David Manly

David Manly

June 5, 2012, Ottawa, ON - International Trade Minister Ed Fast announced the creation of an advisory panel to create a plan, to be ready in 2013, to help foster trade relationships with the European Union, India, China and other Asia-Pacific nations.

However, in an article from the Daily Gleaner, it appears thatt he panel has advised the government about phasing out supply management, which may hinder negotiations with other nations.

John Manley, the CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and one of the ten members of the panel, said that supply management "has become an impediment to our expanding trade interests in our own region and elsewhere."

May 28, 2012 - Senators in the US Senate have proposed setting a uniform national standard for the treatment of egg-laying hens that would reduce different state standards.

According to an article on The Hill, Senator Dianne Feinstein has said that six states have their own standards, with 18 others planning to do so soon, which could severely limit interstate egg transportation.

The proposed bill, S. 3239, would codify an agreement between the United Egg Producers and the Humane Society on how egg-laying hends should be treated.

"The United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States worked for over a year to reach this compromise, and I believe it is one that strikes a very fair balance," she said. "Producers must enlarge cages for egg-laying hens and allow space for the birds to engage in natural behaviors such as nesting and perching."

For more information, please see the complete article found on The Hill website.

May 24, 2012 - Eden Valley Poultry Inc. will be able to increase its productivity by more than 40 per cent through the purchase of leading-edge poultry processing equipment, supported by an investment by the province of Nova Scotia.

Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Minister Percy Paris announced a $1-million capital investment May 17 in Eden Valley Poultry Incorporated through the Productivity Investment Program (PIP).

"The province understands the importance of investing in our businesses and helping them become more productive and globally competitive," said Mr. Paris. "This investment supports good jobs in rural communities, and that's what jobsHere is all about."

Eden Valley has invested about $40 million to renovate a Berwick facility which closed in 2011. The new plant will employ up to 200 people, and have the capacity to process 40 million kilograms of poultry annually. Eden Valley Poultry Inc. is a joint venture between United Poultry Producers inc. and Maple Lodge Holdings Corp.

"This is a great program to support increased productivity and innovation in the province," said Eden Valley president Greg Gillespie. "Eden Valley Poultry is pleased to receive this contribution towards our total $40 million investment."

Equipment purchased with support from the province will increase chicken processing capacity by 40 per cent to 12,000 boilers per hour, and double the number of turkeys that can be processed to 2,500 per hour.

"Eden Valley poultry represents the jobs and economic opportunity that the people of Berwick, and Kings County need," said Berwick Mayor John Prall. "This facility represents a major boost to our municipal bottom line that will provide the services our community depends on."

The Productivity Investment Program encourages Nova Scotia businesses to become more productive, innovative and globally competitive through two financial incentives: the Capital Investment Incentive and the Workplace Innovation and Productivity Skills Incentive.

In its first year, $17.2 million has been committed in PIP funding for more than 294 projects.

For more information on jobsHere and the Productivity Investment Program, visit http://jobsHere.novascotia.ca.

May 18, 2012 - Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Georgia are exploring whether poultry vocalizations could give clues about their health and comfort.

According to an article on Science Daily, welfare of poultry (which is the top agricultural product in the state) is a high priority, and anything that can help producers determine the state of their flock means big business.

"Many poultry professionals swear they can walk into a grow-out house and tell whether a flock is happy or stressed just by listening to the birds vocalize," said Wayne Daley, a Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) principal research scientist who is leading the research.

While there are lots of problems associating ith isolating specific vocalizations amongst a cacophony of noise, results do show that it is possible to gauge how birds are based on nothing but their vocalizations.

For more on this interesting research, read the article on Science Daily.

On May 8, 2012, the Poultry Industry Council (PIC) held its Spring Symposium (formerly known as Research Day) celebrating the career of three distinguished poultry researchers, as well as highlighting research regarding poultry health and disease that it helps fund.

The day began with the presentation of the Poultry Worker of the Year Award to Ian Duncan, who did groundbreaking work on laying hen welfare, and poultry nutrition researcher Steve Leeson. Also honoured was the late Bruce Hunter, a much beloved teacher and researcher from the Ontario Veterninary College. Each award was preceded by a short video featuring colleagues and peers discussing their accomplishments and significance to the field. All of the honorees were emotional and extremely thankful, none more so than Bruce Hunter’s widow, who was noticeably incredibly touched by the kind words said.

The rest of the day was comprised of researchers discussing various aspects of poultry health and disease, beginning with Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt from the University of Montreal, who discussed putting disease into perspective.

Vaillancourt stated that animal loss due to disease is a continuous and significant problem that claims a large number of animals each and every year. Inside the poultry system, he said, diseases constantly change and adapt and therefore it is a constant battle between management and prevention.

He also said that as density continues to increase, productivity would continue to decrease because production diseases and infection pressure will rise. “The potential costs are huge if we are unprepared,” he said, “and can have major effects on human health as well.”

The second speaker at the symposium was Cindy-Love Tremblay, a PhD student at the University of Montreal working on antimicrobial resistance in birds and how normal gut flora could aquire resistance. Her results have shown that healthy poultry could be a reservoir for resistance genes, which could quickly spread throughout a population of bacteria.

While the research is only in its early stages, Tremblay said that future work could be used to help reduce resistance by decreasing the ability for the bacteria to exchange genes.

Shayan Sharif from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph followed with an explanation on the potential uses of probiotics in humans, as well as poultry. According to him, the use of a combination of probiotics in chickens can help modulate the immune response, increase weight gain, improve feed conversion and decrease both mortality and overall parasite/bacteria load.

This was demonstrated in tests with a cocktail of three different probiotic bacteria, and the researchers found that they can help enhance the chicken’s immune response. Research is also being done on the potential antibacterial properties of probiotics with a new cocktail of five different probiotics targeted against a specific strain of Salmonella

Ben Wood, a geneticist from Hendrix Genetics then took to the podium to discuss the challenges associated with selecting for specific traits in turkeys. He said that screening for metabolic disorders with a genetic basis are quite effective, but artificially selecting against behavior and pathogen resistance is more difficult.

The reason for this is because, by selecting for improved resistance, Wood says that the results visibly decrease the presentation of commercially viable traits, such as growth rate and feed conversion. “And until breeders get the word that consumers are willing to pay for less product, “ said Wood, “things aren’t going to change.”

The final scientific presentation was by Michele Guerin from the University of Guelph on the prevalence of Salmonella serovars in breeder flocks in Ontario. The results showed that there was a seasonal difference between Salmonella’s presence in breeders (more pronounced in the fall) and hatcheries (summer), and that the best way to eliminate an outbreak is constant monitoring at the breeder flock and hatcheries across all poultry types. She noted that if she and her research team could gain a better understanding of why these seasonal patterns occur, they could design studies that could show how these infections could be prevented.

Len Jewitt, owner of BLT Farms Inc., a turkey, egg and broiler operation north of Guelph, ended the day with an emotional presentation on the impact of disease at the farm level. Several years ago, one of his layer barns was found to be positive for Salmonella Enteritidis (SE), and he explained that there are many costs to the producer when disease strikes, and these go beyond dollars and cents.

The biggest challenge was the mental cost. “This is something that as an industry, we don’t want to talk about,” he said.

He said the positive result made him feel “like a loser,” and he asked himself what had gone wrong, as he and his employees had been so clean and had followed all necessary protocols. Since the SE occurrence, he says he “is on pins and needles when a swab is taken to see if I’m OK for another year. I’m shooting at something I can’t understand, and praying it won’t hit me.”

He finished his talk with a piece of advice for those who are responsible for going on the farm and beginning the depopulation and disinfection process — to use a gentle hand. “Remember you are walking into someone’s dreams,” he said.

May 9, 2012, Mississauga, ON - As a long standing partner of Food Banks Canada, the Turkey Farmers of Canada (TFC) continue the appeal to Canadians to take notice of the prevalence of hunger in Canada. With the launch of Food Banks Canada’s first annual Hunger Awareness Week (May 7-11, 2012), TFC felt compelled to be a part of the efforts to raise awareness amongst Canadians.

From sunrise to sunset on Wednesday May 9th, more than 140 Federal Parliamentarians and parliamentary staff will fast to experience just one day of what hundreds of thousands of Canadians experience regularly. On May 10th, Parliamentarians, key opinion leaders and food bankers will come together to share their experiences in the Parliamentary restaurant.

The Turkey Farmers of Canada is proud to sponsor this breakfast, to thank the participants and to salute the food banks’ staff and volunteers across Canada for their ongoing efforts in helping those in need. For a complete list of Parliamentarians and staff participating, please visit: http://hungerawarenessweek.ca/parliamentarians.

TFC encourages everyone to participate in Hunger Awareness Week in whatever way they are able. Food Banks Canada has a number of events taking place throughout the week, and many suggestions for ways to lend a helping hand in your local community.

Apr. 11, 2012 - The new president of the Practical Farmers of Ontario, Sean McGivern, wants to loosen rules on supply management quotas for poultry production to allow more farmers to participate.

According to an article in the Owen Sound Sun Times, McGivern will set up discussions with the various marketing boardsto increase the amount of quota exemptions from 100 laying hens and 300 meat birds.

"So really, what we’re doing, our organization I think, is trying to plan for the future and we know that supply management will come to an end, just as it has in the tobacco board, the hog board, the wheat board,” said McGivern.

For more information, see the Owen Sound Sun Times.

Apr. 5, 2012 – Recent research out of Alberta on food safety and traceability has the potential to have large impacts on Canadian beef, as well as poultry and other meat packaging and preparation industries. Not only will this research help improve food safety recalls, but it will also help researchers keep better track of animals.

The project, done in co-operation with the University of Alberta, IdentiGEN North America and the University of Guelph, used DNA analysis to analyze samples taking from ground beef. By isolating individual muscle fibres within the beef, the scientists were able to identify individual cattle that made up the mosaic final product.

A total of six batches were studied in the project. Scientists took 10 samples from each batch, and extracted DNA from 100 muscle fibers in each sample, meaning they analyzed 6,000 muscle fibers for the project.

The uses for this new technology can allow for more targeted recalls, as well as piece of mind to consumers, which could find out exactly where their meat came from.

Graham Plastow, the CEO of Livestock Gentec and part of the research team, said that this type of research has potential beyond just the beef industry.

One the largest ways this technology can help says Plastow, is by aiding in the verification process of what is contained within a specific product, in addition to helping eliminating potential pathogen risks, increasing awareness of health risks and re-inforcing the public brand.

"DNA is DNA," he said, "whether it is in cattle, humans or chickens. Most techniques are transferrable between species, but it ultimately comes down to the question the researchers are looking at."

"With a bit on ingenuity, you can make it work."

Most of the funding for the $375,000 project was provided through Genome Alberta and the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA). Further research on the DNA traceability project and other livestock genome research, is available on the Livestock News and Views blog at www.genomealberta.ca/livestock.

About Genome Alberta

Genome Alberta is a publicly funded organization that initiates, funds, and manages genomics research and partnerships. Genome Alberta is based in Calgary but leads projects around the province and participates in a variety of projects across the country. It is one of Canada's six Genome Centres and work closely with these centres to advance the science and application of genomics, metabolomics, and many other related 'omics'.

For the latest in life science news visit our GenOmics application at http://genomicsnews.ca or visit us on the web at http://genomealberta.ca.

Mar. 28, 2012, Calgary, AL - A new culture of care is emerging around farm animal welfare that demands fresh thinking, partnerships, expectations and strategies for the livestock industry to define a successful future. And it's coming fast, say speakers at the Livestock Care Conference, March 21-22 in Red Deer, Alberta.

The conference, hosted by Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) was attended by over 170 including producers, other industry representatives and animal care stakeholders.

"We're in a completely different environment today," says Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Centre for Food Integrity, a major U.S.-based initiative spanning the broad food industry. "The world is changing and our 'social license' to control how we operate is at stake. We need to build public trust to consistently earn and maintain that license, to define a future we can compete and succeed in."

Science and standards alone are not the answer, says Arnot. "In agriculture, we're good at science and we think if the science is on our side people will come around to our side of the argument. But our stakeholders need more than that - they need to know we share their values and are committed to doing what is right. We've had the communications equation exactly backward."

Research by the Center and its partners shows perceptions of shared values and confidence are three-to-five times more important than demonstrating competence. "It keeps coming back to values," he says. "That's where we need to connect with people. It's not just about polishing our image. It's an issue of trust that requires fundamentally different strategies. We need to be integrated in our thinking not only as a supply chain but with the values and expectations of our customers."

Customers increasingly want to know more about how their food is produced and desire products that make them feel good about their purchases, says agricultural economist Glynn Tonsor of Kansas State University. If that relationship is thrown off by questions of trust or confidence the economic implications can be dramatic. "Animal welfare is increasingly a focus and it's now in the conversation on trade. We're seeing more and more examples where a welfare issue is creating challenges for industry, from state ballot initiatives in the U.S targeting specific practices to iconic global brands such as McDonalds and Wal-Mart facing pressure and driving changes."

Often the most damaging developments are high profile media issues that damage food brands and industry sectors, he says. Research by Tonsor and others shows increasing consumer awareness and scrutiny of welfare practices often have significant impact on meat demand. "One of the emerging areas being considered now is labeling of animal welfare attributes on retail products, including potential mandatory approaches," says Tonsor. Much work is needed before mandatory labeling discussions go further, he says. "It's an area we need to follow closely. Clearly it has the potential to strongly influence the economic implications of various animal welfare approaches."

This new world demands new approaches, says Gene Gregory, president of United Egg Producers, an organization that has taken the bold step of directly negotiating and partnering with the Humane Society of the United States. "It's about having a measure of control in your future, rather than having it dictated for you," he says. "Through this approach we were able to define terms we could live with that would allow our industry to continue to operate. We faced a lot of criticism but in the end we got a better deal than we would have otherwise, including consistency of requirements across states that was critical to avoiding costly or unworkable models."

Having some control over the pace of change is essential for industry to manage new expectations, echoed scientist Herman Vermeer of the Netherlands, who shared his experience and insight from the EU swine gestation stall phase out. "With science we can solve problems. But often as in the case here the debate is an emotional one. We have made adjustments but it has not been easy for the pig farmers."

While public perception is increasingly the major factor driving change, industry can help navigate by keeping on top of the consumer mindset and strengthening that relationship, says consumer research consultant Theresa Dietrich. "People increasingly want to have a closer connection to their food. They want to know where it's coming from and to feel good about what they're eating. What does that mean? One thing clear is the relationship between animal agriculture and the consumer needs to be an authentic relationship - that 'authenticity' word is really trending in what matters to consumers today."

Keep in mind activists are one end of the spectrum and don't reflect the general consumer, advises Dietrich.  "By focusing on the consumer relationship, there is an opportunity to build confidence and have a positive discussion of welfare as it continues to get more interest and profile."

Another key opportunity for industry is the progress, innovation and relationship-building that is driven every day by individual producers and industry representatives on the front line. The Livestock Care Conference showcased several local examples in two sessions - one on "Progressive industry leaders" and another featuring the presentation of AFAC Awards of Distinction.

About Alberta Farm Animal Care

AFAC is a partnership of Alberta's major livestock groups, with a mandate to promote responsible, humane animal care within the livestock industry. More information on AFAC and the conference is available at www.afac.ab.ca

Following the tragic February van accident that claimed 11 lives in rural Ontario, many Canadians were surprised to learn that most of the victims were from a country better known for its llamas than its chicken catchers. New research by Prof. Kerry Preibisch, a sociologist at the University of Guelph, helps explain why people from an increasingly wide range of countries are finding jobs as temporary workers in Canada’s food system.

Her article, recently published in the International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food, tracks changes in the Canadian farm labour market in the past 10 years. The paper shows how government policy has led to increases in the number of migrant workers in agriculture and food, and the range of countries sending migrants to Canada, since 2002.

Changes to federal immigration policies have broadened the labour pool beyond the 13 countries with bilateral agreements with Canada for a seasonal agricultural worker program. Since 2002, employers with demonstrated labour shortages for any low-skilled occupation have been able to hire from anywhere in the world. In five years, the sector employed migrants from almost 80 countries.

“When we think of migrant workers, we often imagine Mexicans picking hothouse tomatoes or Jamaicans harvesting peaches," said Preibisch. "Today, migrants from a wide range of countries are employed across the food system in a variety of jobs, including picking bait worms in Wellington County or catching chickens in Stratford.”

A broader labour pool is increasing competition among temporary workers for Canadian jobs, she said. Managers use migrants’ availability and relative disposability to encourage higher productivity, sometimes pushing migrants to work more than 15 hours a day.

Some of those migrants are even more desperate than previous groups of workers, said Preibisch. Many come from regions with less political freedom and more marginalization. “A decade ago, Guatemala wasn’t sending migrant farm workers to Canada, but today the country ranks in third place after Mexico and Jamaica.”

The paper also points to lack of regulation and monitoring of migrant recruitment and employment. “This has resulted in a range of abusive practices, some of which can be considered human trafficking,” she said.

More temporary workers have benefited Canada’s agriculture and food system in a highly competitive global market. But her research calls for greater scrutiny on employment practices and immigration policies affecting the lives of the 40,000 migrant workers employed here each year.

January 9, 2012 – A barn fire north of Lethbridge, Alta., has killed 21,000 chicks that Martin and Colleen Vredegoor, of Vredegoor Farm in Shaughnessy, had just received two days earlier. | READ MORE

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