From the Editor: May 2013
Go On, Ask Us to Prove It
By Lianne Appleby
Regardless of how you feel about it, your role as a producer of food has changed since your grandfather was farming. No longer are you simply trusted to produce safe chicken, eggs and turkey; now, you’re expected to prove it. Whereas 50 years ago, “agvocacy” wasn’t really necessary because most people were intimately connected with agriculture, today’s shoppers are typically two or more generations removed from the land. So, as a farmer in 2013, it’s your professional duty to help debunk myths about the sector.
If you’re not reading something in the mainstream media that makes your blood boil, you’re probably overhearing uninformed conversations about the safety of food and suddenly finding yourself “on duty.” Regrettably, I recently witnessed a hair stylist orate to the impressionable mind in his chair. He was telling his client, quite seriously, that he buys only organic food because there are all sorts of things in meat, nowadays, even if it is from a real animal. None of it is regulated, did you know? And in Europe they’re making horses into burgers!
There really was only one thing that I could do – that we all could have done. In situations like these, we stop the cynic right there and find ourselves doing a live, unplugged version of Agriculture 101 – the rendition that we reserve for when the uninformed have the bad luck of casting aspersions in our presence. We take the time to explain reality, and while we won’t wholly convert the oblivious offender, we may make him think twice before serving up fallacies with the next cut-and-blow.
It’s an uphill battle to correct misinformation, but consumers are more concerned about their food than ever before. Gaining and retaining their confidence isn’t optional; it’s imperative. And the more proof we’re able to hold up regarding what’s being done to ensure wholesome Canadian-produced food, the better.
The struggle to keep that public support, however, is now a lot easier for Canada’s chicken farmers. On March 19, The Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, announced that Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) has been awarded federal, provincial and territorial government recognition of its On-Farm Food Safety Assurance Program (OFFSAP).
The distinction has been a long time in coming and the convoluted timeline to get to this point only serves as proof that this is not some willy-nilly rubber-stamped program. Developing the system so that it is in line with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles, then submitting it for technical review to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and having it implemented, audited and assessed, means that consumers can be assured that chicken farmers are serious about producing a safe, quality product.
It’s one thing to say you’re committed. But, as the longtime CFC mantra illustrates, chicken farmers can say what they’ll do, do what they say, and then prove it when challenged. It’s all in the certifications, the statistics – and the records.
So, when a Canadian chicken farmer overhears one of those ignorant diatribes, he or she can fight the good fight because they have OFFSAP backing them up. And that’s one more step towards sustaining confidence in Canadian chicken purchases at the grocery store level.