Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File Photo)

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File Photo)

RANCH MUSINGS: Impacts of COVID-19 on food systems

Pivoting, as I understand it, is changing direction at a steep angle

As I go about my seasonal ranch work and spend quite some time in the larger world of farm organizations, I can’t help but try to imagine how our business might ‘pivot.’

Pivoting, as I understand it, is changing direction at a steep angle or keeping one foot on the ground and placing the other in a step in a different direction. All of this is done quickly.

Editors and columnists in the mainline farm journals are complementing farmers for how resilient their industry has been during the pandemic. We were able to provide our small inventory of our unsold processed product to consumers who wished to purchase locally.

All of us in the direct marketing business could have sold more.

It seems the tide of demand for local product has come in. Several articles have opined that the pandemic just sped up trends that were already underway.

READ MORE: Technology and visions for the future in food and agriculture

I recently took part in The International Dairy Federation’s outlook conference via an online webinar.

The most outstanding takeaway was the fact that sales of ice cream and potato chips sky rocketed during the pandemic. Comfort food, you might say.

I think the closest dairy to us doing local/regional marketing is Blackwell Dairy near Kamloops who sells up into this area. They make great ice cream. And I have heard of people who have tubs of Haagen-Dazs (high end ice cream) in their freezer.

It seems there are two broad categories of consumers: those for whom money is no object and those who are struggling to feed healthy food at a good price to their family.

This conference had a focus on consumer behavior. I will paraphrase the notes of one of my colleagues who took in the same conference:

Consumers are experiencing increased anxiety over COVID again. Sixty-five per cent of consumers have changed the way they buy.

Forty-five per cent are buying more online. Seventy-five per cent are spending more time online.

There has been an increase in the number of people who intend to grocery shop online after COVID.

To the extent that there has been a reduction in meat purchases by those surveyed by the Dairy Federation panelist, they have done so 58 per cent due to health concerns, a little less than that because of animal treatment and concern over carbon footprint.

READ MORE: Mental health and well-being in these times of COVID-19

Online shopping is increasing because people like it—just show up at the store having ordered online. In food services, there is a greater focus on speed of service and moving away from ‘dining in.’

Dairy sales online are up 201 per cent.

Cooking from scratch and easy-to-prepare are certainly up and the trend is expected to stay.

Sanitation concerns are high.

Back on the topic of meat sales and ‘local’ products. One of the headlines in the October issues of Country Life in B.C. in October is: BC BEEF set to launch.

The cattle industry in B.C. has been working for five years and is set to launch products from a leased facility in Westwold — the federally inspected meat plant owned by KML.

Product can be exported out of B.C. and Canada as well as serve the people of B.C.

It is interesting the new CEO was brought in from elsewhere in Canada. Good managers are hard to come by — a sign of the times. I look forward to sharing details in a future article.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Williams Lake considering using remainder of COVID Safe Restart Grant to make up for unpaid taxes. (City of Williams Lake photo)
Williams Lake weighs allocating rest of COVID safe restart grant in capital programs

The $546,205 lef of the $2.6 million could make up for $746,874 in outstanding taxes

Chief Joe Alphonse
OP-ED: Williams Lake municipal, regional councils lack awareness on historical trauma

Systemic racism isn’t always obvious to those that are not experiencing it

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

The City of Williams Lake is asking for public feedback on whether it should explore the opportunity to host a Greater Metro Hockey League team in Williams Lake. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake GMHL expansion questions, concerns, to be discussed later this month

If approved, the team would begin play in the fall of 2021

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second death reported in Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

A total of seven cases have been identified at the hospital: six patients and one staff

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

(File photo)
Kamloops Mountie bitten while arresting woman

The assault on March 1 is the latest in a string of incidents that have left local officers injured

Most Read