The pilot will run in four city wards over the next three years with an interim review in 18 months.
Residents can keep up to four chickens – no roosters are permitted – and must register with the city.
Chickens would not be allowed in apartment buildings, condominiums or properties without sufficient outdoor space.
Opponents of the pilot have argued it will generate complaints and tie up the city's bylaw enforcement officers.
Several municipalities in Ontario, including Kingston, Brampton, Niagara Falls and Caledon, all allow residents to keep chickens in backyard coops.
The party didn’t disappoint. (Though the home team getting trounced 7-1 dampened the mood a bit. Also, the Boston Red Sox wore Fourth of July uniforms on Canada Day for some reason – one player even warmed up in stars and stripes boxers. But I digress…)
I couldn’t help but feel patriotic watching dozens of Canadian soldiers unveil a massive version of our flag for the national anthem. But by far the most moving moment was watching a World War II vet rise from his wheelchair to throw the first pitch. Indeed, while the team came up short on the field, the organization did an excellent job of stirring up patriotism.
Now, Canadian Poultry and our colleagues at Annex Business Media are looking to do the same. We’re dedicating a week to honouring agriculture and farmer contributions to this country. Dubbed Ag150, every day for five days starting September 18 we’ll look back at the issues that have shaped Canadian farming, including poultry production, as well as what may lie ahead.
We’ll detail agriculture’s most significant milestones, profile some of our longest-standing barns, including a century-plus old egg operation that’s still thriving, and delve into scientific and technological advances that will shape production for years to come.
We’ll also have numerous leaders from across the spectrum reflect on their industry’s past, present and future as part of our coverage. On that note, one of the most informative discussions I’ve had during my time with Canadian Poultry was with Robin Horel, president at Canadian Poultry & Egg Processors Council.
As the leader of an organization representing members in all four commodity groups, including chickens, turkeys, eggs and hatching eggs, Horel has a unique grasp of the wide range of issues facing poultry as a whole. During our interview, the full version of which will be available here, he outlined the distinct issues each sector faces.
What’s more, Horel singled out the biggest challenge he sees all poultry groups sharing for years to come: aggressive animal activism. “They’re turning their attention away from communicating with consumers towards blackmailing customers and holding their brands for ransom,” he said.
Such tactics have been effective in convincing retailers and food service companies to adopt policies that Horel feels lack scientific backing. For instance, in his opinion demanding that egg producers go “cage-free” will do nothing to improve animal welfare, food safety or nutrition but will drive up costs.
That said, he sees a better way forward for poultry. “I think that industry’s got a good story to tell and it needs to revolve around sustainability,” he says, citing the push for slow growing broilers as an example. “You can produce a chicken that grows in double the amount of time a current chickens grows but to do that you’ll need twice as many resources, twice as many barns and almost twice as much feed… So I think our story is a good one.”
Be sure to visit Ag150.ca for our can’t-miss coverage – you’ll even have a chance to win an iPad!
In a piece of after-the-fact fine-tuning this week, Norfolk council modified its position on urban chickens in the county.
Keeping chickens and other livestock within the boundaries of Norfolk’s urban centres continues to be forbidden. However – as of this week -- anyone who wants to keep a half-dozen chickens in their backyard can do so in any of the county’s 23 hamlet areas.
Norfolk council made the adjustment after learning many Mennonite families in hamlet areas of west Norfolk already have a coop in the backyard. There seems to be no problem with this arrangement and council wants to leave well-enough alone. READ MORE
The new certification protocol will help identify products that do not contribute to the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
NSF International’s Raised Without Antibiotics certification can be granted to a wide variety of animal products, including meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs, leather and certain supplement ingredients.
The certification provides independent verification of on-package claims and is the only “raised without antibiotics” certification that covers all animal products.
“A growing number of consumers are concerned about the widespread development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the use of antibiotics in food production,” said Sarah Krol, Global Managing Director of Food Safety Product Certification, NSF International. “NSF International’s Raised Without Antibiotics certification gives consumers an easy way to identify and purchase animal products that have been raised without exposure to antibiotics, which may help alleviate their concerns.”
A 2016 survey conducted for NSF International found that 59 percent of consumers prefer products from animals raised without antibiotics. But, without an independent, transparent protocol and certification process, consumers have not been able to verify claims made by marketers – until now.
Betagro Group in Thailand, a large supplier of chicken to consumers in Asia and Europe, is the first company to earn NSF International’s Raised Without Antibiotics certification.
NSF International developed the Raised Without Antibiotics protocol in partnership with the food animal industry and veterinary stakeholders.
Under the program, animals cannot be certified if they have received antibiotics. The use of ionophore chemical coccidiostats, which are not considered contributors to antimicrobial resistance, may be permitted to prevent infections, depending on labeling regulations in the region of product sale.
The program also encourages preventive measures such as vaccination, alternative treatments, litter management techniques and appropriate stocking density to maintain the health and welfare of the animals.
If sick animals require antibiotics for treatment, they can receive veterinary care but must be removed from the Raised Without Antibiotics program.
Learn more about NSF International’s Raised Without Antibiotics certification.
Register for an informational webinar on Wednesday, June 21, 2017 from 9:30 to 10 a.m. U.S. Pacific Time.
''It's a huge business. It's an $80-billion business around the world. In Canada, it's about $1 billion and it's growing ... by 10 to 15 per cent a year, which is quite significant. It's much more than other categories,'' says Sylvain Charlebois, a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
Halal means permissible in Arabic and refers to foods that have been prepared according to Islamic law. Animals must not suffer when they're slaughtered and must not see another animal be killed. Pork and its byproducts and alcohol are among forbidden items not allowed in the making of halal foods.
While Canadians are increasingly seeing more halal products stocked by the big supermarket chains, the complexity of the supply chain has led to concerns about mislabelled food or fraud.
Contamination and traceability were motivating factors for the formation of the Halal Monitoring Authority of Canada, says chief operating officer Imam Omar Subedar.
A presentation on malpractices in the halal industry he attended in 2004 was eye-opening.
''What we were exposed to was really, really bad. There was just no ethics, no controls, no nothing. It was very sad.''
The HMA launched in 2006 with one certified chicken product. Now there are hundreds, with 30 inspectors in Ontario, three in Alberta, two in Quebec and a representative in B.C. There are plans to start operations in Saskatchewan.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency approved guidelines for halal products just last year.
''Halal unfortunately has been heavily abused and this is why CFIA has gotten involved, which is unprecedented. The government doesn't get involved in religion, but for halal they did because of the malpractices that had been going on,'' says Subedar.
Salima Jivraj, an on-the-go mom who founded Halal Food Festival Toronto in 2012 and runs the website Halalfoodie.ca, says the mainstream availability of halal products now means she can avoid multiple stops at independent shops during her weekly shopping trip.
''I want to go to a grocery store because I'm busy,'' she says. ''Retailers are noticing now – 'how can we hone in on this?'''
Sobeys Inc. launched the store Chalo FreshCo in 2015 in Brampton, Ont., with separate halal and non-halal meat counters and an assortment of rice, spices, lentils and snacks for South Asian customers.
Loblaw Companies Ltd. has launched its own halal brand, Sufra, and also sells other brands of halal chicken, beef, lamb, yogurt, turkey and gummy candies.
Jivraj suggests a lot of Muslims unknowingly eat non-halal products.
''Immigrants come to the country and they might not necessarily know that they have to look out for halal. Coming from countries that are 100 per cent halal, it might be a new concept for them,'' says Jivraj.
Reading labels doesn't always tell the entire story. Candies, yogurt, jellies, baked goods and pharmaceutical products may contain gelatin, which can be derived from pork. Animal shortening such as lard and brewer's yeast are not halal. Vanilla extract flavouring contains alcohol.
''There's going to be more and more demand being driven for things like bakeries, confectionery, dairy including cheeses because a lot of animal byproducts are found in all sorts of categories in grocery and the consumers are realizing this as well and they're being more vigilant in the products that they buy,'' says Jivraj.
Meanwhile, big fast-food chains like Pizza Pizza, KFC, Popeyes and Nandos have added halal options to their menus, while The Halal Guys, a fast-casual franchise that started as a food cart in Manhattan with huge lineups, is opening a Toronto location on May 5.
''If there is more food offered to consumers they will buy more essentially,'' says Charlebois of the rise in halal offerings.
The three-day conference will bring together industry experts from across the globe to share insights and solutions to today’s most pressing issues within agriculture.
To provide an opportunity for every corner of production agriculture to engage in disruption, ONE17 will include various tracks, including a focus session specifically dedicated to poultry production. From topics covering in ovo techniques and the use of CRISPR/Cas9 genome modification to the effects of backyard farming and consumer meat preferences, ONE17 will give poultry producers real-life solutions.
“We believe it’s important for everyone involved in agriculture to be inspired to harness disruption,” said Dr. Pearse Lyons, founder and president of Alltech. “For poultry producers, however, we understand that innovation must be practical and profitable. Our poultry focus session will facilitate open discussions about what’s ahead for the poultry industry and will drive the disruptive thinking that could determine long-term success.”
ONE17 poultry focus sessions include:
- In Ovo: Counting your chickens before they hatch? Could in ovo techniques be the next disruption in the poultry industry, and what benefits could they deliver to the consumer?
- Chickens by Design: What implications does CRISPR/Cas9 have for the world’s preferred protein?
- Slow-Grown Disruption: Is the slow-growth movement a disruption? Is it sustainable?
- Chickens and Eggs: Two growing markets have emerged: backyard farming and large-scale consolidation. What are the opportunities?
- Disruption in Washington: What can we expect from the new leadership landscape? How could the food chain and global trade be disrupted?
- The Biologist’s Toolbox: Precise gene editing technologies are the newest tool in the biologist’s toolbox, but are we pushing ethical limits?
The global probiotic ingredients market size is likely to cross $46 billion (US) by 2020.
North America, especially the U.S. probiotics market for poultry, is likely to grow at steady rates owing to increase in meat consumption, particularly chicken. Europe is also likely to grow at steady rates owing to ban on antibiotic feed supplements. Asia Pacific probiotics market is likely to grow owing to increase in awareness of benefits in meat production.
Globally, antibiotics are used to prevent poultry diseases and pathogens required for improving egg and meat production. Dietary antibiotics used in poultry applications have encountered some problems such as drug residues in bird bodies, drug resistant bacteria development, and microflora imbalance. Increasing application in poultry market is likely to counter the aforementioned factors and promote demand over the forecast period.
Probiotic species belonging to Bacillus, Streptococcus, Lactobacillus, Enterococcus, Bifidobacterium, Candida, Saccharomyces and Aspergillus are used in poultry applications and are expected to have beneficial effects on broiler performance.
Poultry feed accounts for almost 70 per cent of the total production cost and, therefore, it is necessary to improve feed efficiency with minimum cost. In the poultry industry, chicks are subjected to microflora environment and may get infected. Broiler chickens can also succumb to stress owing to production pressure. Under such a scenario, synthetic antimicrobial agents and antibiotics are used to alleviate stress and improve feed efficiency. However, antibiotics in poultry applications are becoming undesirable owing to residues in meat products and development of antibiotic resistant properties.
Europe has banned use of antibiotics as a growth-promoting agent in poultry application owing to several negative effects. These aforementioned factors are expected to drive probiotics demand in the poultry market. Antibiotics failure to treat human diseases effectively has led the European Union (EU) to ban low doses of antibiotics in animal feed. This factor has also led the U.S. government officials to restrict antibiotics use in animal feed.
Poultry probiotics products are available in the form of power and liquid feed supplements. Commercial products in the market may be comprised of a single strain of bacteria or single strain of yeast or a mixture of both. Chicks/broilers/layers require a dose of around 0.5 kg per ton of feed whereas breeders require close to 1 kg per ton of feed.
The global probiotics market share is fragmented with the top five companies catering to more than 35 per cent of the total demand. Major companies include Danone, Yakult, Nestle and Chr Hansen. Other prominent manufacturers include Danisco, BioGaia, Arla Foods, General Mills, Bilogics AB, DuPont, DSM and ConAgra.
Jan. 25, 2017 - 4-H Canada and Syngenta Canada are pleased to announce the national winners of the Proud to Bee a 4-H’er video contest. 4-H’ers from across Canada were asked to create a short video, either as a club or as individuals, demonstrating their pride in being a part of the 4-H program and reflecting the wide variety of Canadian 4-H clubs, projects, communities and age groups.
The videos submitted during the contest entry period in November—coinciding with National 4-H Month—highlighted the common values and central experience of 4-H in building responsible, caring and contributing young leaders, and the sense of pride and accomplishment they all feel as 4-H’ers.
“Congratulations to all of the winning 4-H clubs and 4-H members who did such a wonderful job of showing their enthusiasm and excitement for 4-H in their videos, making this contest a great success,” said Shannon Benner, CEO of 4-H Canada. “Thanks to Syngenta and the Proud to Bee a 4-H’er initiative, 4-H youth across Canada have had incredible opportunities to grow their knowledge of the important work of pollinators and show leadership in their communities by supporting the creation of pollinator-friendly habitats.”
Approximately 3,800 votes were cast during the online public voting period. The winning entry received a GoPro HERO5 camera. The first and second runner-up entries each received an Apple iPad mini 2 and the remaining top ten entries received a selfie stick. Each of the top ten entries also received 4-H Canada branded items to continue displaying their 4-H pride in their communities.
Proud to Bee a 4-H’er – Winning Video Entries
- 1st place - The Pas Helping Hands / 4-H Manitoba
- 2nd place - Aidan Tully / 4-H Manitoba
- 3rd place - Colton Skori / 4-H Alberta
- 4th place - Comox Valley 4-H Calf Club / 4-H British Columbia
- 5th place - Boots N Bridles 4-H Club / 4-H British Columbia
- 6th place - Irishtown 4-H Club / 4-H New Brunswick
- 7th place - Caroline Carpenter / 4-H New Brunswick
- 8th place - 4-W 4-H Club / 4-H Alberta
- 9th place - Hillmond 4-H Beef Club / 4-H Saskatchewan
- 10th place - Jocelyn Kerr / 4-H British Columbia
Since 2014, close to 100,000 seed packets have been distributed across Canada, through the generous support of Syngenta, giving 4-H’ers and others the opportunity to create pollinator-friendly habitats and to enjoy the outdoors.
“The addition of the Proud to Bee a 4-H’er video contest in 2016 was a fun and fitting way to cap off a successful year of activities that saw more than 120 4-H Canada clubs from coast-to-coast-to-coast support the important work of pollinators. The enthusiasm that 4-H’ers brought to their Proud to Bee a 4-H’er activities was on full display in their video submissions,” says Dr. Paul Hoekstra, Stewardship and Policy Manager with Syngenta Canada.
Syngenta support for Proud to Bee a 4-H’er is through its Operation Pollinator program, which is focused on research and other initiatives that contribute to enhanced biodiversity and habitat in support of healthy pollinator populations.
To watch the winning videos, please visit www.youtube.com/4HCanada.
Shaver recently gave a keynote presentation to the 11th International Symposium on Avian Endocrinology, held in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
Entitled “Mandating a sustainable economy before it’s too late”, the presentation dealt with a number of current issues critical to, in Shaver’s view, the future of humanity, as we know it.
For sustainable development, he used the United Nations 1987 definition that it “is attained when current generations could meet their needs without undermining or destroying future generations’ chances of having their needs met”.
Of course, much has changed since 1987, especially recognition of the twin challenges of climate change and the associated problem of finite water resources.
“There isn’t an alternative presently known to man that will safeguard the well-being of our grandchildren, short of immediate, co-ordinated reductions in CO2 emissions to levels that will assure human survival,” Shaver said, with regard to global warming and CO2 emissions. “The economics of the so-called market place alone, will not be able to accomplish this, for it is a truly Churchillian undertaking.” The consequences of existing climate change in terms of loss of ice cover and rising sea levels, increasingly volatile weather phenomena, etc. are well known.
Many of these factors are already influencing the world’s food supply. But it is not just climate change that is affecting food security. Shaver quoted Mahatma Gandhi (who died in 1948) as saying that “the earth provides enough for everyone’s needs, but not for everyone’s greed”. The West’s model for food production, Shaver stated, will fail to feed the world if adapted globally, because it destroys resources and many of the traditional farmers whose knowledge is so essential to future food security.
One of the main thrusts of the presentation was the need for governments to restore the priority of food production and agriculture in the scientific world. Apart from those involved in space or defense programs, scientists’ funding is unreliable and short term. The need for worldwide food security is paramount. And the industrial systems now operating in the West are not only largely unsustainable in their present form, they are unsuited for exporting to Africa and other less-developed food systems. This is particularly so for animal systems which, except for ruminants, compete with the human population for food resources.
Effects of climate change
Climate change is already reducing crop yields. Research has shown that, while corn yields in France rose by 60 per cent between 1960 and 2000 (the green revolution), they were flat for the next decade. They are predicted to fall by 12 per cent over the next twenty years. Wheat and soya yields showed a similar pattern and are expected to fall by up to 20 per cent. In the U.S. Midwest, higher temperatures are expected to lower crop yields by up to 63 per cent by the end of this century. Similar reductions may be expected in the Canadian prairies, and, as the world’s sixth largest agricultural economy, this can be predicted to significantly affect the world’s food supply.
The inequity in food distribution is well known. Obesity is rampant in the West, and yet many economies are characterized by widespread malnutrition. Shaver stated, “Nor do the industrialized countries recognize that, for their own future security, they must commit to helping find an enduring solution to the chronic food shortages present in too many disadvantaged areas. Some of us are beginning to think that terrorism is not entirely based on religious differences.”
Shaver also made reference to the inequalities in income and spending power between the “one per cent” and the rest of society. In the past half-century, taxation has favoured the rich in many countries, particularly the U.S.
Finding workable solutions
“If we are to build a more sustainable economic system, we must legislate a less reckless financial sector,” he said. “Neo-liberal capitalism may create wealth, but no attempt is made to distribute this wealth with any degree of fairness, much less honesty. We have apparently accepted a “CEO mythology” replete with excessive salary, bonuses. Even in Great Britain, CEO’s from the top 100 companies enjoyed a 10 per cent salary increase in 2015 and are now paid 129 times more than their employees. Research has shown that since 2008, 91 per cent of all financial gains in the U.S. went to the “one per cent”, and they are basically not spending the money, while many of the other 99 per cent spend all their money just to get by. This weakens demand and suppresses growth.”
While admitting that Canada, on its own, can do little to alter the world’s CO2 levels, we have nothing to lose by establishing a sustainable food system. Shaver proposed the establishment of a “senior cabinet post, second only to the prime minister, responsible for sustainable economic development and the sciences. Shaver envisions that this person would firmly direct our national scientific activity with respect to sustainability, eliminating duplication and managing the function of bureaucracy in areas where it lacks expertise. Furthermore, he would require the creation of a sustainability commission, chaired by the chief scientist; a non-partisan group, with long-term goals. It would not only create plans for Canadian sustainability, but also liaise with similar bodies in
Shaver sees this commission initially providing the prime minister with three 10-year plans, reviewed and if necessary updated as circumstances change. The rewards envisaged would accrue to the scientists involved with the various projects and would be a serious incentive for long-term scientific endeavour. In many cases, the challenges we face can be solved with existing knowledge. What is needed is the will to recognize and prioritize the need for action in the field of sustainability.
In conclusion, Shaver said that “the future human reality will be centred less on technology and industrial might than on food and water security for all mankind. An Eastern philosopher observed that knowing the facts is easy; knowing how to act based on the facts is difficult!”
StatsCan data reveals there were a total of 12,168 students studying in agriculture or an ag-related program in 2014, which is a 2.7 per cent increase from the previous year and a 16.6 per cent overall increase from 2009-10.
The number of enrollments in agricultural programs grew at a rate double of all post-secondary enrollments (2.7 per cent and 1.2 per cent, respectively), while slowing down at about the same level as all other post-secondary programs over the past five years.
Agriculture programs are also more likely to see full-time enrollment than other programs (87 per cent compared to 75 per cent, respectively) and this rate has been steady over the past five years.
A recent informal Farm Credit Canada (FCC) survey of 33 post-secondary institutions offering agriculture and ag-related programs confirms agriculture has become a popular career option, especially over the past five years as the industry has grown.
“This is a testament to the strength and appeal of Canada’s agriculture industry, which is generating more interest among students than ever before,” Todd Klink, FCC’s chief marketing officer, who has undertaken projects to get high schools students interested in careers in agriculture says. “As the industry grows, so does the need for additional talented, energetic and well-educated young people.”
The need to attract skilled and educated young people to Canada’s agriculture industry is highlighted in a recent study by Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC).
Agriculture 2025: How the Sector’s Labour Challenges Will Shape its Future shows the gap between labour demand and the domestic workforce in agriculture has doubled from 30,000 to 59,000 in the past 10 years and projections indicate that by 2025, the Canadian agri-workforce could be short workers for 114,000 jobs. The study also reveals that primary agriculture has the highest industry job vacancy rate at seven per cent.
“The sustainability and future growth of Canada’s agriculture and agri-food industry is at risk,” Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, CAHRC executive director, explains in releasing the study. “It is critically important that this risk is acknowledged and mitigated in an intentional and strategic way.”
FCC says it is committed to helping young people enter the industry by offering various loan products for young farmers and through its long-standing support for 4-H Canada clubs and programs and Agriculture in the Classroom.
“Given that one in eight jobs in Canada are tied to the agri-food industry, there are a lot of opportunities for young people,” Klink says. “The growing interest in agriculture education shows we can be optimistic for the future of agriculture.”
The objective of the Forum is to build a national strategy for plant and animal health which will be built on a vision shared by all participating partners. It will focus on strengthening Canada's agriculture sector through innovation, collaboration, and risk prevention.
"This forum presents a unique opportunity to identify and discuss the actions that we need to take together to develop a national plant and animal health strategy," Lawrence MacAulay, minister of agriculture and agri-food says. "We need to work together, build on our successes, learn from our challenges and take a greater proactive, integrated and preventive approach to protecting Canadian agriculture."
"A national integrated plant and animal health strategy developed with industry leadership, and in full collaboration with provincial and federal governments, is a significant step forward not only for stakeholders, but for Canadians and their communities, increasing their trust in Canadian agriculture," adds Phil Boyd, executive director of Turkey Farmers of Canada.
A draft strategy will be available in the new year for public consultation. Learn more about the Plant and Animal Health Strategy, and share your ideas on strengthening plant and animal health today.
Representatives from all 10 provinces and over 50 industry associations are participating in the National Plant and Animal Health Planning Forum. Federal, provincial and territorial agriculture ministers endorsed the development of a national strategy for plant and animal health in summer 2016 and will receive the draft strategy at their annual meeting in July 2017.
“The sustainability and future growth of Canada’s agriculture and agri-food industry is at risk,” explains Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, CAHRC executive director. “It is critically important that this risk is acknowledged and mitigated in an intentional and strategic way. “
The agriculture industry has been encouraging young people and workers from other sectors to get into agriculture as a career. Despite extensive efforts gaps still exist and there still will be a large void in the future.
Labour shortages create risks to farmers who can only hope they will have the same or greater access to both domestic and foreign workers in the future as they do now. The LMI study examined only primary production; agri-food industries such as food and beverage processors or input suppliers, which have additional labour demands, were not considered in the research.
The research indicates that the worker shortage is critical today and will be even more so 10 years from now, with potentially serious consequences for business viability, industry sustainability and future growth. Access to less labour for Canadian farmers now and into the future will affect food security for Canadian consumers and will also affect export potential of Canada’s entire agri-food industry.
To address the labour issues identified in the research, CAHRC, with the help of the Canadian government, has developed agriculture-specific human resource (HR) tools designed to support modern farm operations to manage their workforce. CAHRC offers Agri Skills, online and in-person training programs, and the Agri HR Toolkit – an online resource guide and templates to address the HR needs of any business. For agricultural organizations there are customized labour issues briefings that apply the new research to specific commodities and provinces, to explore the labour implications within their specific area. For more information on these and other CAHRC offerings visit cahrc-ccrha.ca.
The Agriculture 2025: How the Sector’s Labour Challenges Will Shape its Future research can be downloaded at http://www.cahrc-ccrha.ca/agriLMI.ca and was validated through industry consultations conducted Canada-wide including: 1034 surveys of employers, workers and industry stakeholders; 80 phone interviews; six focus groups for a total of more than 100 participants; and seven webinars focused on specific commodity groups with 100 participants in total.
The LMI research was funded in part by the federal Sectoral Initiatives Program.
It was during one particular panel discussion that the need for the “Public Trust in Agriculture Summit” became crystal clear. The Summit was held in early June in Ottawa, with speakers and participants in attendance from all aspects of food production, from seed companies, chefs and farmers, to academics, farming associations and large companies like Maple Leaf Foods. This ground-breaking inaugural event was intended to “encourage continuous collaborative discussions amongst farm and food system leaders, while developing concrete actions for earning public trust.”
And this is exactly what the panel discussion involving five typical urban Canadians exposed – a distinct sense of mistrust towards the Canadian agri-food system. The level of knowledge about farming among the panelists was – for many of the audience members who live and breathe food production on a daily basis – shocking. But to be fair, many attendees also recognized how difficult it is for anyone outside of agriculture, the health care system, forestry or any other complex sector of our economy to make time to learn the basics, let along keep up with the many changes in practices and policy that are standard today.
“Their level of knowledge…on some questions, it was pretty good, [but] on others it was not good at all – industry’s fault, not theirs,” notes attendee Robin Horel, president and CEO Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council (CPEPC). “It certainly emphasized some of the information that was shared from the public survey [presented at the Summit; more on that later] – that consumers get much of their information from friends and family and do not trust industry or government.”
Horel highlights a point during the panel which occurred after the participants had been asked quite a few quiz questions on various aspects of food and farming, with the moderator letting them know in each case if they were correct or incorrect. “[The moderator’s feedback] seemed to be accepted every time by the panelists until the question of hormones in poultry came up,” he notes. “All panelists believed that poultry contained hormones, and when the moderator corrected their belief, they did not believe her, even though on all the previous misconceptions, they did believe her. Then when she asked what it would take to convince them – examples like government, scientists, etc. – they still stuck to their belief and said that they would not be convinced!”
Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) director Dianne McComb also attended the Summit, and says that because she’s on the EFO Public Affairs Committee and has therefore had a lot of exposure to the general public’s level of agri-food knowledge, she “wasn’t too shocked” at the panel responses. “A few others at my table were shocked, or absolutely blown away,” she says, “seeing the panelists’ understanding and that they were in some cases so far away in their opinions from the facts and reality.” (See sidebar for some quotes from panelists.)
If the reason for the Summit hasn’t been made clear yet, let’s dig into brand new survey research presented at the event, conducted by Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI), which had its launch at the Summit. (The CCFI is a division of Farm & Food Care Canada, a charity with a vision to earn public trust in food and farming. It’s also an affiliate of the well-established U.S.-based Center for Food Integrity. Both organizations are made up of members representing the diversity of the entire food system. In Canada, that includes Dow AgroSciences and Tim Hortons.
The survey results may shock you. The CCFI’s brand new poll of over 2,500 Canadians found that a whopping 93 per cent know little or nothing about farming. Exactly 50 per cent are unsure about whether our food system is going in the right direction, and 21 per cent believe it’s on the wrong track. Yes, that’s less than a third of Canadians who believe our food system is going in the right direction.
So, it’s clear that the trust of many Canadians in farming and food production has been lost to some extent. This isn’t hard to understand. There was an extremely serious listeria outbreak involving lunchmeats in 2008 resulting in 22 deaths (with new recalls in May 2016), and major outbreaks of swine flu and BSE before that. In recent years, several serious instances of animal cruelty were caught on tape and created national headlines, shaking many Canadians to the core. Then there are all the countless media stories and weighty books – sometimes published within the same year – containing conflicting claims about the health benefits, non-benefits and even detriments of food items like eggs, coffee, whole grains, various types of fat and even certain vegetables and fruits. Indeed, it’s hard not to understand where consumers are coming from and how hard it is for them to keep trusting the food system at this point.
But what’s more serious – and especially relevant to farmers – is that because trust in the food system has been lost, consumers (as well as retailers and restaurant chains such as McDonald’s responding to consumers) are now in a position where they are all but dictating on-farm practices. One stunning example is the demands for Canadian egg farmers to convert to cage-free hen housing (see story this issue). Another example is the strong consumer pressure to abolish sow gestation crates, and the current growing pressure to raise poultry without antibiotics. Demand for no added hormones in beef and for more GMO-free product availability and labelling is also increasing. Outside of farming, strong demands also exist in some instances for restaurants (for example, Earl’s in Western Canada) or grocery stores to carry local – or at least Canadian – products.
Once trust has been lost in any arena, it’s hard to build it back up again. But the Summit highlighted the fact that for farmers, it’s no longer only a quest to regain public trust in agriculture, but to keep their ‘social licence’ – their very ability to dictate their own farming practices and have the general public believe them competent to look after animals, crops, the land – a ‘freedom to operate’ if you will. On that note, here are some more CCFI survey results to ponder. Less than a third (only 29 per cent) of Canadians believe Canadian farmers are good stewards of the environment. Almost three-quarters believe videos of farm animals being treated poorly are “representative of normal livestock farming.”
“Control has already been lost,” noted Summit presenter Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity in the U.S. He and other presenters suggested that perhaps building public trust in the food system starts with accepting that the social licence of farmers may henceforth always be shared to some extent with the consumer. Several speakers pointed out that this reality – that consumers these days have a great deal of influence over farmers and the food system – is not yet accepted or believed by many in agriculture. Nor is the fact that most Canadians know little or nothing about the day-to-day reality of farming understood by many of us who produce this country’s food. So, on the whole, the Summit presented a new ‘normal’ that farmers should strive to get used to as quickly as they can.
A CCFI statement published in a Summit booklet summarizes the situation well. “We see consumer alienation from agriculture and the food system expressed through concerns about nutrition, food safety, affordability, environmental sustainability, animal well-being and other issues. Some argue that maintaining public trust is a worthy goal, but not relevant to success in business. This outdated notion fails to recognize the financial benefit of maintaining trust of stakeholders who can determine the level of social license or social control an organization enjoys…Once lost, either through a single event or a series of events that reduce or eliminate stakeholder trust, social license is replaced with social control. Social control is regulation, legislation, litigation or market demands designed to compel the organization to perform to the expectations of its stakeholders. Operating with a social license means more flexibility and lower cost. Operating with a high degree of social control increases costs, reduces operational flexibility and increases bureaucratic compliance.”
It was stressed over and over again at the Summit, that re-gaining public trust must be everyone’s responsibility. The CCFI, Farm & Food Care, private companies, food and farming associations and individuals were all encouraged to bridge the gap that currently exists between consumers and farms. For its part, the CCFI will continue to research consumer opinions, questions and concerns. Its ‘Public Trust Research’ will benchmark consumer attitudes about food and agriculture against U.S. and Canadian data gathered since 2001. In addition, the CCFI will develop and highlight best practices, models and messages that build trust, and hold future Summits.
Horel thinks the CCFI is “likely a good thing.” The CPEPC Board has asked CCFI to make a presentation and will then decide if CPEPC should become a member.
McComb also thinks the CCFI is a positive step because it’s connected to its well-established U.S. counterpart and can draw on its experience. “We’re being forced by special interest groups and a lack of understanding and pseudo science,” she notes. “Consumers need to make choices and their choices are being taken away by these groups, so we need to reach around these groups and help consumers make their own choices. People want to know food is affordable and safe. And we do have affordable and safe food. The answers that we have in agriculture, the good answers, we haven’t informed consumers about them. With eggs, it’s things like the fact that the carbon footprint of farms is much lower than it was years ago, and at the same time, crop productivity is up, hen productivity is up, the soil is still vibrant and so on. Those are tremendous positives.”
McComb says the Summit was valuable “because the whole focus of it was the commonality of our problems and the things we need to face.” She believes “Consumers are confused. They have lost touch with agriculture today and we as a whole agriculture sector need to reconnect with the people who buy our products. I think it was a great start. I sat at tables, and I know others did too, with a great variety of people around me. We all thought we are islands, maybe, but we are not. We have lots of commonalities. The Summit helped us make connections, understand the problem, and come up with plans and solutions.”
EFO is working with Farm & Food Care and CCFI on concrete plans on topics like better understanding food-related trends, best public communication practices and more. “When we say agriculture, they [consumers] think food,” McComb notes. “We say food safety and they want safe food. We talk about biotechnology and they wonder about GMOs and steroids and hormones. We talk efficiency and they talk affordability. We have to modify our language and need to speak factually and passionately.”
Alison Evans, communications manager at Egg Farmers of Canada, found the Summit to be “an interesting event,” and notes that “the concepts of social license and public trust are very important to our farmers…We are active participants in a range of initiatives that promote dialogue and action on these matters, and value collaboration that benefits the entire sector. We will look forward to hearing more about the planned initiatives of the CCFI with interest.”
Turkey Farmers of Canada (TFC) Chair Mark Davies attended part of the Summit and TFC Manager of Corporate Communications Robin Redstone attended the entire event. “We felt it was a useful event and we certainly welcome the dialogue on what we agree is an important issue for the Canadian food and agriculture sector,” Redstone notes. “Going forward, TFC will continue in our efforts to address the public’s demand for information and transparency, and our organization will be assessing the proposal for involvement put forth by the CCFI.”
For its part, Farm & Food Care is working on five action points. CEO Crystal Mackay pointed out at the Summit that results for Google searches must be improved, in terms of offering Canadians more
balanced and accurate information about food and farming. (The top 10 ranked results for a Google search for the words ‘cage free,’ for example, turned up only animal rights websites and a Wikipedia entry.) Secondly, Farm & Food Care is going to invest in new online content, for example expanding its Virtual Farm tours to Virtual Farm and Food Tours. In addition, it will continue working to reach ‘thought influencers’ in Canadian society, such as Foodies, bloggers and Moms, to support the development of new resources and research, and to continue to build networks and momentum.
Let’s finish with some pertinent quotes from some of the Summit presenters, starting with UK-based food industry researcher and commentator Dr. David Hughes: “There are no passengers here. We all need to take action individually and collectively.”
Arnot stressed that information on farming and food must be more readily available, “We have to get past ‘There is nothing to hide, but it’s none of your business,’” he said. Arnot also put emphasis on a long-term view: “Success will not be defined by where you’ll be in 12 months from now. Three, five, ten years is what matters.”
“This is a moving target,” Mackay stated. “This is new territory…We need to commit to making mistakes.” She advised everyone to go back and look at their website and other materials and commit to helping each other and providing feedback across sectors. “If you’re not making mistakes, you’ve probably not doing enough,” she said. “It’s a movement – you have to move.”
Mackay believes the CCFI findings point to a huge opportunity to make a better connection between Canadians and their food. With the survey showing that 60 percent of Canadians would like to know more about farming practices, she’s very right. The overall survey results, however, suggest an uphill battle ahead.
The Public Trust Research Report is available at: http://www.farmfoodcare.org/canada/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/2016-Public-Trust-Research-Report.pdf
August 11, 2016 - A new course being taught this fall at the University of Ottawa is an indication that attitudes toward animal rights are changing, say activists, a trend that one Liberal MP hopes will pave the way for his private member`s bill in Parliament.
The course, called Animals and the Law, will be offered to students at the university's francophone faculty of civil law and will examine the most current legislation on animal rights, such as a recent Quebec bill that granted animals the status of sentient beings.
While many older Canadians are skeptical about furthering the rights of animals under the law, younger people have embraced a trend towards greater protections of both animals and the environment, says graduate student and course co-teacher Justine Perron.
“It's part of the new generation's way of thinking,'' said Perron.
“We need to know the next generation can live here and it's not only about us,'' she said.
Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is hoping that attitudinal change translates into support of his bill, the Modernizing Animal Protections Act.
The proposed law aims to ban the import of dog and cat fur as well as the practice of shark-finning and the use of live animals in target shooting.
It also contains increased fines for illegal dog-fighting.
“It's the evolution of ideas,'' said Erskine-Smith.
“I think there will continue to be a greater push for protection for animals and recognition that animals should be treated in a humane way.''
Bill C-246 is expected to come up for a second reading vote in the House of Commons late next month, but like most private member`s bills, it faces an uphill battle.
Private member`s bills rarely become law and Erskine-Smith's is just the latest in a string of legislation designed to toughen protections against animal abuse.
It has already faced sharp criticism from hunting and fishing organizations concerned about how the provisions would affect their industries.
The Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association has warned the legislation, as written, could leave anglers at risk of jail time or hefty fines for simply baiting a hook.
Manitoba Conservative MP Robert Sopuck, who has seen over half a dozen iterations of animal rights legislation introduced and rejected, has referred to Bill C-246 as a “Trojan horse'' masking an agenda aimed at eliminating all animal-use.
But the bill is not intended to change how hunters hunt or farmers farm, nor to change how people use animals, said Erskine-Smith.
Its aim, he said, is to protect animals from negligence, abuse and cruelty under one part of the Criminal Code.
“Hunting and fishing are accepted activities in our society,'' he said.
“And it's not up to us as lawmakers to impose legislation upon Canadians that would change those things.''
It is education - not laws that prohibit certain conduct - that will ultimately change society, said the 32-year-old Toronto-area MP.
Animal welfare studies have ballooned in recent years as part of a trend toward enacting better protections for the environment at large.
Animal law is now being taught at post-secondary institutions across Canada and in more than 100 law schools in the United States, including Harvard, Columbia and New York University.
And while the University of Ottawa's common law faculty has taught a course on laws affecting animals since 2012, the new civil law course will see students choose their own research topics and present a paper to their classmates at the end of the semester, Perron explained.
Through their research and findings, “the students will teach the other ones a part of animal law'' that hasn't necessarily been analyzed before, said Perron.
“It's essential that future lawyers know the legal protections that animals have and realize how much work still needs to be done in animal law.''
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016
July 8, 2016 - The federal government is proposing new rules for veterinary drugs used in livestock as it works to reduce human health risks associated with resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobials.
Health Canada says the decreasing effectiveness of antimicrobials is having a significant impact on the government's ability to protect Canadians from infectious diseases.
The overall objective of the proposal is to limit risks to human health by reducing the likelihood of resistance to antimicrobials in humans as a result of the use of antimicrobials for veterinary purposes.
More specifically, the proposed regulatory amendments are intended to
- require veterinary APIs imported or sold in Canada to be manufactured in accordance with GMPs;
- require persons who fabricate, package/label, import or test an API for veterinary use to do so in accordance with an EL;
- restrict the own use importation of certain unauthorized drugs (including APIs);
- require manufacturers and importers to provide sales volume information by species for veterinary antimicrobials; and
- introduce an alternative, more appropriate pathway for manufacturers to legally import and sell low-risk VHPs.
The full proposal can be found here.
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