A long history of producing mostly for the domestic market led to institutions and "ways of thinking" that left Canadian producers ill prepared for major exposure to the severe demands of the international market place. The industry expansion that started in earnest in the mid-1980s led by enthusiastic producers and supportive government policies developed into a situation where suppliers became vulnerable to the closure of export markets. Efforts by governments to negotiate international trade accords to prevent indiscriminate border closures ultimately proved fruitless in the face of the BSE discovery in Canada. Moreover, governments, primary producers and packers in Canada appeared to have learned little from the British experience of long term closures to export markets and were not well prepared for the eventuality of discovering BSE in Canada. For the long term success of the Canadian beef sector, it is important to continue to seek international agreement on appropriate protocols that not only limits consumer exposure to animal diseases and pests but also takes account of the real risk to human health as based on scientific knowledge and evidence. At the same time, Canadian beef producers need to be cognizant of their vulnerability to export markets and so adopt production practices and supply chains that are in line with changing consumer wants in export markets.