like we said above, making sure that all of your beef is being shipped legally is vital. You are going to have to get in touch with the supplier, ask them to prove to you that they follow all of the international and shipping regulations before you can consider using them for your business.

Shipping Beef from Canada in BulkShipping Beef from Canada in Bulk

When you are shipping beef, it is important to be aware of the cold chain. The transportation of beef from Canada is completely dependent on the cold chain. This is due to the fact that once it has been slaughtered, meat has a highly limited storage life. In America, beef will often be collected while the animals are alive and transported around. However, when you are importing beef from Canada, it’s quite common for the beef to be shipped frozen.

Some of the things that you are going to need to consider before you ship beef in bulk from Canada are as follows:

  • How much meat you are getting
  • How much it is going to cost
  • If this is a better deal than shipping singularly
  • How long this is going to last
  • If you have the demand to ship in bulk
  • Is it within the legal limit

Once you have taken all of these points into consideration, you can begin to work out whether shipping in bulk is going to be right for you. Keep in mind that shipping in bulk is only going to be a good idea if you are gaining something from this like a price reduction and if you have the demand. If this is not the case you are going to have beef sitting there with nowhere to go.

Shipping Beef and the Cold ChainShipping Beef and the Cold Chain

When you are shipping beef, it is important to be aware of the cold chain. The transportation of beef from Canada is completely dependant on the cold chain. This is due to the fact that once it has been slaughtered, meat has a highly limited storage life. In America, beef will often be collected while the animals are alive and transported around. However, when you are importing beef from Canada, it’s quite common for the beef to be shipped frozen. 

There are a variety of different cold chain solutions to ensure that the standards of meat are maintained during the shipping process. For instance, insulated rolling containers can be used. Here, the temperatures of the meat are maintained for a number of hours using dry ice storage within a drawer. These can be added to a typical truck to ensure that they can be distributed and transported the right way. When they reach the store or the supplier, these are then unloaded into a refrigerator. As such, the integrity of the cold chain is effectively maintained. 

If the integrity of the cold chain is impacted, this is going to lead to issues with the quality of the meat. Indeed, this will typically lead to it not being safe for consumption. This can end up costing business owners a fortune. 

Packaging Beef for Shippingpackaging Beef for shipping

It is vital that all of the beef being shipped is packed correctly, otherwise, it might not be let through on the border. For this reason, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the correct packaging methods and instructions so that you know what to expect. For example, all of the meat must be stored in boxes to ensure that it is not exposed during transit. A lot of shipping companies use dry ice to keep the meat fresh, but cold packs can also be used. As long as the meat stays refrigerated and at the correct temperature, this is acceptable

Some of the factors that you need to know about packing meat that is being shipped are as follows:

  • Use of a meat box
  • Dry ice or heavy-duty gel packs can be used to keep the meat cool, but dry ice tends to keep the meat cold for longer
  • All packages should be clearly marked as to what the content is
  • The meat should be vacuum-sealed

Not only is it important that you know how to package meat for customs, but other than this you need to know how to do this so that the meat does not go off. Whether it is a long shipping journey or a short one, you don’t want the meat to spoil in the meantime. That is why you need to vacuum pack it and make sure that there is some kind of cooling agent in the box with the meat.

We have mentioned ensuring that the meat is correctly packaged for customs, but to do this you need to do your research into the specific guidelines of the country the meat is being shipped from Canada. As different countries have different regulations, it is important that you don’t assume a one shoe fits all approach. This means that you should always be checking that the regulations and rules have not changed since you last had your supplier ship meat to you. It might sound like a tedious task, but it is better to be safe and check that you are following the rules instead of having your package turned away at the border. 

Check with your supplier that they know what they are doing in terms of packaging before you allow them to ship your beef order to you.

Canadian Beef and Free Trade Agreements 

The Canadian Free Trade Agreement is an intergovernmental agreement that was signed by Canadian ministers and came into effect in July of 2017. The aim of this agreement was to reduce the barriers to the free movement of goods, people and services within Canada to establish an open and stable domestic market. Canada does have a law that allows them to feed growth hormones to the cows that are going to be used for meat, but only if they are not producing dairy products. While Canada trades with a large portion of the world, in July 2019, China suspended the trading of beef from Canada due to having found a banned feed contained in the beef.

At the moment, Canada currently has Free Trade Agreements with more than 40 countries, allowing them to trade beef with these countries including places such as South Korea. These Trade Agreements are at varying degrees of implementation but all are proving successful.

Recently, Canada and the EU came to an agreement where they would remove all of the custom duties for goods that originated inside either Canada or the EU. This process could come into force gradually over the next 3, 5 or 7 years, but by the time it is in full effect, 99% of all Canadian and EU tariffs will be removed. This will be done under the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), where you will be given a category to understand where you stand on current tariffs.

In 2015, the U.S. eliminated the COOL legislation for both beef and pork. It was established that COOL had concluded which was considered a substantial victory for Canada’s cattle industry. It ensured that country of origin labeling was no longer required. This ended an eight-year legal battle between the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association when the organization claimed that the law violated US international trade obligations. The benefit of the COOL repeal ensures that there is now no longer a need to segregate imported cattle in the US. 

Regulations for Shipping Beef from CanadaRegulations for Shipping Beef from Canada

There are regulations in place that you must abide by when you are shipping meat from the U.S. into Canada. To understand this, you should first start by exploring what is classified as an illegible or eligible product. 

For instance, mechanically separated beef is classified as an ineligible product. This means that it is prohibited by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – Food Safety and Inspection Service. 

Imported meat products into Canada are also not eligible for being exported to the U.S. The exception to this rule would be if they are processed as Safe Food for Canadian Regulations. This does include products that have been repackaged and then put into Canadian containers. 

The only products that will be accepted are those that have been labeled by the USDA as part of a trans-shipment. This means that they are covered in bond by an original certificate of origin, which shows the name and the address of the consignee who must be located in the US. 

It’s worth noting that while these regulations are up to date right now they are constantly changing. For instance, in the future, there could be a reason to believe that beef from Canada is not safe. If this does occur, then regulations will change to reflect this new development and ensure that the population of the US is protected. Safety is the reason for all regulations on meat products entering the US. 

It’s also important to note that the majority of food that is imported from Canada does fall under the jurisdiction of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. This regulates the import of any meat from common animals and that does include beef which is referred to as an amenable species. Even products with small amounts of meat from amenable species such as beef need to originate from a source that has been approved by the FDA. 

It is also important to make sure that issues with particular dangers are met and dealt with. For instance, in the case of beef from Canada, it is typically accepted that there is a potential danger of E. coli 0157:H7 if the meat is being imported raw. As such, the hazard needs to be addressed through the HACCP plan. 

There are individual standards and regulations for every type of beef that you might be considering importing. As such, it’s important to be aware of the potential issues here and make sure that you are complying with the correct standards. 

Challenges and Technical Trade Issues Shipping Beef From Canada Challenges and technical trade issues of shipping beef from Canada

It’s true to say that while there have been some significant improvements in trading beef, there have also been some issues and roadblocks. International trade rules have helped break down the barriers such as tariff rate quotas and more typical tariffs. However, there are technical trade barriers that continue to cause problems in the international trade market. 

Technical trade barriers typically refer to technical standards and regulations that companies need to conform too. The aim is to make sure that policy goals are met. This could be related to the health of the environment, the animals or the safety of the general public. These can have an unintended impact on the level of trade that can be completed on an international level. Canada does have an obligation to ensure that issues with technical regulations to not restrict levels of global trade, however, it’s fair to say that this isn’t always possible. 

However, Canada will typically work to help encourage that countries do not limit levels of trade and instead maintain a predictable as well as transparent trade environment. A few of the issues impacting this currently include:

  • Pesticide and Veterinary drug maximum residue limit
  • Agricultural biotechnology 
  • Low-level presence 

The pesticide and veterinary drug maximum residues limit are the total level of residues that can be expected to remain in agricultural products like beef. This is to ensure that they are not going to have an impact on human health. 

Genetically modified (GM) products are a crucial element of the agricultural and food sector of Canada. So, steps are being taken to ensure that challenges within the regulatory approach to GM products are being effectively addressed. This includes working with trading standards.

Furthermore, Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada are also exploring the issues with Low-Level Presence. This is being used to ensure that transparency and trade predictability can be greatly increased.  

Economic Impact of Beef from Canada

There has been a significant impact on the economy due to beef being imported from Canada. This has been felt since the introduction of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that was established in 1994. Indeed, a study run in 2001, suggested that Canada accounted for $49.1 billion in the World Agricultural trade. This includes both exports and imports.

However, NAFTA has since been replaced by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Overall, NAFTA and USMCA are roughly the same in regard to the beef industry. American farmers who export their products to Canada and Mexico might have hoped that the agreement benefitted them more, but the rules are the same as NAFTA as far as Canadian cattle producers and/or the meat industry exporting their products to the U.S. 

It’s certainly true to say that agricultural trade between Canada and the U.S. has grown substantially since the implementation of NAFTA and continuation through the USMCA. Indeed, it is almost as significant in the growth of trade between that of America and Mexico.

Indeed, in 2002, the value of the U.S.-Canada beef trade was valued at a staggering $2.76 billion. According to the research, imports from Canada to the U.S. contributed to over 44% of this number. Slaughtered cattle from Canada also accounted for another 40%. Indeed, the percentage of cattle being imported from the U.S. to Canada are significantly lower, leading to a trade disparity. It’s also true to say that most imports of beef into the US do also come from Canada. 

It’s true to say that in the future there is sure to be significant changes here. Trade in beef between Canada and the U.S. could become more liberal or there could be barriers put in place blocking it. This will depend on the growing concerns about the safety of imported meat, particularly beef. 

Cost of Shipping Beef from CanadaCost of Shipping Beef from Canada

If you are exploring the option of shipping beef from Canada, you do need to consider the cost. This is going to impact your bottom line and the revenue stream of your business. It’s true to say that there are a number of variables that you do need to take into account when you are choosing to ship beef from Canada. 

For instance, you need to think about whether you are going to import the beef by land or sea. At the same time, you must make sure that the company you choose is able to match the high levels of standards that you require. There is no point in saving on costs if it is going to impact the quality of your products. The price will be impacted by:

  • How fast you want your product
  • Where you want your beef shipped to in the U.S.
  • The amount that you require shipping
  • The company that you are ordering it from

It’s worth making sure that you are exploring various different shipping and logistics companies that offer this service before settling on the right one for your needs. You need to make sure that you are exploring reviews and evidence that a company can offer the right service at the right price. If you fail to do this, you could find that the beef is not fit for consumption once it reaches U.S. ports of entry. Generally speaking, the costs can be quite competitive so you are sure to find an option that is going to match your budget and provide an efficient solution that you require. 

Shipping Beef from Canada with R+L Global Logistics

You now have a better understanding of some of the issues and factors that you need to consider when shipping beef from Canada. We can also help you ship items like machinery, furniture and even Canadian vegetables. At R+L Global Logistics we are thrilled to say that we can provide the solutions that you need. We will make sure that you are able to get your beef fast and provide you with a high standard of service. We are passionate about delivering an efficient and effective solution that our clients deserve when shipping beef from Canada.

No matter whether your beef is crossing the border in Sweet Grass, MT, or Detroit, MI, R+L Global Logistics has the services you need to get your shipment on time and intact. With more than 99% on-time delivery, count on us to get it there.

Are you interested in shipping beef from Canada? As your strategic logistics partner, we are confident that we can match any level of demand and deliver the service that you require. Our aim is to be the ultimate partner for all your beef shipping needs. Call R+L Global Logistics today at 855-915-0573 or contact us online today.

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