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When you think about the connection between chickens and history you might think about how feed efficiency has increased or how birds have changed through genetic selection. But for Benoît Fontaine, his version of the connection of poultry to history goes a lot deeper than that.

Rooted in history

Fontaine, a second-generation turkey and chicken producer, was at one point in his career a Canadian history teacher. For 10 years after graduating from the Université du Québec à Montréal in 1998, he taught high school, rising to become the principal for two years while still actively farming.

This Quebec poultry producer is now the chair of the Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC), elected in November 2016, only the second chair to hail from La Belle Province.

Now, whether he’s at a poultry industry gathering or talking to politicians, he is able to connect by talking history and entertaining. As a history buff, he manages to find a local story to tell wherever he goes.

“Do you know why the carpets in the House of Commons are green?” he asked. The green carpet is the same as that used in the House of Commons in England for over 300 years, representing the colour of fields; a red carpet would symbolize royal power. “The MP’s appreciate this information,” Fontaine says.

Youth on the farm

That green carpet is a long way from his farm where he grew up in St-Ignace de Stanbridge. Benoît’s chores after getting off the school bus included feeding and watering turkeys at their home farm, cultivating an appreciation of both birds and work involved with farming. His parents had been raising turkeys since 1970. Thus, when he later found himself with an empty barn and an opportunity to obtain quota it was an easy decision to go ahead.

Thriving business

When Fontaine stepped down from his teaching job he began farming full time. Ferme Avicole B. Fontaine Inc. is nestled in the winery region close to Lac Champlain, an area Fontaine claims is the warmest spot in Quebec. One farm in Notre-Dame de Stanbridge, that Fontaine purchased in 2005, sits so close to the American border that he can see the U.S. from his window; another farm, purchased in 2010, is in nearby Pike River.

With the help of seven employees he will produce 1.8 million chickens per year and one million kilograms of turkey in a total of eight three-storey barns. With no family of his own, Fontaine relies on one 24-year-old manager, Pascal Monnier, to look after the farm while he’s on the road. “He has his diploma in agriculture and has his own quota,” says Fontaine, who rests easy knowing that the farm is in good hands while he may spend up to 150 nights a year away from home as the CFC chair.



Globetrotter

That may seem like a lot of time to spend on the road, but Fontaine does enjoy travelling. In addition to the CFC miles, this year he will visit Finland; last year it was Kenya for the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference, where he got to visit the house used in the filming of Out of Africa. Before that it was Hawaii on Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) business, allowing him to visit Pearl Harbor, an experience that helped him to understand the involvement of the U.S. in World War II. “Everything is linked with history,” says Fontaine, who is already eyeing up retirement trips that will involve the study of human history.

Back at home Fontaine will talk to his parents, his mentors, Marcel Fontaine and Lucille Gagné, once a week. Their answers will guide him in questions of what to say or not to say or how to   manage the farm. As he humbly admits, “You cannot buy experience. I have some, but my father has more.”

The farm issues they both face have changed, with Fontaine listing animal welfare along with the new ways of rearing chickens, with the ‘new norms’ involving issues such as changing bird density or new water systems.

Industry engagement

His rise through the ranks of industry boards began six months after he bought his first quota, starting with his local district, moving quickly through to first vice-chair, then provincially to second vice-chair in 2012. Fontaine has been heavily involved in the Union des producteurs agricoles since 1999 and has served on both CFC’s policy and production committees.

Now, as CFC chair, he knows he must remain neutral, speaking on behalf of all Canadians, not just Quebec. He also knows that policy discussions will always go down better with a good story. Fontaine’s command of the English language is already good but he continues to improve through taking courses. With his teaching background he brings communication and teamwork skills to his board positions; his two years as a school principal taught him leadership skills and how to bring forth new ideas with an open mind and an open ear.

At the national board level, he sees free trade as the number one issue. Fontaine points to 14 free trade agreements that have already been signed with 51 countries as proof that supply management is stronger than ever. “They haven’t touched supply management yet; even with the TPP we got a great deal. The government was listening to us.”

As he looks to the future he predicts the greatest challenge will be for chicken to remain a Canadian favourite with consumers. With Olympic enthusiasm, he says he wants poultry to remain on the top step of the podium. “Keep the flame burning; keep the love of Canadian products. As long as we stay there, we succeed.”
July 31, 2017, Winnipeg, Man. - Direct Farm Manitoba is pleased with a ruling by the Manitoba Farm Products Marketing Council (MFPMC) earlier this month that orders Manitoba Chicken Producers (MCP) to not charge extra administrative fees for a decade among those participating in its new specialty chicken quota system.

DFM co-ordinated an appeal on behalf of three specialty chicken producers who would have been affected by the additional expense.

DFM voiced numerous concerns with MCP’s new program after it was rolled out last year, but ultimately launched an appeal on the specific grounds that the program’s new fees for participation would force those already raising specialty chicken to either pay more to keep producing, or produce less. READ MORE 
April 4, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – Chicken Farmers of Canada recently announced the outcome the 2017 election for its executive committee.

The elections followed the annual general meeting and the 15-member board of directors, made up of farmers and other stakeholders from the chicken industry, has chosen the following representatives:

Benoît Fontaine, chair
Hailing from Stanbridge Station, Quebec, Benoît Fontaine most recently served as the first vice-chair of the executive committee. He first joined the board of directors in 2013 as an alternate, and became the Quebec director in 2014. He farms in the Lac Champlain area and raises chicken and turkeys. A former high school Canadian history teacher, and second-generation chicken farmer, Benoît has also been heavily involved in the Union des producteurs agricoles since 1999. Benoît has also served on Chicken Farmers of Canada's policy committee and the production committee.

Derek Janzen, first vice-chair
Derek Janzen and his wife, Rhonda, have farmed in the Fraser Valley since 1998. They currently produce 1.4 million kgs of chicken annually and manage 22,000 commercial laying hens. Prior to farming, Derek worked for B.C.'s largest poultry processor for nearly nine years. He worked his way up from driving delivery truck to sales and marketing where he took the position of major accounts manager. Derek's experience in the processing industry has served him well with his board involvement. Derek has held various positions on a variety of boards including chair of the B.C. Egg Producers Association and also was appointed by the Minister of Agriculture as a member of the Farm Industry Review Board, B.C.'s supervisory board. Derek enjoys being involved in the industry and is excited to represent B.C. at the Chicken Farmers of Canada.

Nick de Graaf, second vice-chair
Nick de Graaf is a third-generation poultry farmer in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, operating the farm founded by his Dutch grandfather in the early 1960s. Today, the farm produces more than 660,000 chickens, and 67,000 turkeys per year. Nick is also part of Innovative Poultry Group (IPG). IPG farms 55,000 broiler breeders and owns Maritime Chicks, a new, state-of-the-art hatchery employing the HatchCare system. In addition to poultry, Nick grows more than 1,600 acres of wheat, corn and soybeans. He is self-sufficient in the production of corn and soybeans for his on-farm feed mill where he processes poultry feeds for his own flocks. Nick is in his eighth year as a director with Chicken Farmers of Nova Scotia. He has participated in Chicken Farmers of Canada as an alternate director and as a member of the policy committee. Nick and his wife, Trudy, have three children and two grandchildren.

Tim Klompmaker, executive member
Tim Klompmaker lives in Norwood, Ontario, and was elected to the Chicken Farmers of Canada board in 2017. Tim started farming in 1984 along with his wife, Annette, and his three sons. He is a third-generation chicken farmer with the fourth-generation already in place and running chicken farms of their own. Tim served as a district committee representative for Chicken Farmers of Ontario before being elected to the Ontario board in 2000. He served as CFC alternate representative for Ontario from 2012-2013, and has represented Ontario on the CFC production committee, the AMU working committee, and at NFACC. He has also served as first vice-chair of Chicken Farmers of Ontario.

The board looks forward to continuing its work together, ensuring that Canada's chicken industry continues to deliver on consumer expectations for excellence. With an eye to the future, Chicken Farmers of Canada will work with all its partners, ensuring clear, common goals for the future, and setting a solid path and purpose for all stakeholders, and for generations of chicken farmers to come.

Canadians want Canadian chicken, so we deliver them fresh, locally-raised food, just the way they like it. Our farmers are a stabilizing force in rural Canada, where they can – and do – reinvest with confidence in their communities, but their contribution is much wider. In sum, we are part of Canada's economic solution, and do so without subsidies, and are very proud of both.

Chicken Farmers of Canada introduced its "Raised by a Canadian Farmer" brand in 2013 to showcase the commitment of farmers to provide families with nutritious chicken raised to the highest standards of care, quality and freshness.
March 27, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – Egg Farmers of Canada is pleased to announce Roger Pelissero of Ontario as its new chairman following his election at the 44th Annual General Meeting in Ottawa.

Pelissero is a third generation egg farmer from St. Ann’s, Ont. Most recently, he served on the EFC executive committee as first vice chair. He has been a member of many board appointed committees including cost of production, marketing and nutrition, and production management.

Pelissero was first elected to the EFC board of directors in 2012 as the Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) representative. He currently serves on the EFO board of directors representing Zone 4 and is also a member of EFO’s executive committee.

In addition to Pelissero’s election as chairman, the EFC board elected directors John Penner from the Northwest Territories as first vice chair, Glen Jennings of Nova Scotia as second vice chair and Emmanuel Destrijker of Quebec to the executive committee.

The EFC board of directors would like to thank Peter Clarke for his many years of dedication, leadership and service as EFC chairman between 2011 and 2016. He is a well-respected member of Canada’s agriculture community and a member of the Order of Nova Scotia. He was first elected to the EFC board in 1995 representing Nova Scotia and has served on numerous committees including audit, budget, cost of production, research, production management, and executive as well as leading project teams which made progressive changes to the egg industry in Canada and abroad.
March 20, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – Chicken Farmers of Canada's (CFC) commitment to animal care has been confirmed with the completion of a comprehensive third-party audit.

"The national Animal Care Program has been implemented effectively and maintained on an on-going basis,” stated NSF International in its report. “Animal care measures have been consistently applied."

Under CFC's Animal Care Program, audits are conducted annually on all Canadian chicken farms. It is a mandatory program with enforcement measures for issues of non-compliance and the program guarantees one national standard for consistency of requirements and recordkeeping on all chicken farms in Canada.

CFC has been administering a national Animal Care Program on all 2,800 broiler chicken farms across Canada since 2009. Since 2016, the implementation of the program by farmers and the effectiveness of CFC's audit team are subject to an annual third-party audit. NSF performs the third-party audits using PAACO (Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization) certified auditors to ensure the effective and consistent implementation of the CFC Animal Care Program.

NSF is an internationally recognized, third-party certification body, accredited by the American National Standards Institute to ISO 17065. Their auditors are professionals with years of experience performing animal care and food safety audits for the agricultural sector. Third-party audits were conducted in all provinces and more than 90 per cent of CFC's on-farm auditors were evaluated.

The program has credible, science-based foundations in that it is based on the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Hatching Eggs, Breeders, Chickens and Turkeys, as developed by the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC). NFACC is a leader in bringing together stakeholders with different perspectives – farmers, veterinarians, processors, transporters, animal welfare associations, and provincial/federal governments – to develop robust and sound codes of practice.

NFACC's code development process begins with a full scientific review, which is used to draft the code that then undergoes a public consultation process. In this way, all Canadians have an opportunity to contribute to the final code.

With the code of practice for chicken recently finalized in 2016, CFC has begun implementing the new requirements and is in the process of updating the Animal Care Program by engaging a group of competent experts using NFACC's Animal Care Assessment Framework.

Looking forward, CFC will continue funding animal care research as a priority area – to enhance future versions of the code of practice and farm management practices.

In addition, CFC is petitioning the federal government to implement a recognition protocol for animal care in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's next Agricultural Policy Framework, similar to the successful on-farm food safety recognition protocol. Such a recognition system would leverage the work performed by NFACC and organizations such as CFC that are implementing one auditable, mandatory standard to effectively demonstrate the level of animal care on Canadian farms.

September 1, 2016- This September marks the first annual National Chicken Month in Canada. All month long, Canadians from coast to coast will be celebrating their favourite protein – and the hard-working Canadian chicken farm families that raise it.

It's no surprise that Canadians love chicken. Not only is it great for your health – with a great mix of lean protein and healthy fats – it's delicious, versatile, and raised to the highest standards: yours.

But chicken is good for our country's health, too.

Chicken in Canada is produced under a system called supply management. Under this system, farmers meet often to determine how much chicken consumers in Canada are asking for – and carefully match their production to meet that demand.

Because of this system, consumers and farmers both win: consumers are guaranteed access to their favourite healthy protein, which continues to be the least expensive compared to other meats, and farmers are able to reinvest in their communities with confidence.

"Celebrating National Chicken Month is just one way to celebrate the great chicken that we have been providing to Canadians for decades," said Dave Janzen, Chair of Chicken Farmers of Canada. "Canadians care deeply about their food, about knowing where it comes from and that what they're serving to their family and friends is of the highest quality; our farmers and their families are no different."

With chicken being raised year-round from coast to coast, in every province, Canadians are assured a steady supply of fresh, high-quality chicken. Aside from quality and freshness that is among the best in the world, Canadian chicken farming represents:

  • Food Safety You Can Count On: Chicken Farmers of Canada is the first national organization to achieve full federal, provincial and territorial government recognition for our On-Farm Food Safety Assurance Program (OFFSAP).
  • An Agriculture Success Story That Doesn't Need Handouts: Canada'schicken farmers contribute $5.9 billion to Canada's GDP, paying out $2 billion in taxes, funding critical infrastructure and services. Chicken farmers also sustain 78,200 jobs throughout the entire chicken supply chain.
  • High Animal Care Standards: Canadians expect that farm animals in their country are raised to stringent standards. Canada's chicken farmers work every day to meet this demand with a national, credible, mandatory, and audited Animal Care Program.

To celebrate Canadian chicken, and Canada's 2,800 family chicken farms, to enter one of the contests or to find out more about National Chicken Month activities happening throughout the month near you, visit www.chickenfarmers.ca for more information.

 

May 24, 2016 - At its 31st annual meeting held in Toronto last week, the Further Poultry Processors Association of Canada (FPPAC) elected the following Board of Directors and Officers:

Chairman                                 Blair Shier, J.D. Sweid

Vice-Chair                                Ian Hesketh, Intercity Packers

Secretary-Treasurer                 Jamie Falcao, Maple Leaf Foods

Board of Directors:

Blair Shier                               J.D. Sweid

Don Kilimnik                            DC Foods

Ian Hesketh                             Intercity Packers

Jamie Falcao                           Maple Leaf Foods

Mike Haworth                          Maple Lodge Farms

Kevin Thompson                      Sargent Farms

Betty Dikeos                            D & D Poultry

Yvan Brodeur                           Olymel

Paul Murphy                            Maxi Canada

 

Appointments

CFC Rep:     Ian Hesketh, Intercity Packers                               

CFC Alternate: Don Kilimnik, DC Foods

TFC Rep/TMAC/Supply Policy: Keith Hehn, Golden Valley Farms

TFC Alternate: Ed Miner, Zadi Foods

TQAC Chicken Rep     Ian Hesketh, Intercity Packers

TQAC Alternate         Ed Lamers, Tillsonburg Foods

TQAC Turkey             Robert de Valk, FPPAC General Manager

March 23, 2016 -  Organizing an inaugural event is never easy, but in B.C., the organizers of the first B.C. Poultry Conference seemed to have pulled off a seamless event with four AGMs, 18 breakout sessions, two lunch keynote speakers, three networking receptions and a gala dinner. 

By having BC Egg Marketing Board, BC Chicken Growers Association, BC Hatching Egg Producers Association and BC Turkey Association AGMs in one place, diversified poultry farmers who normally had to juggle different AGMs could now attend all meetings at one place over two days. Other industry partners and government officials were very pleased with how easy they could now schedule all four AGMs into their calendars.

The first BC Poultry Conference, held at the classic Westin Bayshore Hotel on Vancouver’s waterfront March 9-11, 2016 had 541 total registrants for the AGM’s, including over 200 BC poultry farmers, 70 sponsors and exhibitors and 30 out of province industry guests.  

“Our long term objective of this conference is to build a cohesive, profitable growing poultry industry that meets the needs of consumers while being socially and environmentally responsible,” states Dale Krahn, Chair, BC Poultry Conference.  “When we have many stakeholders in one place we experience opportunities to network with each other and join forces to make our industry better.” 

The attendance and support for the conference, was much greater than organizers expected.

"Our gala sold out early at 400 registered people and to accommodate the additional registrants for the AGM's and breakout sessions, our room blocks had to be expanded to neighbouring hotels." states Krahn.  “With a successful first year we are in a position to plan for an even bigger, better conference in 2017.” 

Conference sponsors came from all segments of the poultry supply chain – farm equipment suppliers, feed companies, bankers, insurance and other service providers, processors, food retailers, restaurants and more.  These sponsors played a huge role in helping to make this conference a success, according to organizers, because the sponsorship money helps to minimize costs for farmers. 

Eight expert breakout speakers covered a range of topics relevant to current industry issues such as biosecurity, animal welfare, avian influenza, water quality, market trends and raising poultry without antibiotics. 

On Thursday, Dr. Art Hister gave conference delegates a humorous lunch time key note on healthy living.  On Friday, Astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk inspired delegates to think about how scientific research in space affects our everyday life. 

The public outreach event on Friday morning brought about 22 farmers gearing up early in the morning to hand out 300 Triple O’s sunny starts outside the hotel.  Farmers showed tremendous enthusiasm for engaging with the public and telling their story.  In addition to handing out the famous breakfast sandwiches, farmers also handed out over 100 copies of the “Real Dirt on Farming”, a magazine that dispels common myths about agriculture in Canada.

 

The demographics of southern Ontario continue to change and evolve, offering new areas for market growth, states the Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO). CFO noted recently that the Chinese and South Asian population is now over 1.3 million in the Greater Toronto Area, and many of these folks really like fresh ‘head and feet on’ chicken. Production of these birds (Frey’s Dual Purpose “yellow” chickens and Silkie chickens) is currently 0.4 per cent of Ontario’s annual chicken production, and the market is estimated to be over 3.0 per cent. All this, says the CFO, demonstrates that the Ontario specialty breeds chicken market is a significant business growth opportunity.

Lakeside Game Farm is the largest provider of fresh ‘head and feet on’ Silkies into the Ontario market. Henry Ebert began marketing the black-skinned, dark-fleshed chickens on his game preserve about 20 years ago alongside ducks and geese, when someone made a request that he do so. His son Jim has taken over the business, officially buying it in 2010, but it was back in 2004 that Silkie production on the farm grew substantially. “We were stuck with some birds that someone ordered but didn’t pay for, and we found a market,” Jim says. “After that, we kept production at about 5000 and now it’s at 8000 birds a week.” He sought some contractors to supplement his production around 2004 and has three of them right now.

Silkies take longer to reach market weight than standard broilers – 11 to 12 weeks for roosters, and 13-14 weeks for female birds. Other than that, Ebert says production and health concerns are similar and he feeds an all-grain standard ration. He sends birds for processing two to four times a week, and has 14 groups of differently-aged birds in four different rooms in his brand new barn (each one at a different temperature) in order to keep up with fresh production flow. “I’m renovating my layer barn as well,” Ebert reports. “I supply myself and my contractors with chicks. It’s a unique operation in the poultry business, to do it all, start to finish.” Ebert does almost everything on the farm, from bird care to delivery of birds to the processing plant, with the help of two part-time employees.

CHALLENGES ALONG THE WAY
Ebert’s success is the result of working steadily for years to establish himself in the Silkie market, and he says he now has only one competitor in the province. However, that wasn’t always the case. Ebert observes that over the years, there were people who would jump into production after hearing there was money to be made, people who would create too much supply and then undercut each other. Everything changed last year though, when CFO began regulating Silkies under its Specialty Breeds Chicken program (see sidebar). “You need a permit now,” Ebert explains.

Lakeside Game Farm produces about 9000 chicks a week depending on the time of year, and recently purchased a new incubator to boost the hatch rate. “My incubators were 20 years old, so it was time,” he says. “I went with a multistage Jamesway unit, which was a big investment, but it’s paying for itself. The hatch rate has gone from 60 per cent to 80 per cent, and the chicks are doing five per cent better too. They’re just healthier and they’re fed the same day they’re hatched.”

Ebert sits on the CFO Specialty Breeds Chicken program committee, and says that members are trying to learn more about how fresh specialty markets work. “There’s a desire for producers like me to weigh each bird before it goes for processing, but I just can’t do that because it would be very time-consuming and it would delay me, as I have all sorts of orders coming in all the time, many of them last-minute,” he says. “I am very much in favour of continuing on with using an average weight per bird.”

Ebert says that because there are still many frozen specialty chickens being imported into Canada where a fresh product is very much desired, the market for Silkies will continue to grow. He believes using a permit system, as opposed to quota which is very expensive for new growers, is the best way to grow the market.

For his hard work, including optimizing the use of his new hatchery and his barn investments, Ebert just won a 2015 Premier’s Award for Agri-food Innovation Excellence. “It’s nice to win the money and get some recognition for hard work,” he says. “Before, you wanted Silkies to be a secret. You didn’t want to advertise, because someone would jump into the market and prices would go down. Now that’s not going to happen with the regulation in place. The stability is great and the barn inspections have been great for my contractors to improve production.”  

SPECIALTY BREEDS CHICKEN PROGRAM
In September 2014, Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO) approved a new program to support increasing consumer demand for alternative breeds of chicken. The program also brings Ontario into alignment with the national Chicken Farmers of Canada specialty breeds policy. Two common breeds of specialty chicken are included, the Frey’s Special Dual Purpose “yellow” chickens and Silkies, both processed with head and feet left on. CFO’s director of communications and government relations Michael Edmonds says the new program was promoted through an advertising campaign and supported by a series of farmer information sessions throughout the province. “The response to the program and information sessions was strong, with significant numbers of interested farmers seeking information,” he notes. “Since the launch a year ago, the program has increased threefold in volume with 21 farmers now supplying the market with more than 50,000 Frey’s Dual Purpose (15 producers) and Silkie chickens (6 producers) per week.”

In order to further promote and support this emerging market, CFO has hired a specialist to work with retailers, processors and farmers to identify opportunities and ensure the supply management system adequately anticipates and supplies growing demand. “The program also places a major focus on compliance to CFO’s Animal Care and On Farm Food Safety Assurance programs,” Edmonds notes. “This focus on quality has resulted in significant investments, upgrades and improvements to the participating farm facilities, particularly in Silkie production. The program has been successful to date and so no significant changes are being considered at this point.”

THE SILKIE
Silkies are well known for their calm, friendly temperament and considered an ideal pet chicken. They are one of the most popular ornamental breeds. Hens are exceptionally broody and make good mothers, so they are commonly used to hatch the eggs of other breeds and species.

 

HISTORY
The Silkie’s most well-documented point of origin is ancient China, but other places such as India and Java have been named as possibilities. As early as the 7th century, traditional Chinese medicine has held that chicken soup made with Silkie meat is a curative food. The earliest surviving written account of Silkies comes from Marco Polo, who wrote in the 13th century during his Asian travels of a furry chicken. Silkies most likely made their way to the West via the Silk Road and by marine shipping trade. Once they became more common in the West, many myths were perpetuated about them. Early Dutch breeders told buyers they were the offspring of chickens and rabbits. The breed was recognized officially in North America in 1874.

APPEARANCE AND BODY
Silkies have an extra toe or two and poufy plumage, black skin, black bones and grayish-black meat (melanism). Melanism which extends beyond the skin into an animal’s connective tissue is a rare trait, and in chickens it is caused by a rare genetic mutation believed to have first appeared in Asia. In addition to the Silkie, several other breeds descended from Asian stock possess the mutation.

The Silkie got its name for the feel of its plumage. The feathers of a Silkie are furry and fluffy, feeling silk-like, because they lack functioning barbicels, which hold feathers on other bird species down. This lack of barbicels in its feathers also leaves the Silkie unable to fly.

The breed does not generally produce as much meat as conventional chickens. Silkies are often mistakenly called a bantam breed, and although they are considered bantams in some countries, the bantam Silkie is actually a separate variety. Almost all North American strains of the breed are bantam-sized, with the males weighing 1.8 kg and females weighing 1.4 kg. Jim Ebert’s birds (male and female) average about 1.45 kg.

COOKING
Black chicken meat is generally considered unusual in European and American cuisine, but several Asian cuisines consider Silkies a gourmet food. Common dishes include soup, braised dishes and curries.

Adapted from Wikipedia

 

 

 

Food security and sovereignty are increasingly in the news these days. The former means that a country has reliable access to sufficient calories to feed its population, while food sovereignty suggests that the community has control over the way food is produced, traded and consumed. Why should we, in Canada, be concerned over either concept given that we have seemingly endless land on which to grow and raise food, a relatively low population per square kilometer, and highly developed supply chains that can speed it from farm to fork in a matter of days?

Well, we should care—a lot. These days, food seems to be regularly in the news and not always in a good way, from Alberta droughts to accounts of the toll that the sharp decline in global dairy prices exacts on producers in countries that mistakenly saw continually increasing exports as the surest way to financial security.

Canadian producers also understand that our supply managed production is under attack in various international negotiations, from the CETA with the EU to the TPP that is being negotiated with eleven other countries in the Pacific region. In both negotiations, competitors hope to set Canada’s food production agenda in their own interests. This would compromise our made-in-Canada system, and our food sovereignty.

For example, if supply management were negotiated away, chicken producers would have to deal with the U.S. system, which places production responsibility on the producer alone, leaving the processor and the supermarket to reap the benefits of an unequal relationship. American critics like Doug Constance have called this “the Southern Model,” suggesting that it “is a form of sharecropping that replaced slavery in the U.S. South as the dominant form of agriculture production.” Farmers are always on tenterhooks (and the defensive) as to whether or not they will have a remunerative market to sell to.

Indeed, the issue of asymmetric relationships is one of the primary reasons supply management was introduced in the first place. How was it possible that family farmers could deal equitably with the 1960s equivalent of Loblaw, Zehrs or Walmart? In short, they could not then and they cannot now. It is supply management, involving multiple stakeholders including supermarkets, consumers, producers and processors, which levels that playing field. Egg and dairy farmers in countries like Australia and the UK, and poultry producers in the United States, face very uncertain times as they attempt to strike appropriate deals with mega-supermarkets and processors.

I would suggest we don’t want these imported ways of doing business that severely disadvantage farmers and don’t benefit consumers, any more than we want chicken, eggs, milk or turkey from foreign places to crowd out our Canadian product on our grocery store shelves.

The demise of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) suggests what might happen should supply management disappear. The former CWB is now owned by a Saudi Arabian investment fund and an American agri-food company, and wheat farmers are certainly not ahead of the game. Most producers, if media accounts are correct, pine for the good old days of the single desk marketer. Farmers in that new world have had to become marketers, transporters, selling agents and whole host of other occupations. And the “little guy” is in serious jeopardy.

Supply management is a good system that works with farmers to allow them to make a living wage, while providing an excellent product at a competitive price for consumers.

And why should producers not earn a small profit for their effort? We hear a lot in the media about how expensive our supply managed commodities are compared to their U.S. counterparts, but the latter remain heavily subsidized, with the latest Farm Bill promising U.S. $1 trillion worth of subsidies to American agriculture over 10 years. And costs of production are much lower than those found in Canada for a variety of reasons. Climate is a major one, as is U.S. immigration policy, or rather, the lack thereof. Indeed, a 2015 report from Texas A&M University hypothesized that the cost of a gallon of milk in the US would have to increase by 90 per cent without cheap immigrant labour.

Supply management provides Canadians with 100 per cent food security in the sectors in which it operates, while reflecting Canadian values and culture and contributing to food sovereignty. We don’t need foreign imports in this case. As the old expression has it, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

 

 

 

August 25, 2015 - Team Canada won four medals at the FINA World Championships in Russia. As a result, Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) will be providing $18,000 to Canadian swimmers and regional food banks as part of their recently announced incentive program.

Each medal-winning swimmer, (nine in all) will be receiving $1,000 from CFC. In addition, each swimmer will get to choose a food bank to receive an additional $1000 donation from CFC on behalf of each athlete. 

"We are proud to support and celebrate our swimmers' achievements, and it's a win-win situation as we also get to further support Canada's food banks," says Dave Janzen, Chairman of CFC. "We take pride in their outstanding results and are pleased to extend that support financially to both them and the food banks in their respective regions."

Ryan Cochrane, winner of two of Canada's medals, said the food bank aspect of the incentive was appreciated. "After a successful World Championships, it's humbling to receive awards for our results, but just as important is our ability to give back to our communities. Thank you to the Chicken Farmers of Canada for helping us to make a difference in our neighbourhoods."


 

August 4, 2015 - Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO) has announced that it is launching a portfolio of new and revised programs that will meet the needs of Ontario consumers while creating new opportunities for farmers and processors. The new programs were developed following extensive public and industry consultations and will use a portion of the future growth in Ontario’s production allocation to facilitate new business opportunities.

The new portfolio of programs will include the creation of three new programs - an Artisanal Chicken program, a Local Niche Markets program, and a Business Development program - while also enhancing and updating some of CFO’s existing programs such as the New Entrant programs. CFO’s Small Flock program is being renamed the “Family Food” program.

The announcement follows a consultative process conducted by CFO working collaboratively with the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors and the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission as Team Ontario. This group reached out to a broad range of industry, public, and farmer stakeholders to seek their views and opinions on the allocation of future growth in Ontario.

The consultation plan outlined some clear objectives for CFO’s new Allocating Growth program. These objectives included:

  • Evolving the allocation systems (producer and processor) to improve the flexibility and responsiveness in capitalizing on growth opportunities in the chicken market place;
  • Creating value by serving the needs of new, growing and emerging markets;
  • Encouraging innovation, new business-building ideas;
  • Serving the needs of existing markets taking into consideration their size, importance and historical investment;
  • Developing a system that is predictable and stable which aligns the interests of key stakeholders in the chicken industry, and;
  • Encouraging quality, efficiency and value creation.

Following consultations, CFO and Team Ontario spent considerable effort reviewing, understanding, and reflecting on the views provided by the various stakeholders. The input received during this process will be available on CFO’s website.

In developing the new programs, CFO addressed some opportunities which became clear during the consultations process. They include:

1. There is a definite demand for small-scale production above the current Small Flock limit ;

2. A number of niche, local and community needs appear to be unmet, especially in Northern Ontario;

3. There appears to be broad support for encouraging new entrant farmers and processors.

More details on the new “Allocating Growth” programs and business opportunities for farmers and processors to meet consumer demand will be announced over the coming months. The full list of new, expanded and revised programs will be outlined on the CFO website at ontariochicken.ca as they become available. 

 

Canada's dairy, poultry and egg farmers teamed up to host a 1950's style pop-up diner in downtown Ottawa to celebrate the high-quality food they deliver every day under the system of supply management. Photo courtesy CNW Group/Egg Farmers of Canada

June 5, 2015 - Canada's dairy, poultry and egg farmers teamed up to host a 1950's style pop-up diner in downtown Ottawa yesterday to celebrate the high-quality food they deliver every day under the system of supply management.

More than 2000 breakfast and lunch sandwiches made with fresh, local ingredients from supply-managed farms were served to Members of Parliament, Senators, Hill staffers and the public. Voluntary cash donations to Food Banks Canada were accepted.

Farmers were also on hand to share how the stability provided by supply management allows them to deliver a stable supply of superior food products, contribute meaningfully to national and rural economies, and give back to their local communities.

Supply management ensures that domestic production of dairy, poultry and eggs meets Canadians' demand. Farmers agree to follow a consistent set of rules and, in turn, receive a fair return for their work and investment. Research shows that 82 per cent of Canadians believe that supply management is good for Canada, while 95 per cent of consumers agree a stable supply of safe, Canadian food is important.

 

Here’s an example in consumer and farmer disparity for you: at the recent 50th anniversary Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) annual meeting, its first general manager, Brian Ellsworth, noted how in the early years, the focus was on fair pricing for farmers and increasing consumption; 50 years later, the organization is giving $50,000 to the Farm and Food Care Foundation to enhance public trust in food.

Consumer mistrust of food and food production wasn’t a reality faced by EFO and it’s provincial and national counterparts in the early 1960s and into the early 1970s, when the primary issues facing the poultry industry were farm economics and controlling production levels.

In the early years of orderly marketing, consumer engagement consisted solely on the promotion of eggs, chicken and turkey. There wasn’t any need to place farmers or farming into the limelight; what they do and how they do it was never questioned. Fifty years ago, people weren’t as removed from farming as they are now.

But all of this has changed dramatically since then. The EFO presented this disparity very well during its meeting, beginning with a “respecting our past” session followed by “embracing our present” and “building our future” sessions. It served to educate producers on how the industry has evolved and shared several key lessons that are applicable across the industry nationwide.

Lawyers involved in upholding the legislation behind the supply management system discussed its origins and how the legislation – a “fusion” of national and provincial authority, has stood the test of time and numerous legal challenges. Despite this, it is not a system to be taken for granted, said speaker Pierre Brousseau, a Montreal-based lawyer who’s made a career out of working with supply-managed commodities. “The younger generation needs to realize that supply management is not written in marble.”

Lawyer Herman Turkstra noted that the “world outside” of supply management wonders about it and said the steps the industry has taken in recent years to communicate with the public and be more transparent is key, and needs to continue with greater effort in future.

This is particularly important with an upcoming federal election and the push from the United States for Canada to sacrifice supply management in order to allow the Trans-Pacific Talks to move ahead. Although one of the “embracing our present” speakers, Chad Gregory, president of the United Egg Producers (UEP), praised the system, he acknowledged that without it, “it would be a matter of months” before U.S. producers moved in.

The reality for our forefathers was setting up a system that worked for both producers and consumers. But it’s not just about stability and profitability anymore. Now, farmers are faced with not only protecting the system in which they operate, but defending what they do and how they do it every day.

It’s not fun having to be on the defense at every turn, but it’s necessary in today’s world. As “building our future” speaker Jim Carroll – a futurist, trend and innovation expert – noted, seven out of 10 children today will be working in jobs that aren’t even in existence yet. Their world is social, immediate and online, and they are bombarded with messages at every turn. The industry needs to embrace this, and ensure that the messages they receive are factual – the future depends on it.

 

 

 

April 6, 2015 - Egg Farmers of Alberta (EFA) is proud to announce that Susan Schafers, Chair of the EFA Board of Directors, has been named the 2015 recipient of the Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) Award of Distinction for Communication. Susan was presented with the award at AFAC’s annual Livestock Care Conference in Calgary, on March 27th

According to AFAC, its Awards of Distinction were initiated in 2001 to recognize individuals or groups who have made exceptional contributions in the field of livestock welfare. The Communication award honors those that take an active role in effectively getting the message out about livestock issues, and informing the public and agri-food industry about farm animal care in a factual and honest way, to build trust and credibility. 

Susan Schafers is a second generation egg farmer who became Chair of the EFA Board in 2014 and, in a relatively short period of time, Susan has dedicated herself to being the public face of EFA and Alberta’s egg industry. Susan has also been the Alberta representative for the Pullet Growers of Canada, the egg industry representative for AFAC, and the leader of the 4-H club in Spruce Grove. 

Farming has always been in her blood, and it has become her life and livelihood. Even though she feels most at peace when she’s alone in the barn collecting eggs from ‘her girls’, sharing her story has become second nature to her. Communicating about farming is not what she does; it’s who she is! Susan is immediately likable and trustworthy, as her authenticity and passion comes bubbling through; traits she undoubtedly inherited from her father Manfred, who started the family farm and also played an important role in the founding of AFAC. 

Susan Schafers’ dedication to animal welfare and passion for sharing her story is what makes her such a remarkable communicator, who is able to make a personal connection and leave a lasting impression with everyone she comes in contact with. The EFA Board and staff are proud of Susan for epitomizing the qualities and characteristics demanded by this award, and for giving so much of herself to service of our industry.

 

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