June 23, 2016 - The federal government is freezing the 20 per cent cap on the number of low-wage temporary foreign workers a company can hire. 

Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk said the controversial temporary foreign worker program needs an overhaul and will announce her planfor more changes later this year. 

But for now, the cap, which was set to go down to 10 per cent beginning July 1, will instead stay where it is. 

“I believe this is a prudent step to take as we work to develop a better temporary foreign worker policy and fix some of the problems with the program that emerged under the previous government,'' Mihychuk said in a statement Thursday. 

The previous Conservative government started phasing in a cap on low-wage temporary foreign workers _ low-skilled employees paid less than the provincial or territorial median hourly wage - in June 2014, as part of reforms that also included disallowing use of the program in regions of Canada with high unemployment rates. 

Those changes followed a series of controversies dogging the program, including reports of fast-food franchise restaurants favouring temporary foreign workers over local employees. 

Employers who first began hiring low-wage temporary foreign workers before the cap came into effect will still be able to use it for 20 per cent of their workforce. 

Those who started using the program after that point, or who are hiring temporary foreign workers for the first time, are subject to a 10-per-cent cap. 

All the other program requirements - including having employers ensuring that Canadians and permanent residents have the first opportunities to apply for available jobs - will remain in place while the cap is frozen. 

Ron Davidson of the Canadian Meat Council says meat-processing plants that have been dealing with severe labour shortages will welcome the relief, even if it does not solve all their problems. 

“Everything helps. This does not solve the problem, but it all helps,'' Davidson said. 

The Liberal government already quietly suspended the cap on low-wage temporary foreign workers for seasonal employers earlier this year. 

Seafood processors have said that 180-day exemption will help them get through labour shortages in their busiest time of the year. 

A memo obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act suggests Employment and Social Development Canada believes lifting the cap would likely create more problems than it  would solve. 

The Jan. 6 memo, prepared for Mihychuk ahead of a meeting with a Manitoba pork processing plant, outlined some of the concerns the minister could expect the company to raise, including the cap on low-wage foreign workers. 

“Employers in this sector contend that the cap on low-wage temporary foreign workers prevents processing plants from meeting labour needs,'' says the memo. 

“The industry is particularly concerned with its ability to operate with the decrease of the cap to 10 per cent as of July 2016.'' 

The memo also says the government had already brought in administrative changes that allow temporary foreign workers who have been nominated for permanent residency to be excluded from the cap, so that employers can count them as Canadians instead. 

The memo also recommended Mihychuk encourage the company to move away from temporary foreign workers - using it only as a last resort - rather than focus on more changes to the program. 

“The labour needs of the pork industry are year-round, therefore a long-term solution of hiring more Canadians and/or permanent residents rather than relying on temporary foreign workers is desirable,'' says the memo. 

The House of Commons standing committee on human resources studies potential reforms to the program this spring, but will not release its report until after MPs return to Parliament Hill in September. 

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016


May 9, 2016 - Olymel is actively pursuing development of its operations in the poultry sector with the announcement of a $10 million investment in the expansion of its primary poultry processing plant at St-Damase in the Montérégie for the installation of an air chilling room. The Olymel facility in St-Damase, which specializes in chicken slaughtering and butchering, will soon have additional production capacity, enabling it to better serve its clientele, including the rotisserie sector and the retail distribution sector. The plant will enjoy more flexibility, since it will acquire a chicken air chilling system while retaining the current water cooling process. This new production component at the St. Damase facility is expected to create ten new jobs.

"This major investment in our St-Damase plant reflects the dynamism of the poultry sector. Olymel will soon be announcing another major investment at its Brampton, Ontario poultry further processing facility. Our company is equipping itself to better meet demand from its customers by boosting its production capacity, which also benefits the entire poultry sector in Quebec. In terms of volume, Olymel is now the number one poultry processing company in Canada. This new investment in St-Damase and projects elsewhere in the poultry sector, both completed and planned, will also help to consolidate our presence on the markets, while generating important spinoffs for poultry producers," noted Olymel L.P. President and CEO Réjean Nadeau.

The expansion work, which will begin around May 15, will add 15,000 square feet to the rue Principale plant in St. Damase, bringing its total area to over 95,000 square feet. It will be remembered that after a major fire, the plant was completely rebuilt in 1997. The facility employs more than 350 employees on two shifts. In addition to serving private customers with fresh products and various cuts of poultry, the St-Damase plant also supplies Olymel further processing plants, including the plant in nearby Ste-Rosalie. The expansion should be completed in September, and will not affect the normal conduct of the plant's operations.

This investment by Olymel in the poultry sector is in addition to a $10 million investment the firm made in the poultry further processing plant at Ste-Rosalie, Montérégie, in 2015. With that investment, Olymel added a third cooking line, which increased the volume of cooked chicken products manufactured there by 40%. Through these investments, Olymel is intensifying its initiatives to add value to house brands such as Olymel and Flamingo, and has also increased its production capacity, making it better able to serve private labels.

April 19, 2016 - Lilydale is currently implementing a number of changes to appease nearby residents in it's Calgary chicken poultry processing plant, located in the inner-city neighbourhood of Ramsay. The changes include building a sound barrier and spraying the property with an industrial deodorizer. READ MORE


March 18, 2016 - Safe Food Canada is pleased to announce it is collaborating with the Food Processing Human Resources Council (FPHRC), one of the most trusted organizations in food industry skills development and training, to develop an introductory online food safety course addressing Preventive Control Plans (PCP). 


The PCP course will be an interactive, online course which will inform food and beverage businesses of the Safe Food for Canadians Act, food safety hazards and preventive controls. Today, many of Canada’s key trading partners are already using a preventive approach to ensure food is safe for consumers. Having a written Preventive Control Plan can increase food safety alignment with international standards, particularly among food processing and packing facilities, food importers and exporters as well as those responsible for food safety.


The course has been undergoing user testing in order to generate first-hand user feedback and is expected to be generally available this summer. The online course will be of particular interest to smaller and mid-sized food businesses.

Safe Food Canada CEO, Brian Sterling, takes pride in the level of innovation that the course will bring to the industry. “Food safety has a clear impact on the reputation of a business and on how consumers trust those who produce our food. Safe Food Canada is committed to modernizing how people learn about food safety and assuring that Canada will continuously improve its global status for highly effective food safety practices. The PCP course is another example of how SFC is successfully partnering to support food safety training.”


The major topics covered in the course are:

  • ·         The Safe Food for Canadians Act.
  • ·         What is the role of government and business operators for food safety?
  • ·         What is the function of inspections in Canada?
  • ·         What is a food safety culture and how do you build it?
  • ·         How can you identify food safety hazards and preventive controls?
  • ·         What are the components of a PCP?
  • ·         How can you prepare your own PCP?

Safe Food Canada is a not for profit organization with a mandate to modernize food safety and food protection education. Working in partnership with food businesses, academia and government, SFC is catalyzing improvements that will grow Canada’s already excellent reputation as a place for safe, high quality food and beverage production.

Visit for more details.



March 17, 2016 - Safe Food Canada (SFC) is proud to announce the findings of its first research project, which provides practical insights into the current state of food safety culture in Canada. This exploratory study is the first of its kind into the level of spending on food safety training and education for food industry professionals.


SFC has a mandate to modernize the way food professionals in Canada learn about food safety and protection. The company conducts research as one of its four areas of business. The study explored how food businesses invest in food safety training. Factors of interest included actual spending by companies on food safety training, employee job satisfaction, and changes to employee competence and performance.

SFC President and CEO, Mr. Brian Sterling, notes that “Safe Food Canada is primarily focused on ensuring that food employees are trained using competency-based, consistent learning frameworks. This exploratory study points out that SFC can help food organizations by providing valuable information so they can assess the relative payback they get for their investments in training. This sentiment is highly supported by other strong players in the industry, who recognize the value that Safe Food Canada will bring to strengthening Canada’s reputation as a trusted source of food.”

Amongst the study’s most relevant findings include:

·    Training for general employees typically is done onsite, with 65% of companies declaring that this further complemented by annual external training sessions.

·    While the current state of food safety training itself is seen as acceptable, there is room for improvement on how to measure the change in performance and financial return on investments from training.

·   Only half of the companies surveyed keep track of their expenditures on food safety training, while 35% either do not keep a record or do not separate food safety expenses from other training costs.

·   The majority of participants, said they train from 80%-100% of frontline employees. These people all receive some type of food safety training annually, varying from classroom education to hands-on training.

Maple Leaf Foods is a leading sponsor of Safe Food Canada and serves on the company’s Board of Directors with other food businesses and academic organizations.

“Food safety should never be viewed as a competitive advantage,” says Maple Leaf Foods Chief Food Safety Officer and SVP, Operations, Randall Huffman. “We are strong supporters of Safe Food Canada and its mission to elevate food safety learning and benchmarking across our industry.”

The exploratory study by SFC is a first important step towards the goal of modernizing how people learn about food safety.  The report recommends that SFC undertake a more thorough benchmark study so that individual food businesses can better understand how their investment in food safety training compares with industry norms and best practices. 


About Safe Food Canada

Safe Food Canada's mission is to serve all food system stakeholders by strengthening food safety and protection excellence through learning partnerships.  Its business is to develop research and knowledge and provide a focus on education and training that addresses gaps in performance and delivers practical expertise on food safety and protection for both private and public good. Visit for more details.


March 17, 2016 - For the first time since 2013, Ontario’s kosher consumers will have the opportunity to once again purchase fresh, locally grown, locally processed kosher chicken for their tables. 

Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO), the regulatory body that oversees the growing and marketing of chicken in Ontario, has approved the application of Premier Kosher Inc., to process kosher certified chicken. Premier Kosher Inc. is a unit of the Premier Group of Companies, an integrated poultry growing, transporting and food processing firm.  The processing plant will be located in the town of Abingdon in the Niagara region of Ontario.

“We are extremely pleased that Ontario consumers will now have a local option for their kosher chicken purchasing needs," said Henry Zantingh, Chair of CFO.  "The decision to accept the application of Premier Kosher Inc. is the culmination of tremendous effort on the part of both farmers and industry to find a suitable business partner to own and operate an Ontario kosher chicken processing plant."

“The Ontario chicken industry understands the importance of addressing the needs of all consumers in Ontario,” said Michael Burrows, Chair of the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors (AOCP).  “We are pleased that Premier Kosher Inc. will be in a position to support the ongoing need of kosher consumers to have a locally grown and processed source of chicken.”

“This is an exciting opportunity and we look forward to working with the community to ensure that Premier Kosher becomes a trusted and preferred choice for kosher chicken,” said Paul Tzellos, President of Premier Kosher Inc.

The Kashruth Council of Canada (COR) will be working with the Premier Kosher processing plant to provide the kosher certification.

“Ontario’s Jewish community has been looking forward to welcoming the arrival of a new kosher processing plant for several years to provide local Ontario-grown, fresh, kosher chicken,” said Richard Rabkin, Executive Director of COR. “COR is pleased to be working with Premier Kosher Inc. to ensure that kosher consumers have a range of products in the marketplace to choose from.” 

Chicken Farmers of Ontario will be working with Chicken Farmers of Canada for an allocation of additional supply to serve the kosher community. 

"This has been a long process and this announcement is yet another signal that CFO and the chicken industry of Ontario are open for business and working to meet the needs of all core, niche and specialty chicken markets in Ontario," said Rob Dougans, President and CEO of CFO.

Premier Kosher Inc. is also being advised by Chuck Weinberg, former owner of Chai Poultry, the last processor to provide locally processed kosher chicken in Ontario.  The Premier Kosher plant is expected to be operational by January 2017 and will have an initial capacity of 50,000 chickens each week.  It is expected to employ up to 80 employees.  


If you do a Google search of the Internet, 157 million definitions of sustainability will come up. Is sustainability meeting the needs of the future and the present at the same time? Or is it really just producing more with less?

For some, sustainability means simply having food, while for others it may involve parameters such as ethical production; it’s simply not simple to define.

As president and CEO of the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council (CPEPC), the Saskatoon native admits he’s no expert, but even with the simplest definition, Robin Horel can see that poultry and eggs have some advantages over competing protein.

Speaking to delegates of the 2nd Annual Canadian Poultry Sustainability Symposium, Horel pointed to factors such as energy efficiency, carbon emissions, feed conversion, land and water usage, and waste management as areas where poultry production shines.

But as Horel explained, there are many other factors involved in sustainability. His list begins with environmental impact, food safety, worker safety, animal health and welfare, and food affordability, growing from there, with varying levels of importance based on each factor.

Sustainability can mean different things to different people. Industry, farmers, activists, and consumers - everyone has different ideas. Around the world, a consumer’s definition of sustainability in terms of food will often depend on his or her economic situation.

What does the Canadian consumer want? Teams of people across the industry are trying to figure out the answer to this question. According to the Retail Council of Canada, Canadian retail consumers primarily base their choices in food service and retail on price, quality and food safety, with factors such as local, welfare and the environment becoming more important.

“It’s a changing consumer; not easy to follow,” said Horel, “but we have no choice.”

Look at eggs, for example. The retail shelves for eggs used to be about six to eight feet long, with white or brown and a few size choices. Now there are white and brown with half a dozen methods of production: organic, free range, Omega 3, raised without antibiotics. The claims are endless, and each claim carries its own segregation, labeling and auditing considerations. Other poultry products fall under the same claims, which can also include different processing methods.

One factor is sure though, “It comes at a price,” said Horel. It’s hard to know what the consumer wants, but we’re giving them as much choice as they’re willing to pay for.

What do processors graders and hatchers want? “Growth. Profitable growth,” said Horel. Canadian meat consumption peaked in 2000 and has declined by 12 per cent since then, but chicken has grown its market share. Turkey consumption on a per capita basis has remained flat, but measured against declining meat consumption, it has gained a small bit of share as well.  Can poultry continue to increase compared to other sources of protein against this backdrop of declining meat consumption in Canada?

In terms of sustainability, poultry is well situated to do just that. What are the practical applications of sustainability factors to poultry at the retail level? Trust and transparency rank high.

Horel pointed out that above all, Canadian customers and consumers prize safe food. Any recall issues for any poultry product not only affect consumer trust in that particular product but their trust in all poultry products.

Brands are also important to the Canadian customer. If a supplier doesn’t tow the line, brand protection comes to the fore with videos or recalls resulting in suppliers being dropped; processors and graders will also cut off a farm to protect their brand.  

As for label claims, Horel said don’t bother using up label real estate to suggest that chicken or turkey contains no hormones because it’s a waste of time and confusing to consumers. We are fortunate to have CFIA guidelines to guide labeling, said Horel. Under their guidance, you are not allowed to claim ‘no hormones’ unless you also say, ‘like all other chicken’. The label claim of methods of processing is generally acceptable, as long as they aren’t linked to further implied benefits. A good example of this would be high-pressure pasteurization, which is effective against listeria in packaged turkey or chicken products. You can tell the consumer that you’ve used the process, but you can’t claim it’s safer than other products as a result.

At the producer level, food safety is still at the top of the list. On-farm food safety programs need to be mandatory, with transparency maintained from processors, graders through to hatcheries needing information so they can provide traceability.

Looking forward, Horel suggested that two poultry food safety issues on the radar are salmonella and campylobacter. A new baseline survey report by CIPARS (Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance) will soon be released to the public indicating salmonella levels are “not as good as we’d like”. The pressure to reduce salmonella will intensify very soon, and the pressure will be on farms, starting with hatcheries.

Another issue in the forefront is the transition to enriched cages. Consumers often don’t know the trade-offs involved with such changes to the production system or how pressure on one area of production would “yank the wheel out of round” since all production components are inter-related.

As Horel explained, when you take laying hens out of cages there are going to be consequences: an impact on economics, on food affordability. There will also be increased pressure on the environmental component and possibly food safety. “If you don’t manage this properly you may adversely affect animal welfare, which is why you made the changes in the first place.”

 Euthanasia is another difficult animal welfare issue to deal with, not only for the customer but also for farm workers, while loading and transportation is part of the production process that is most visible to the public as trucks moving down the highway. Preventative use of antibiotics and disease control also rank high on the list of issues under consideration.

“The result of processors and farmers having the same goals, if we are successful, is that we will not have to have multiple standards, audits, segregation issues, and confusion for consumers,” said Horel. “In order to get there, we need to translate the codes of practice into on-farm, practical terms.”

With regard to animal welfare, the goals of producers, processors, and graders should be the same: to ensure our customers have faith in our national animal care programs. They should trust that we are good caretakers and take our job very seriously, and that non-compliance is not tolerated. They need to trust that our codes are a good standard, and trust value chain members as an information source to deal with questions and undercover videos.

Horel listed five basic principles that need to govern animal care programs: they need to be national, based on the codes of practice, mandatory, third party audited, and transparent. Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) and Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) have both agreed to these five principles and their animal care programs reflect this; Turkey Farmers of Canada (TFC) is moving to acknowledge the five principles within their Flock Care Program by the middle of next year. CHEP, Canadian Hatching Egg Producers, are the furthest away from the customer but, as part of the supply chain, the spotlight is going to hit them soon. As Horel says, “the pressure is on.”

In the end, what does sustainability mean for the poultry industry? Transparency, cooperation, and common goals of food safety, animal welfare and health, said Horel. These goals have to be shared by all to continue to build public trust in farming in Canada, in our industry and our products. If the per capita consumption numbers for poultry are any indication, we’re doing the right thing. 




October 24 - A leading poultry welfare expert from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) was invited to address a conference of processors earlier this month.

Dr. Marc Cooper, from the RSPCA's farm animal science department, was invited to speak about the use of carbon dioxide controlled atmosphere systems for killing meat chickens at the Canadian Meat Council’s 8th Technical Symposium, which focused on advancements in livestock and poultry health and welfare in the supply chain.

Dr .Cooper, who is responsible for the development of the RSPCA welfare standards for both meat chickens and ducks, was invited to speak because of his wide-ranging and detailed research into gas killing systems which has seen him travel across the UK and to France, Germany and Austria.

Cooper noted that currently, only one poultry processor in Canada uses a gas killing system. The majority of birds are slaughtered using conventional water bath stunning systems - which is essentially the opposite to the situation in the UK where most birds are killed using gas systems.

The presentation focussed on the key areas that need to be considered to help achieve the most humane kill possible when using carbon dioxide gas killing systems.

There were about 90 representatives from all the major poultry processors in Canada as well as Canadian government officials.

Since his return from the symposium, Dr. Cooper has been contacted by a number of processors asking for more information about the most humane gas killing systems.

 Good communication with the catching crew, transport company and processor can ease the challenges of transporting live birds during extreme weather events

The birds are ready to be shipped, the catching crew is onsite, the hauler is pulling in the driveway, and the processor has tomorrow morning’s shift fully scheduled. Everyone wants the birds to travel comfortably and arrive alive.

Canada’s Health of Animals Act prohibits the transportation of any animal that cannot be moved without undue suffering during the expected journey. Just as everyone has a vested interest in the outcome of that journey, everyone has a role to play in complying with the regulation – from the producer to the processor, and including the catchers, loaders, and haulers.

“Good bird welfare is everyone’s responsibility,” says Al Dam, provincial poultry specialist at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “It’s the right thing to do – and it’s the law.”

Working with the catching crew
Ontario’s guidelines for transporting poultry – popularly communicated via the “Should this bird be loaded?” poultry loading decision tree – provide catchers (and others) with direction for the identification of sick or injured birds, as well as environmental considerations for loading and transportation.

To improve load-out efficiency and ensure your birds can be loaded, producers are encouraged to identify compromised birds during routine flock monitoring and cull sick birds on a daily basis. Deadstock should be properly disposed of in accordance with provincial legislation.

The catching crew’s on-site supervisor will confirm the producer’s assessment of bird health and environmental conditions at the farm. Since shipping densities will vary with bird type, expected weather conditions, and estimated travel time, it is critical that accurate bird weights and counts are provided before loading begins.

Take particular caution if you are loading birds during periods of extremely high temperatures and humidity. Stocking density in containers may need to be adjusted, and discussions should occur among all stakeholders to assess whether or not birds should be loaded and if the truck can be delayed until better conditions are available. There are tools associated with the poultry loading decision tree that can help with these decisions.

Working with the transport company
Although policies and standard operating procedures shape on-site decision making, the live trucking industry relies heavily on producers to communicate information about local weather conditions, their barn and loading area, and their birds.

“It’s hard to write specifics on transportation,” says Richard Mack, President of Riverdale Poultry Express Inc. in Elmira, Ontario. “Many factors other than weather impact the loading of birds, including flock health, loading area conditions, travel distance, and lairage.”

At Riverdale, newly hired drivers train with their more experienced colleagues until they can go solo – even after completing Canadian Livestock Transportation training.

“It’s not just about driving a truck,” says Mack. “Our drivers are also called upon to be animal welfare specialists, truck mechanics, computer users, and politicians. They must work in all weather conditions, be good at administration and paperwork, and understand the dynamics – and legal ramifications – of how they load their trucks.”

Although there are some promising advances in new equipment and loading techniques, the industry depends on prompt, qualitative feedback from processors on issues that happen during transportation and lairage. “The sooner we know, the sooner we can take corrective action,” says Riverdale’s Mack. “It’s hard to fix what we don’t know about.”

Working with the processor
As a producer, you are responsible for understanding the processor’s expectations for feed withdrawal, evaluation of bird fitness to travel, and any specialized loading protocols that can reduce bird stress. You should also ensure that barn conditions and facilities promote safe, humane catching with minimal stress.

“Work with your processor to schedule loading at times that will help minimize stress on the birds,” recommends Paul Bulman, Live Planning and Procurement Manager at Pinty’s Delicious Foods in Port Colborne.

“We are all in this together and we all share in the implications of decisions made to ensure humane transportation during extreme weather.”

What is industry leadership doing?
Over the past year, industry leaders in Ontario have been working to address the challenges associated with the safe and humane transportation of poultry during extreme weather.

Ontario has formed an Extreme Weather Transport Committee representing the interests of producers, processors, handlers, haulers, and government. Standard operating procedures developed for hot and cold weather transport for broiler chickens have been adopted by industry associations and shared with producers at a series of regional poultry producer updates in February and through the Chicken Farmers of Ontario. Although the committee is currently focused on broilers, it intends to include other poultry commodities.

“Our next step is to look at the existing work on poultry transport and identify areas where more research could help with the Canadian and Ontario situations when it comes to extreme weather,” says committee member Al Dam.

As Ontario’s poultry industry braces for the heat and humidity challenges of the summer, that information can’t come too soon.




April 30, 2015 - The country's largest poultry workers' union, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada), is calling on federal and provincial governments to introduce specific protections for front-line worker safety and to ensure that poultry workers are
an integral part in the planning of any and all programs, regulations and strategies to prevent future outbreaks of the avian influenza virus.
Specifically, UFCW Canada is calling on governments in Canada to take similar measures that were taken more than a decade ago in the United States, where initiatives were put in place to better identify and prevent outbreak risks by better protecting front-line workers and involving them as key participants in the production chain.
"There are more than 14,000 people working in poultry processing facilities across Canada, processing millions pounds of poultry every week, and in the event of avian flu, we must have a plan to protect these workers, and the impact on their families and communities," says Paul Meinema, the national president of UFCW Canada, which represents more than 8,000 poultry workers across the country.

To date, federal and provincial governments have failed to include front line poultry workers in the discussion of the avian influenza pandemic. 

"If we are to avoid a pandemic, Canada's plan to contain the bird flu must have
a worker component." UFCW Canada is calling on governments to consider:

-  Direct contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces and
   objects is considered the main route of human infection. This kind of
   direct contact is the norm for workers in the poultry industry. A
   poultry worker immunization program will prevent the spread of the
   disease and assure the public that a meaningful step has been taken to
   contain the disease at its source.

-  Poultry workers are in the best position to visually identify sick birds
   and report suspected cases of bird flu. These front line workers are the
   nation's best defense against a pandemic, but they will need
   whistleblower protections in order to avoid discrimination and to assure
   that profit doesn't override health and safety.

 - Many immigrant, undocumented, or non-English or French-speaking poultry
   workers are unaware of workplace safety regulations. This population is
   unlikely to ask for safety and health protections such as respirators or
   flu shots. Some of these workers are precarious and vulnerable worker
   who are in Canada as part of the Temporary Workers Program; as such, we
   must reach out to these workers with health and safety information and
   empower them with the confidence to exercise their health, safety and
   labour rights.

"Protecting the health and safety of poultry workers should be a paramount
concern for our governments, as should protecting the meat processing
industry's tremendous contribution to Canada's economy, which suffers a serious
setback with each new outbreak," adds Meinema.

These worker issues are of paramount importance. Worker organizations, like unions, should be consulted and integrated into the effort. The UFCW stands ready to work with all interested stakeholders, including worker representatives, government agencies, and poultry companies.

November 18, 2014 - European Union (EU) poultry retailers may be penalized if they sell salmonella-contaminated fresh products, even when they are processed and packaged by another company, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled. READ MORE


While most people will never see the inside of a barn, many  do see livestock and poultry as they pass by on our roadways. Whether in rural or urban areas, livestock transport is highly visible.  Transport accidents involving animals nearly always get reported in the media, and public complaints to enforcement authorities are a repeated occurrence.   All too often the subject is heightened by concerned citizens who have limited understanding of acceptable and necessary industry practices.   But sometimes their concerns are warranted.  

In a day and age when many Canadians are showing growing interest in food production practices, animal transport is also one of growing contention.  It’s rumoured that the federal agriculture minister receives more correspondence on animal welfare in general, and livestock transport in particular, than any other topic.  It is known however that issues related to transport are also placing a burden on government regulators, enforcement agencies, and on the supply chain from producer to processor.

It is for these reasons that the Canadian Livestock Transport (CLT) training and certification program was invented. Begun as a pilot project in 2007 through Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) in association with its sister animal care associations in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, CLT has since been expanded and updated.  Rolled out as a national program in late 2013 under the auspices of the Canadian Animal Health Coalition the CLT program began actively offering a poultry transport training and certification program this past spring. Joining the three CLT programs offered for cattle and sheep, hogs, and horses, the poultry program covers layers, broilers and turkeys.

To become certified, each trainee must attend a course delivered by a CLT certified instructor and pass a competency exam presented at the end of the training.

Stéphane Beaudoin is a private animal welfare consultant and a certified CLT program instructor based in Quebec.  Since first offering the poultry course this past April he says he has had 300 drivers, catchers and plant personnel sign up.  Beaudoin is providing the 4-hour classroom training courses and examinations in locations across Quebec, and the feed-back has been extremely positive, he says.  

“Attendees at every session I’ve held so far all tell me that for the very first time the entire transport chain is getting consistent information.” They appreciate the factual, unbiased information that CLT gives them, he says.   And they feel it is information that is needed by all the players in the sector.

While incorporating the recommendations contained in the Codes of Practice, CLT goes further by providing practical and effective best practices. By using a classroom setting, Beaudoin says, participants are also able to learn from each other’s real-life experiences and ideas.    

“Many will share their own experiences about how challenging it is at times to ensure birds are transported properly under less-than-ideal situations. Sharing with others also helps trainees better realize that animal welfare is the responsibility of all the players within the sector.”

Livestock transport specialist Jennifer Woods runs J. Woods Livestock Services out of Blackie, Alberta. She was among the original group that created the pilot program and she continues to help guide the growth and evolution of CLT. The animals benefit the most from the driver training, she says.  But there are also significant economic paybacks. “We in the industry have always known that poultry are more vulnerable to morbidity and mortality and that in sheer numbers alone those transport losses exceed losses in other livestock sectors.”  Over the years, the poultry industry has made progress in reducing transport losses and a part of that has been achieved by following effective procedures and changing our practices, she says. Chickens and turkeys make up the vast majority (roughly 87%) of all farm animals raised in Canada each year.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canadian Meat Council recommend it, but CLT continues to be a voluntary training program. Now that it is available, however, the L’Association des abattoirs avicoles du Québec (AAAQ), and the Ontario Poultry Services Association have directed their members to obtain CLT poultry certification.

Daniel Dufour, Secrétaire General of AAAQ says his member companies, which make up 100 per cent of the commercial processors in Quebec, have asked for CLT certification as a part of a collective approach to continuous improvement. “The companies, the drivers and catching companies all want to do it,” he says.  Dufour estimates that about 50 pe rcent of those taking the certification are drivers and catching crew supervisors while the remainder are procurement and plant management personnel.  They all like CLT, he explains, because it requires re-certification every three years, so not only does it teach new information but it also provides a refresher.

“CLT also provides proof that we in Quebec follow good practices,” he says. CLT will be a minimum requirement for drivers, old and new, who haul for Quebec poultry plants. Discussions are also underway to eventually involve producers and to follow-up with further education and hands-on workshops.  “The time is now,” Dufour says and CLT is the first step in a team approach.

Transport issues also create a black eye for the industry. Most recent are the court cases involving Maple Lodge Farms in Ontario and Lilydale Farms in B.C.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency laid charges against Maple Lodge Farms under the Health of Animals Act for failing to transport chickens humanely after some 2,000 birds died from cold exposure on two trips to slaughter in the winter of 2008-2009.  In passing sentence, Ontario Superior Court Justice Nancy Kastner said “lack of adequate training, personnel, or equipment” contributed to the high mortality rate of the transported birds.

Lilydale is, at the time of writing, facing four similar charges laid by the CFIA. The charges stem from exposing chickens to freezing temperatures while transporting them from Chilliwack to its slaughterhouse in Port Coquitlam on January 18, 2012.

These two cases alone have involved thousands of birds, significant investigation man-hours, lengthy court proceedings and negative publicity for the agriculture and food industry, says Wood. “Had these companies been able at the time to train their drivers under CLT these charges might not have happened.”   That is because transport in extreme temperatures is one of the training components contained in CLT.  

Each of the four species modules encompasses all aspects of transportation including pre-loading, loading, time in transit and arrival at the destination. Topics include animal welfare, regulations, handling and behaviour, environmental considerations, equipment and emergency response. Woods explains that each module has been developed based on the specific needs of each of the individual species groups.

When asked who benefits from CLT, Woods says “just about everyone.” Her list includes the producers who depend on competent transporters:  Whether it’s moving birds from barn to barn or barn to plant.

Governments, which are under pressure to enact new regulations, increase enforcement and to step up court prosecutions for offenders, benefit from the higher compliance that comes from properly trained transporters and handlers.

Processors, who use properly trained personnel can avoid costly mistakes and as added value can include CLT certification to their social responsibility portfolios.

And while Canadian retailers aren’t yet demanding proof of transportation competency to go along with their animal welfare assurance policies, signals on the horizon say it won’t be far off.  Woods adds that certificate of competency will also become part of international trade agreements as we move forward.

Beaudoin says he is teaching more than just drivers. Training is beneficial, and in some instances required, for dispatchers, handlers (at farms and sales yards) plant crews, loading crews and

Wood’s says CLT has established itself as a credible program recognized by processing plants and industry groups in both Canada and the U.S. She says that transportation is a vital part of livestock and poultry production that requires special skills and knowledge. It takes professionals she says, and CLT is a part of that.


September 26, 2014 - Local people who want to produce their own food stood in support of a turkey processor who has been told to stop killing birds in his shop. READ MORE

August 1, 2014 - The U.S.D.A. recently announced reforms to decades-old processes for inspecting poultry facilities in a bid to cut down on the number of foodborne illnesses, but dropped an industry-backed plan to speed up production.  READ MORE 


July 10, 2014 - A California chicken producer has issued its first recall since being linked to an outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant strain of salmonella that has been making people sick for more than a year, company and federal food officials said Thursday night.

The U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture said it has found evidence directly linking Foster Farms boneless-skinless chicken breast to a case of Salmonella Heidelberg, an antibiotic-resistant strain of the disease that has sickened more than 500 people in the past 16 months and led to pressure from food safety advocates for federal action against the company.

As a result, Foster Farms issued a recall for 170 different chicken products that came from its Fresno facilities in March.

The USDA said its investigators first learned of the salmonella case on June 23, and the recall was issued as soon as the direct link was confirmed. The location of the case and identity of the person were not released.

Foster Farms says the products have “use or freeze by'' dates from March 21 to March 29 and have been distributed to California, Hawaii, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Oregon and Alaska.

The long list of products in the recall include drumsticks, thighs, chicken tenders and livers. Most are sold with the Foster Farms label but some have the labels FoodMaxx, Kroger, Safeway, Savemart, Valbest and Sunland. No fresh products currently in grocery stores are involved.

The USDA said it was working with the company to determine the total amount of chicken affected by the recall.

The company emphasized that the recall was based on a single case and a single product but the broad recall is being issued in an abundance of caution.

“Our first concern is always the health and safety of the people who enjoy our products, and we stand committed to doing our part to enhance the safety of our nation's food supply,'' Foster Farms said in a statement.

The federal Centers for Disease Control says 574 people from 27 states and Puerto Rico have been sickened since the outbreak began in 2013, leading to increasing pressure from food safety advocates for a recall or even an outright shutdown of Foster Farms facilities.

Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in class-action food-safety lawsuits, commended both Foster Farms and the USDA for “doing the right thing for food safety.''

“Recalling product is both embarrassing and hard, but is the right thing to do for your customers,'' Marler said.

The company was linked to previous salmonella illnesses in 2004 and in 2012.

Recalls of poultry contaminated with salmonella are tricky because the law allows raw chicken to have a certain amount of salmonella — a rule that consumer advocates have long lobbied to change. Because salmonella is so prevalent in poultry and is killed if consumers cook it properly, the government has not declared it to be an "adulterant,'' or illegal, in meat, as is E. coli.

In a letter from USDA to Foster Farms last October, the department said inspectors had documented "fecal material on carcasses'' along with "poor sanitary dressing practices, insanitary food contact surfaces, insanitary nonfood contact surfaces and direct product contamination.''

Foster Farms said in May that it had put new measures in place, including tighter screening of birds, improved safety on the farms where the birds are raised and better sanitation in its plants.

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