Multidrug-resistant Salmonella was detected twice as often in samples of meat from conventionally-raised chicken and turkeys compared with antibiotic-free or organic poultry, according to findings from a study conducted in Pennsylvania.According to a second study presented at the conference, almost one-third of Salmonella-contaminated poultry, ground beef and pork chop samples were resistant to three or more antibiotics and more than one in six were resistant to five or more antibiotics.For the full story, click here.
Amit Morey in the Department of Poultry Science at Auburn University recently completed a research project where he evaluated a hand-held bioelectric impedance device for its ability to detect broiler breast fillets affected with the woody breast condition.The device was found to be able to successfully differentiate severely affected fillets from normal fillets by analyzing the electrical properties of the meat.This technique may be used by plant personnel to more accurately sort breast fillets.For the research summary, click here.
While many people now keep chickens or ducks in their backyards, there has been little research into how many of these birds are carrying dangerous pathogens or what flock owners are doing to prevent pathogens from spreading until now.University of Guelph (U of G) researchers are the first to uncover that many Ontario backyard birds are carrying dangerous pathogens, and a significant number of flock owners are not following proper hygiene practices.“This is the first study to look at the health status of small flocks in Ontario,” says Leonardo Susta, who works in the Department of Pathobiology at U of G’s Ontario Veterinary College.Conducted in collaboration with colleagues at U of G’s Animal Health Laboratory (AHL) and OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Food and Rural Affairs), the research was published in two papers in the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation.The team asked small flock owners to voluntarily submit any birds who died on their properties to AHL for a post-mortem examination. They also asked the owners to fill out a questionnaire about their infection-control practices.They received 245 specimens from 160 flocks. Most of the flocks consisted of 25 or fewer chickens kept for the purpose of laying eggs for family use.Infectious diseases were the most common killer, the team found, causing 62 per cent of deaths. Mixed respiratory disease (caused by a combination of bacteria, viruses and fungi) was found to be the primary cause of death in 21 per cent of the birds, and Marek’s disease, which causes fatal tumours, caused 11 per cent of the deaths.In addition to these pathogens, the research team also found a number of chickens with Mycoplasma, a bacterium that causes respiratory disease.“This is a disease that is rarely seen in commercial flocks, yet one in five birds in this study were carrying the pathogen,” Susta says.The researchers also found several birds with Campylobacter, a bacterium that can lead to severe food poisoning in humans.“The fact that we found so much Campylobacter is a testament to the fact that biosecurity measures need to be followed,” he says.The questionnaires revealed that while some flock owners had good knowledge of proper hygiene practices when interacting with the birds, many were not taking enough precautions to avoid the spread of disease.“We wouldn’t expect backyard chicken owners to apply the same biosecurity practices used with commercial flocks, but there are certainly steps that flock owners should be taking,” Susta says.Fewer than 50 per cent of owners reported having dedicated shoes or clothing for entering their poultry coops or barns, less than five per cent reported using a foot bath, and more than 60 per cent reported allowing visitors into the coop or barn, which is not recommended.“Many also allowed their birds to stray outside the coop or barn, where they might have access to wild birds or their habitats,” Susta says.Wild birds are considered potential reservoirs of many pathogens, and increased contact between birds could allow the spread of several infections, including avian influenza.Only 37 per cent of owners who said they bought their birds from hatcheries answered that their birds were vaccinated at hatch — a key step that could prevent several diseases including Marek’s disease.Given that this was a “passive surveillance” research project in which all participation was voluntary, the researchers say the flocks they tested may not be representative of all small flocks within the province.However, Susta said the fact that they uncovered the presence of certain worrisome pathogens is cause for the concern.“These results underscore the importance of flock owners obtaining birds from reputable sources, of monitoring birds for illness, and of practising proper sanitation and hand hygiene to protect both the birds and the public.”
Dr. Ken Macklin and Dr. Sarge Bilgili from Auburn University recently completed a research project where they studied the ability of Salmonella enteritidis (SE) and Salmonella heidelberg (SH) to colonize and persist in various tissues and organs of broilers inoculated by various routes and at different ages.They found that feeding broilers continuously with feed contaminated with a low level of either SE or SH resulted in every bird being contaminated.Additionally, they found that aerosol exposure was efficient in establishing colonization of SE and SH in broilers.Their results also showed that broilers could potentially become colonized by Salmonella at any time during their lives.For a research summary, click here.
The global poultry industry takes an estimated $6 billion hit every year from necrotic enteritis (NE). Intestinal damage caused by this condition means birds don’t grow well, and current prevention and treatment approaches centre around antibiotics, which are under increasing scrutiny.
Avian influenza, especially in its highly pathogenic form, remains a serious threat to the poultry industry worldwide. By early June this year, the World Organization of Animal Health had reported detections of the disease in a whopping 25 countries, including Mexico but fortunately not the U.S. or Canada so far. The strategy for avian influenza virus (AIV) surveillance around the world, therefore, matters a great deal.
Hamlet Protein presented new research findings at the Poultry Science Association's annual meeting, held last week in Montreal.The presentation, entitled “Effect of an enzyme-treated soy protein on the performance of broiler chickens infected or uninfected with Clostridium perfringens”, was delivered by the company's global poultry segment manager Alfred Blanch.The feeding trial, carried out at Southern Poultry Feed and Research in Georgia with Greg Mathis and Brett Lumpkins, concluded that dietary protein makes a big difference when it comes to enteric disorders.The addition of enzyme treated soy protein (ESP) in starter diets, with a very low content of soy anti-nutritional factors, with or without antibiotic growth promoters, equals the weight of the birds infected with Clostridium perfringens and their FCR to that of uninfected chickens.“The dietary protein quality counts a lot if necrotic Clostridium perfringens confronts your flock”, says Alfred Blanch, Global Poultry Segment Manager at Hamlet Protein.The basal diet composition and, particularly, the dietary protein, plays a crucial role in the genesis of necrotic enteritis.In this sense, the reduction of soy anti-nutritional factors in starter diets for broiler chickens may be a good strategy to palliate the performance impairment due to mild necrotic enteritis outbreaks.Thus, the addition of an enzymatically treated soybean meal (ESBM) in the starter diet, with or without antibiotic growth promoters, equals the performance of Clostridium perfringens-infected broiler chickens to that of uninfected chickens.In other words, ESBM supplementation in starter diets will result in performance improvements in birds with necrotic enteritis, regardless of the use of antibiotic growth promoters.“With or without antibiotics, dietary protein makes a big difference when it comes to enteric disorders. The inclusion of [ESBM], with a very low content of ANFs in starter feed may be a suitable tool to maintain the performance of the birds when it comes to coccidia vaccine and/or ABF broiler production systems,” concludes Blanch.
Trouw Nutrition, a Nutreco company, and University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia, presented findings from a joint research study during the annual meeting of the Poultry Science Association 15-18 July in Montreal.
A new tool has emerged for broiler chicken operations seeking new ways to optimize results while keeping aligned with a full range of the latest organic, raised without antibiotics (RWA) and conventional market opportunities.New study results showcased at the Poultry Science Association annual meeting, July 15-18 in Montreal, add to a growing body of science showing the unique potential offered by ‘Yeast Bioactives’ – a new form of feed technology pioneered and introduced by Canadian Bio-Systems (CBS Inc.).“We are very pleased with the results we are seeing with this new feed technology,” says producer Mike Edwards of Edwards Family Organics near Millbank, Ont., a family-run farm that includes the broiler chicken operation where the trial was conducted. “It’s a new tool that has become a valuable part of our overall production approach – in particular, helping us to lower our bacterial challenges and promote better gut health. We’re seeing less issues. We’re achieving significant improvements in growth performance. It’s exciting to have a tool like this come into the marketplace that is eligible for use in organic.”Expanding the toolbox for chicken farmersYeast Bioactives technology, launched in late 2018, is a yeast-based innovation designed for use as a feed supplement in diets for poultry, swine and ruminants. The technology features enzymatically hydrolyzed yeast carbohydrates that offer advantages over conventional yeast cell wall supplements (the enzymatic hydrolyzation process makes the yeast carbohydrates more soluble and thus more effective).Yeast Bioactives offers benefits as an enhanced yeast technology supporting an optimal environment for animal wellness, performance and related productivity, says Paul Garvey, Poultry Sales Manager with CBS Inc. It also offers benefits as a grain management technology, helping to mitigate a number of potential threats that can undermine feed quality, animal performance, animal health and food safety. As a bio-based feed ingredient, it is the type of solution favored not only on-farm but also by major retailers and by consumers.“The poultry industry has the potential to continue as one of the most progressive and successful sectors in agriculture, but as it continues to diversify and evolve there is a strong need for new options in the toolbox at the producer level, particularly for operations targeting reduction or replacement of antimicrobial use,” says Garvey. “The results we’re seeing with Yeast Bioactives on commercial poultry farms point to this as a very effective option to support highly productive and sustainable operations across all types of production.”Helping meet today's new expectationsEdwards Family Organics is an early adopter of the Yeast Bioactives technology via Maxi-Nutrio®, which received approval for use in certified organic production in 2018 and has seen steady adoption in all forms of poultry operations. Mike and Krista Edwards, who have a young family with three children, were one of four applicant families approved as a new entrant to the industry in 2017, under the Chicken Farmers of Ontario’s New Entrant Program. Their relatively new broiler chicken operation is certified organic and places on average 17,500 birds. Mike is also Manager of Nutritional Services at Jones Feed Mills Ltd. and has over a decade of experience working in the feed and nutrition business, including with a specific focus on poultry production including supporting organic producers with the Yorkshire Valley Farms group.“Yeast Bioactives technology fits well with the unique challenges of operating under certified organic requirements,” says Edwards. “Our operation along with others using it in our organic producer association are now getting results comparable to conventional producers. A number of our producers are actually producing well ahead of the provincial averages for conventional production.”Organic results meet or exceed conventionalThe trial results unveiled at the Poultry Science Association meeting confirm advantages that the Edwards’ farm and other early adopters have seen over the past several months, while providing valuable information on dosage response, he says. “The trial data will help us drill down to the optimal rates we want to use.”The trial involved a total of 16,320 newly hatched Ross 708 broiler chicks. The study was designed to evaluate the effects of dietary supplementation with a commercially available Yeast Bioactives product (Maxi-Nutrio) on performance and health of broiler chickens raised under a commercial organic production system. A subsample of 360 birds were randomly selected and placed in 18 identical floor pens with 20 birds / pen for a 28 day feeding study.The experimental pens, which provided 966 cm2 per bird of floor space, were located within the barn and were fitted with individual feeders and waterers. Birds were randomly assigned to one of three dietary treatments with or without Maxi-Nutrio supplementation (one without, one step-down dose and one full dose). Results showed clear growth performance advantages with Maxi-Nutrio supplementation, with the most pronounced beneficial effects observed in the full dose treatment (1 kg/tonne).Feed technology built for the future“Even with the inherent stressors of an organic system, the results shown during the trial were very strong,” says Rob Patterson, CBS Inc. Technical Director. “With the rising popularity of organic and RWA approaches, and the overall shift in production approaches toward a preference for bio-based solutions, we see the adoption of this type of enhanced yeast feed technology continuing to expand. It’s an important part of our portfolio of CBS Inc. Feed Science Platforms.”
Global animal health and nutrition company Alltech has launched a new poultry feed additive it says aids in optimizing gut form and function.Called Viligen, the company says it contains a range of new, scientifically-backed ingredients to support gastrointestinal tissue growth and activity.It blends fatty acids, prebiotics and essential trace elements, which Alltech’s researchers say combine to promote beneficial bacteria in the gut and support natural defenses.“This product supports growth, intestinal integrity and the bird’s own natural immune defenses,” said Dr. Kayla Price, Canadian poultry technical manager at Alltech.“We believe that this product may help poultry producers in Canada knowing that better intestinal health leads to improved performance.”Viligen is a part of the Alltech Gut Health Management program as well as the Alltech Antibiotic-Free and Alltech Antibiotic Reduction programs.
There’s a new poultry ration ingredient available on the Canadian market. Insect meal from defatted black soldier fly larvae is high in protein and low in fat, making it a potentially attractive alternative to soy in poultry diets.
Currently, more than 90 per cent of broiler chicken feeds contain enzyme supplements, which have a direct positive effect on animal performance. However, new generation enzyme supplements have been developed for specific use in the feed industry.Yeast products are rich sources of mannan polysaccharides, ß1,3- and ß1,6-glucans and nucleotides, which can function as prebiotics and have been shown to stimulate the immune system and gastrointestinal tract development. This provides favorable conditions for beneficial intestinal bacteria and results in decreased attachment of pathogens such as Salmonella.Dr. Bogdan Slominski from the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Manitoba aimed to develop a product that would contain a combination of a multi-carbohydrase preparation fortified with a yeast cell wall lytic activity with the yeast-derived product(s) as an effective and inexpensive alternative to antibiotic growth promoters.The experimentsSlominski and his research team conducted a series of experiments to first optimize the depolymerisation of yeast cell wall polysaccharides using varying enzyme activities to explore the potential for the release of bioactive components from various yeast products.They demonstrated that the use of a specific yeast cell lytic enzyme could significantly depolymerize yeast cell wall polysaccharides so they become water-soluble and, thus, more bioactive. Additionally, yeast cell lysis resulted in the release of a variety of nutrients, including nucleotides, known to play a role in immune system development.In addition to investigating the effects of enzyme/yeast-based prebiotic supplements on growth performance of broiler chickens and turkeys under commercial field conditions, the researchers also produced different enzyme-pretreated yeast products as dietary enzyme/yeast-based prebiotic supplements. They performed feeding trials with Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens challenged poultry as well.The findingsThe enzyme/yeast-based prebiotic supplements the team developed significantly decreased the incidence of Salmonella shedding and reduced Salmonella cecal counts in broiler chickens and laying hens. In the laying hen, the enzyme/yeast-based prebiotic supplements also reduced Salmonella colonization/numbers in different internal organs.The Clostridium perfringens challenge study with broiler chickens demonstrated that enzyme/yeast-based prebiotic supplements were as effective as antibiotics in birds post challenge recovery. Other findings of the feeding trials show that enzyme/yeast-based prebiotic supplements fed to broiler chickens suggests a shift in microbial population of the lower gut towards beneficial microbes and a more diversified microbial community, resulting in less susceptibility to pathogenic invasion.In the broiler chicken study performed under field conditions, researchers observed improvements in body weight gain and feed conversion ratio for diets containing the enzyme/yeast-based prebiotic supplements. In addition, the team observed a significant effect of the enzyme/yeast-based prebiotic supplements on body weight gain and feed conversion ratio in turkeys. Dr. Slominski and his associates have clearly demonstrated the benefits of enzyme/yeast-based prebiotics supplements, which may serve as alternatives to antibiotic growth promoters.The next stepsThe researchers plan to develop yeast products with further enhanced biological activity. Additionally, they aim to investigate the configuration of yeast products required for the bioactive components to exert their activity in protecting the gut from pathogens.This research is funded by CPRC/AAFC under the Poultry Science Cluster Program. This is in addition to funding from Canola Council of Canada and Canadian Bio-Systems.CPRC, its board of directors and member organizations are committed to supporting and enhancing Canada’s poultry sector through research and related activities. For more details on these or any other CPRC activities, please contact The Canadian Poultry Research Council, 350 Sparks Street, Suite 1007, Ottawa, Ontario, K1R 7S8, phone: (613) 566-5916, fax: (613) 241-5999, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit us at membership consists of Chicken Farmers of Canada, Canadian Hatching Egg Producers, Turkey Farmers of Canada, Egg Farmers of Canada and the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors’ Council. 
June 5, 2017, Canada - Egg Farmers of Canada is holding a special call for research proposals, for submission as part of the Poultry Research Cluster. The Cluster, administered by the Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC), provides an opportunity for eligible projects to receive federal funding in addition to industry funding.Researchers are invited to complete and submit our full proposal funding application form during this special call for proposals. To be considered for funding, research projects must align with the outlined research priorities (see below) and the principal investigator must also work full-time in a Canadian institution or organization.Deadline for proposals is June 30, 2017. For further information and to apply, please email Elyse Germain, Program and Policy Analyst at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .Details: Full project proposals will be reviewed and funding decisions made by July 31, 2017 Projects that receive a positive funding decision will be included in the Poultry Research Cluster submission to Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada (AAFC) in the Fall of 2017 Projects approved by AAFC will begin no earlier than April 1, 2018 Eligible projects must fall under the research priorities listed below in order to be considered Research priorities Hen welfare: Hen behaviour and health in alternative housing systems, including housing system design, management and production practices, and pullet rearing End of flock management, including catching, loading and transport, and on-farm depopulation Hen health Disease Gut health Dietary ingredients Environment and sustainability Production practices and technologies that decrease environmental impact and increase sustainability NOTE: Research should focus on alternative housing systems to align with the industry-wide transition away from conventional housing systems.
May 12, 2017, London, Ont. - Researchers are delving deeper into the nesting motivations of birds and finding them as finicky about nesting as humans are about their comfort.They are also finding more research needs to be done.Michelle Hunniford, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Animal Biosciences at the University of Guelph, is researching the nesting behaviour of laying hens.She has found that new ways of evaluating nesting behaviour are needed.She told a session at the London Poultry Show that settling behavior, the process hens go through to find and get themselves comfortable to lay an egg, along with egg location should drive cage design evaluation. The speed that a hen gets to that comfort level is correlated to how much pecking it does to establish its space and how long it occupies nesting space.The University of Guelph re-searchers observed hens through their waking period — lights came on at 5 a.m. — and recorded their behaviour.They then created graphs that showed a “settled” laying hen moved through its settling phases in more defined periods compared to an “unsettled” layer hen.In most enhanced systems, the layers have a nesting area, with flooring and a scratch area.Hunniford and her colleagues looked at what nests would motivate hens to settle in the desired nesting areas.They found it was difficult to predict which hens would lay where and some hens preferred one system while others chose another.As a result, one of Hunniford’s recommendations include that providing two smaller nests is more important that providing one large, fully furnished nest. READ MORE
Truss plate corrosion can be an issue in barns - but it doesn’t have to be. The life span of truss plates, hangers, screws and nails in the truss system depends on the materials used, barn design and maintenance.
Bedding is being examined as an increasingly important factor in poultry health, and can affect a producer’s bottom line through how much labour is involved in spreading it and how well it cleans up.Jillian Jasper, self-proclaimed “head of the herd” at ABC (Animal Bedding Company) in Woodstock Ont., is a firm believer that producers should be taking a much closer look at their bedding choices. “We are told over and over by producers of poultry and every other livestock species that outside of a vet making bedding suggestions in times of health crises, [that they] are never approached to talk bedding,” she notes. “We believe that our products outperform straw, shavings, drywall, peat moss, sand and everything else on the market in terms of animal health and positive environmental inputs. When cull rates with our poultry clients consistently come back with zeroes for respiratory and zeroes for pad/leg health issues, it confirms our complete belief in what we offer.” ABC provides bedding for poultry, cattle, horses, sheep, pigs and exotic animals. It was founded in 2013. Ray Batchelor, a retired Chrysler engineer, got all of the equipment and manufacturing processes up and running. Jeffrey Moore, a chartered professional accountant, runs the overall organization. Jasper takes the lead with sales, marketing and education, using skills gained earlier in her career in animal health pharmaceuticals. She says that during her years of representing other products, she was always searching for her own proprietary product to bring to market. About 15 years ago while showing her horses in Ohio, she came across bedding that appeared to be made from chopped-up cereal boxes. It never left her mind. “After years of research into adhesives, dyes, components of cardboard, other materials, packaging, and so on, I developed a cardboard product that seems simple,” she says, “but it is brought to its greatest potential through addressing the growing consciousness in the ag sector of better animal husbandry and environmental stewardship.”  HOOF-PRINT is one of the company’s five products. It manufactured by chopping up virgin corrugated cardboard, extracting the dust and compressing the product into 35-pound bales. It is free of salmonella, toxins, labels, tapes or inks, with what Jasper calls “an overwhelming absorption capacity.” After use, it turns into black, composted material in six to nine weeks. TRACK-PRINT is a mineral bedding which is widely used in all species. It balances pH, absorbs moisture, is non-caustic, acts as a natural insecticide and reduces ammonia. It works similarly to diatomaceous earth, killing insects by scraping at their shells when they crawl through it but Jasper says it is better because it does not lose stability when exposed to moisture.  She says it is very effective for darkling beetle control in poultry barns. Bedding for each species required its own dedicated focus. “Eighty per cent of our market is poultry,” Jasper notes. “Initially, it was twenty per cent, but this changed rapidly as we educated and gained exposure in the poultry segment. Our products are very conducive to the biosecurity and general sensitivity of the poultry segment.” ABC distributes across Canada, and will currently ship to the U.S. if Canadian customers have operations there. “Holland is a big potential market for us,” Jasper adds. “We have both a dairy and poultry contingent in Holland…they are very innovative. They love our stuff. And all of those Holland connections come through our existing users.” TrialsBoth HOOF-PRINT and TRACK-PRINT are being trialed at many operations in southern Ontario.Hybrid Turkeys recently trialed HOOF-PRINT as part of its continuous overall company focus on innovation and improvement, especially in this case, the potentially improved environmental conditions due to the ‘dust free’ nature of this bedding. The trial lasted 15 weeks (from 5 weeks to 20 weeks of age) and the following were evaluated: curability, absorption, ammonia levels, dust levels and overall acceptability/comfort of the birds. Overall, Hybrid Turkeys is pleased with the results of the trial but feels further testing is required at different ages and at different stages of production (e.g. rearing phase and lay/production phase). The company also wishes to find out more about the biosecurity processes for the manufacturing of this type of bedding.University of Guelph doctoral candidate (pathobiology) Ryan Snyder is currently studying the effect of bedding and other factors on coccidiosis survival at several area farms. He will have results in years to come.Peter Greydanus who raises broiler breeders for Maple Leaf at Greyda Plains Poultry in Petrolia has used TRACK-PRINT since last October. “It’s controlling the flies and it’s a bit cheaper and less dusty than diatomaceous earth,” he says. “I like it. I think Jillian’s on the right track with it, it’s non-chemical. You have to re-apply after manure builds up and I’m curious to see how it works on darkling beetles.”Greydanus has used HOOF-PRINT bedding in one pullet cycle so far. “I used it combined with straw and it was a rough cycle for coccidiosis because it was too dry,” he says. “Whether it was the product or my management, you’d have to add moisture I think. There’s a lot less dust with it than straw or shavings. I think it would be the same cost as shavings and fewer bags to handle.” In October however, Greydanus was very happy with the performance of HOOF-PRINT in a breeder barn cycle. He plans to definitely use it in the breeder barn going forward instead of straw, at least for winter flocks because it dries “very nicely.”
The swell of demand from North America’s largest food companies for cage-free eggs is a stunning example of why public trust in our country’s food system matters. The huge number of cage-free commitments from food makers, retailers and restaurants in Canada and the U.S. stems from how these companies perceive overall consumer opinions on hen housing – the fact that consumers do not trust that farmers know best with regard to housing systems that provides the best life for hens. While these North American food companies (see sidebar) are no doubt being influenced by cage-free commitments already made by their subsidiaries or peers in Australia, the UK and the EU, their promises to only source cage-free eggs in these other parts of the world are again based on consumer perception, largely influenced by animal activist groups.   The united cage-free front of North American food makers, restaurants and retailers suggests that cage-free housing is inevitable in both Canada and the U.S. There are simply no major egg buyers who want anything else. “This is a done issue in the U.S.,” says Josh Balk, senior director for food policy at the Humane Society of the United States. “I can’t see the Canadian scenario being any different.”   However, whether egg farmers in either country will be able to meet the deadlines  is far from certain.   Eggs Farmers of Canada (EFC) has currently committed to reaching 50 per cent cage-free production within eight years (2024), 85 per cent within 15 years and to have all hens “in enriched housing, free-run, aviary or free-range by 2036, assuming the current market conditions prevail.” This does not line up with North American food industry timelines of sourcing only cage-free eggs by 2025 or sooner. For example, Retail Council of Canada members such as Loblaw and Wal-Mart have committed to 2025, and David Wilkes, Retail Council senior vice-president of government relations and grocery division, says they “will continue to work with producers and processors to transition to this housing environment.” Burnbrae, sole egg supplier of McDonald’s Canada, is switching all its production for that customer to cage-free to meet the restaurant chain’s 2025 deadline. In the U.S., Rose Acre Farms and Rembrandt Farms, the country’s second and third largest egg producers, are already converting to cage-free barns. A&W Canada currently stands alone among North American food industry companies in its support of enriched housing. The fast food company says it “has worked very hard to have our eggs come from hens that live in enriched cages,” and that it “will continue to serve eggs from enriched housing while we work towards better cage-free housing.” The chain recognizes that Canadians want their eggs to come from hens housed outside of cages, but adds that “there are currently no viable commercial cage-free housing options that meet our strict standards.” To that end, in March 2016 A&W announced it wants to work with Canadian charity Farm & Food Care to bring egg industry partners, retail and food service from across Canada together with the U.S. Center for Food Integrity’s Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply to discuss all issues impacting sustainable eggs (including food safety, environment, hen health, worker health and safety and food affordability), and determine areas that the Canadian egg sector feels funding would be best spent. A&W has offered a grant of $100,000 to further this research. For it’s part, EFC recognizes research that shows each production system comes with trade-offs. We asked EFC about the fact that for any Canadian egg farm to convert to enriched cages and keep the same production level, new barn(s) will likely have to be constructed because the same number of birds cannot be housed in enriched cages in a given barn as were housed in battery cages. Does EFC see this as a particular challenge for Canadian egg farmers in terms of costs and the land required? “There are many factors a farmer needs to consider when evaluating the realities of transitioning an operation,” EFC states. “What’s important to keep in mind is that every farm is different (e.g. size, location, etc.) and until farmers start working through the implications of their transition—carefully considering his/her requirements—any estimation of cost is speculative.” While EFC is currently looking into the financial implications of various alternative housing systems, we asked also if cage-free barns are less expensive than enriched cages, taking into account the possible requirement for new barn(s). “The decision to retool an existing barn or build a new barn is an important component of each farm’s individual transition plan,” EFC states. “Shifting to a new production system with different space requirements can impact the overall size of the flock. Typically, alternative housing systems have a larger building footprint and do not contain as many birds and conventional housing systems.” Cost is a concern for the United Egg Producers, which represents those producing almost 90 per cent of American eggs, and for the National Association of Egg Farmers (NAEF), which represents about one per cent of U.S. production. NAEF is against mandated cage-free production for other reasons as well, including increased egg prices, increased mortality due to cannibalism and other factors, increased pecking injuries, higher risk of contamination due to prolonged exposure of eggs to litter and manure in nest boxes or on the barn floor, high dust levels and ergonomic challenges in egg collection.   Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) released the draft version of the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Layers for public comment in June. The draft does not promote any type of housing over any other, but does include new recommendations for roomier cages. In the end however, any attempt to convince the North American foodservice industry of the merits of any other type of housing except free-run/cage-free may be a lost cause. Marion Gross, senior supply chain management vice president at McDonald’s USA, may have summed it up best in her statement in January 2016 in the Chicago Tribune: “Enriched [housing] doesn’t mean anything to our customers, but they know what cage-free means.”
North Carolina State University (NCSU) is the only remaining venue in North America at which comparative testing of egg laying stocks takes place. At one time in the mid 1960s, there were more than twenty locations in the U.S. and Canada where Random Sample Laying Tests were conducted. Instead of abandoning testing altogether, NCSU chose to superimpose a variety of management systems, cage sizes and configurations on top of the strain comparisons. In the 39th test, stocks were exposed to the following: conventional cages, enrichable cages, enriched colony housing, cage-free and range. A total of 20 strains from six different breeding companies were included. Of the 20 strains, 14 have wide commercial distribution in the southeast U.S., while the other six are either experimental or have limited or no distribution. With respect to Canadian distribution, most of the stocks available here are included in the test. Day-old chicks were supplied either by breeders or commercial distributor hatcheries.   Conventional cage resultsTwo cage densities were used: 69 sq. in. (445 cm2) and 120 sq. in. (774 cm2). The higher density (445 cm2) approximates to commercial practice, although space allowances are progressively increasing. Summaries of the data were prepared from 119 to 483 days of age. The flocks were then moulted and data was again summarized at 763 days of age. Only the first cycle (to 483 days) data are reviewed here. Comparing the cage densities showed that in white-egg hens housed at 774 cm2/hen, feed intake was higher by 10 g/bird/day, eggs per hen housed was higher by 7 eggs/hen and mortality lower by 0.86%. Comparing the strains is complex. Table 1 shows some key data for all 12 white-egg strains tested. Feed intake varied from 96 to 110 g/hen/d. This is, of course reflected in the feed cost data. The strain with the lowest feed intake (Hy-Line CV26) also had comparatively low egg production and egg weight, and thus low value of eggs minus feed. However, the strain with the next lowest feed intake (Shaver White) had much higher egg production, modestly higher egg weight, and very favourable value of eggs minus feed. With two exceptions, the numbers of eggs per hen housed were quite uniform. Statistical analysis showed that most of the strain differences were not significant. Those with production >317 eggs/hen housed were significantly different from those with production <300. Mortality data are not shown, but mortality was low, averaging 3.9%, and no significant strain differences were observed. Egg weight was also quite uniform. The average of 60.1 g/egg leads to size categories of approximately 63% extra large, 22% large and 8% medium. For each 1.0 g increase in average egg weight, approximately 5% of the large size move to extra large. In the test situation, extra large eggs were priced approximately three cents per dozen more than large. In most Canadian situations, this premium does not exist. However, when egg weight falls 1.0 g below average, the number of medium size eggs increases two to three per cent, which causes a significant financial penalty. Turning to the nine brown-egg strains, the first thing to note is the difference in performance between the two cage densities. Brown-egg hens given more space (774 cm2 versus 445 cm2) consumed 11 g more feed/d, and laid 16 more eggs/hen housed. Mortality was 2.5% less in the larger space, although this difference was not statistically significant. The data, when combined, showed an extra $1.00 in egg value minus feed cost for the higher space allowance. For the white-egg strains, the difference was only $0.28. The brown-egg strains feed consumption varied from 103 to 110 g/hen/d, and hen-housed production from 304 to 314 eggs. Few of these differences were statistically significant. With one exception, the values for egg income minus feed cost were also quite uniform. One is impressed by the relatively small differences between the white and brown-egg strains in these comparisons. Feed intake was actually lower among the brown-egg strains; egg numbers and egg weight were only marginally lower. Traditionally, one would expect higher feed intake and egg size for the brown strains. Alternative housingEnrichable cages (EC) are 66 cm x 61 cm with 9 birds/cage (447cm2/hen).  The cages are belt cleaned. Enriched colony housing (ECS) is the same style of cage but 244 cm wide and includes a nesting area and a scratching area of 1.85 m2  each, plus two perches each 123 cm long.  Two bird densities were compared in this system: 36 hens/cage (447 cm2 each) and 18 hens/cage (897 cm2 each). Cage-free housing consists of a combination of slat floor and litter, with nest boxes and perches.  Each pen is 7.4 m2 and holds 60 hens in the adult phase (8.1 birds/m2).  Birds in this system were grown in the same pens used for the laying phase. The range system, used for only three strains, consists of pens 3.7 m x 2.0 m holding 60 hens.  They have access to 334 m2 of grass pasture.  The pasture is divided in two and rotated every four weeks. Not all strains were exposed to all of these environments. For example, only two brown-egg strains and one white-egg strain were tested on range.  All except two strains experienced the enrichable cages and the enriched colony system. This makes it hard to compare both the strains and the environmental systems, but we can draw a few conditional conclusions. All birds were moulted during the test, which lasted until 623 days of age. Comparing environmental systemsTen white egg strains were exposed to both EC and ECS systems.  The most striking difference between these was with respect to laying house mortality. When hens were housed at 69 sq. in./hen,  the ECS system showed 23% laying house mortality compared with 16% for the hens in smaller cages, but the same space allowance.  While both values are extremely high for contemporary laying flocks, the larger colonies were clearly at a disadvantage.  Mortality for the same strains in conventional cages in a different building was 4.3%. Brown-egg strains compared in the same conditions showed overall lower mortality and no differences between ECS and EC. Among the white-egg strains, only Hy-Line W36 had relatively low mortality (6.0% and 7.4% in the EC and ECS systems respectively.) Comparing the white egg strains in the ECS system at two different densities (447 cm2 versus 897 cm2) showed a definite benefit to the lower density.  Mortality was only 9.9% versus 23%. Brown egg strains also benefited from the more generous space allowance, although to a lesser extent: 7.1% mortality versus 10.9%. Seven white egg strains housed in the cage-free system showed mortality of 14.3%; eight brown egg strains had 15.6%. On free range, the one white egg strain tested had 13.3% mortality, while two brown egg strains averaged 3.75%. While there were some strain differences in mortality within management systems, the general conclusion must be that large colonies and higher densities are associated with higher mortality.  This is not a new discovery but one that is not encouraging for those producers planning on meeting the demand for cage-free or even furnished cage management systems. Feed intake and egg production were also affected by management system, as shown in Table 4. In general, birds in larger colonies tended to consume more feed. This may be because of perceived increased competition in the larger colonies.  Feed consumption was also higher in the cage-free and free range systems.  As to egg production data, there were no real trends and the figures for the brown strains kept at 447 cm2 do not appear to be consistent with the other data. Because of the fact that not all strains were tested in all environments, it is not possible to make realistic comparisons between them. Presented in Table 5 are the highest ranked “Egg value minus feed cost” data for each of the environmental systems. Most notable among these data are the low values for the free-range flocks.  These reflect relatively low egg production and high feed cost. As in conventional cages, the greater space allowance in the enriched cages resulted in higher values for egg income minus feed cost. Whether this would offset the higher cost associated with the extra space is doubtful. All told, these data from the North Carolina Laying Test are of interest but this is limited by the very high mortality experienced in all but the conventional cage systems.  Causes of mortality are not reported.  As noted above, higher mortality is frequently associated with large colonies and with non-cage systems.  This runs counter to the popular belief among consumers that bird welfare is improved in such systems.  Until the systems can be improved, or consumers become more accepting of small colonies or conventional cages (unlikely in this writer’s opinion) industry will be faced with higher costs while producing eggs to meet the demand for cage-free eggs. For those interested in the complete data from the test, they are available online at  
Elizabeth Bobeck and colleagues at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, recently completed a research project in which they examined the feasibility of using a novel laser device in a broiler house to stimulate enhanced bird activity.
Canadian agri-tech developer Transport Genie Ltd. has teamed up with the Canadian Animal Health Coalition (CAHC) in a national research collaboration supported by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) AgriAssurance Program that will assure the health and welfare of livestock during transport.
As Canadian egg farmers transition their flocks from conventional cages to more spacious “furnished” cages, University of Guelph researchers have conducted a first-ever study on factors contributing to feather pecking in this new housing system and ways to prevent it.The study revealed that 22 per cent of the birds in the new cages exhibited moderate or severe feather damage that was likely due to feather pecking.Published in the journal Animals, the study found that several factors contributed to feather pecking, including genetics, lack of access to a scratching or foraging area and midnight feedings.“This study is the first in Canada – and possibly North America – to look at this issue in furnished cages, and we hope it will inform farmers about the factors involved so that they can understand the problem and develop action plans to prevent it,” said Prof. Alexandra Harlander with the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare, who co-authored the study with post-doctoral researcher Nienke van Staaveren.Feather pecking is destructive nipping at another hen’s feathers and occurs in all forms of housing, from conventional cages, to free-run facilities, to free-range farms. It is one of the significant challenges facing egg farmers, said Harlander.“No farmer wants to see this. It’s heartbreaking for them to see their flocks with damage to their feather cover.”It’s not clear what causes feather pecking; the best theory is that it is a form of redirected foraging behaviour, said van Staaveren.“But even in housing systems where there is a lot of substrate to peck at, it can still occur. So it’s tricky to control and something we are still trying to understand,” she said.Pecking leads to a loss of feather cover, which makes it difficult for birds to maintain their temperature and navigate their environment. What’s more, once a bird has been singled out for pecking, it becomes a target for further pecking.One of the goals of the study was to provide feather-pecking management guidance to farmers who are transitioning to alternative housing systems to meet the Egg Farmers of Canada’s call for alternative hen housing systems by 2036.For this study, the research team sent questionnaires to egg farmers across Canada who housed their chickens in furnished cages. They asked the farmers to score the feather cover of 50 of their birds on a three-point scale, to estimate the prevalence of feather damage.Of the 26 flocks, approximately 1 in 5 birds in the furnished cages exhibited moderate or severe feather damage. The factors that had the most influence on feather damage were older flock age, brown-feathered birds, midnight feedings and lack of a scratch substrate.Van Staaveren said brown birds are likely more susceptible to pecking because the stronger contrast in colour when they are pecked and drop feathers attracts further pecking.Another key factor was midnight feedings. Farmers may turn on lights at night to wake the hens and encourage feeding so they take in more calcium to increase eggshell quality and laying productivity. The study found midnight feeding was linked to more pecking, likely because awake chickens find easy pecking targets in inactive holding a laying henProf. Alexandra HarlanderVan Staaveren said it appears the practice ends up being costly since feather pecking not only raises the mortality risk of the hens but also causes the birds to eat more to stay warm.“Although there weren’t many farmers who did midnight feedings in our study, I don’t think it’s worth the risk of disturbing your birds if it’s going to lead to these issues,” she said.What struck van Staaveren most about her team’s findings was the wide range of feather damage: some flocks had absolutely no hens with feather damage; others had lots. Most egg farmers were perplexed as to why. This emphasizes the need for farmers to regularly monitor their hens’ feather cover, said van Staaveren.“What I would really like farmers to take from this research is the need to track feather damage regularly, so they can understand what is happening with their flocks and try different methods to try to reduce damage.”
Canadian companies plan to serve up chicken, beef burgers and mouse-meat cat treats in the coming years, all without the need to slaughter a single animal.Entrepreneurs see an opportunity where there's been a dearth of lab-grown meat startups that proliferated in the U.S.Cellular agriculture takes cells from animals and grows them to create milk, eggs, meat or other products. Proponents argue the method is kinder to animals and the environment.''There was an opportunity here in Canada, just because the field is still so undefined, to really create a presence here and to try to drive it forward,'' said Lejjy Gafour, co-founder of Edmonton-based Future Fields.Gafour started the company in 2017 with his friend of more than a dozen years, Matt Anderson-Baron, who holds a PhD in cell biology.They're working on creating two products: a serum that feeds the cells to help them grow, and chicken meat.Gafour estimates – conservatively – that the chicken is five to seven years away from being ready for public consumption, while the serum will be finished sooner.Future Fields wants to stock Canadian grocery shelves first, unlike many companies that eye the U.S. market for their debut. Gafour adds the caveat that the plan depends on how regulations unfold in both countries, as well as the company's relationships with American partners and other companies.Appleton Meats in Vancouver wants to create a beef burger without cows.Sid Deen started the company at the end of 2017 and it's conducting a lot of primary research that will lead to product development.''We are looking at the cell types, the ability to grow them, to expand them and to get viable meat out of it,'' said Deen, who serves as CEO.Appleton is testing different prototypes and anticipates its product will be selling within three to five years – though, depending on how the research pans out, it could be something other than a burger.He would like to see the product sold domestically, but isn't opposed to stocking U.S. stores.''I think it would be nice to have a Canadian company do this in Canada and provide it to a domestic market,'' he said.Companies aren't just focusing feeding humans.Two Torontonians started Because Animals, which is working to develop pet food using cellular agriculture, in 2016. Though it's based in Delaware, the company conducts a lot of its research in Canada, CEO Shannon Falconer said.Because Animals recently announced its first prototype for a cat treat made of field mouse meat produced using cellular agriculture.''Now we have to work on scale,'' said Falconer, as well as going through regulatory challenges in order to start selling the product, which makes it difficult to predict when it will appear on store shelves.Because Animals will debut a cultured protein dog treat, that uses nutritional yeast rather than animal cells, this May and a cultured protein dog kibble in the fourth quarter.Those products will likely launch in the U.S. first, Falconer said. That and the company's decision to headquarter in the U.S. is partly due to the country being the largest pet food market, she said, though the company is working toward selling its pet food in Canada too.It can be more difficult to find investors as a Canadian company, said Gafour, as venture capitalist money tends to be concentrated in America. There also seem to be more investors with a lot of experience in the bio-technology industry in the U.S., he said.Deen thinks people tend to underestimate the value of Canadian entrepreneurship and many companies turn to the U.S. because they believe there's more infrastructure there.Both Future Fields and Appleton are privately funded, with Future Fields looking for institutional and partner investors, and Appleton planning to start a funding round in a year or so.While Canada may not be as flashy as its southern neighbour, said Deen, the country does provide a lot of support.And, at least for Gafour, the lack of population density and other companies doing similar work in the country isn't necessarily a bad thing.''Absence of things is both an opportunity and a risk,'' he said, adding it may be easier to acclimatize a smaller population to the notion of eating lab-grown meat.''We definitely have the talent here to be able to create an industry such as this and to also own it.''
Currently, European Commission (EC) directives on the protection of chickens kept for meat and egg production allow beak trimming. However, some countries, like Austria, The Netherlands, Germany and most of Scandinavia, have banned the controversial practice outright. Others, like the United Kingdom, are working towards a ban, but not without debate. Across the continent, opinions and perspectives vary.
The PeckStone has been sold in many countries around the world since 2013.
During the course of the past six decades, the poultry industry has achieved a remarkable increase in production efficiency, largely driven through intensive breeding programs. However, this is in part at the expense of a decrease in reproductive performance and altered immune function. Consequently, a major challenge for the poultry industry is in controlling disease outbreaks caused by infectious agents.  
As it did for most livestock species, substantial genetic improvement in turkeys started in the 21st century. In the 1960s, hybridization of turkey varieties began, followed by the development of pedigree programs for large white turkeys in the 1970s.
Five genes that affect sociality-related behaviour in chickens have been identified by researchers at Linköping University in Sweden.Several of the genes have been previously linked to nervous system function or behaviour. The new study, which is published in Genetics, is the first that assigns these genes a role in sociality.Sociality and social behaviour covers a wide range of behaviours. Dogs seeking human contact and honeybees using complex waggle dances to exchange information on where to find good food sources are two examples from the animal world. But what actually governs social behaviour?“By identifying the genes responsible for the variation in such sociality we can understand how sociality is formed and how social behaviour is controlled at a genetic level. Why some people or animals are more gregarious by nature and others more independent is just one such example,” says Dominic Wright, senior lecturer at the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (IFM), who has led the study.To assess this, the researchers used a cross between wild and domestic chickens. The AVIAN research group at Linköping University is one of the few groups in the world with a breeding population of Red Junglefowl, the wild ancestor of the domestic fowl.For 8,000 years, humans have selected the individuals that have desirable traits and bred them, a process known as domestication. As a result, today’s domestic fowl and the original wild fowl differ strongly in their social behaviour. For example, Red Junglefowl typically take longer to approach other birds, but spend more time with them when they do.By crossing the domestic and the wild fowl for several generations, the researchers obtained chickens that exhibited a large range of social behaviour.The researchers measured sociality by placing chickens in a novel environment (a large box) and observing how likely they were to seek contact with other chickens. A more social chicken approaches the others more rapidly and spends less time exploring the new surroundings. The same behaviour is also displayed by more anxious chickens.The investigators also measured gene expression in one of several regions in the brain involved in the regulation of social behaviour, the hypothalamus. By correlating behaviour, gene expression and genetic variants, the researchers identified five genes that seem to control aspects of this behaviour.“Although these genes had been implicated with behaviour or nervous system function previously, this is the first time they have been shown to control sociality also. We also found that several of the genes affect both sociality and anxiety in the chickens,” says Dominic Wright.The research was supported by grants from the Carl Trygger Stiftelse, the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS) and the European Research Council.
The red junglefowl was first domesticated about 7,000 years ago. This small, colourful bird is the wild ancestor of our domestic chickens. While they are both omnivores, both dust bathe and both have males that like to cock-a-doodle-doo, when it comes to meat and egg production our modern commercial bird bears little resemblance.
June 15, 2017, Austin TX - Global Animal Partnership (GAP), creator of North America’s most comprehensive farm animal welfare standards, has provided a grant-in-aid of research to the University of Guelph, Ontario for a two-year research project that will determine and evaluate the parameters necessary for assessing the animal welfare needs of different genetic strains of chicken breeds.In 2016, GAP announced its intention to replace 100 percent of chicken breeds that result in poor welfare outcomes by 2024 with breeds meeting specified welfare outcomes within its 5-Step®Rating Program. The Guelph research project will help determine which genetic strains are best suited for commercial production under the new standards GAP is creating. GAP will provide public updates throughout the duration of the project.University of Guelph researchers Dr. Tina Widowski and Dr. Stephanie Torrey are leading the project. They will begin by running pilot studies over the summer, and the formal research study is due to begin this fall (Fall 2017), and will take approximately two years to complete (Fall 2019). All results will be published upon completion of the study.“The research team is excited about the scale and scope of this research grant,” said Dr. Widowski. “GAP’s commitment to developing a scientific and robust methodology for assessing chicken breeds will allow us to explore in a comprehensive way, a large number of factors important to both the bird and producers.”Dr. Widowski, a researcher and faculty member in the Department of Animal Biosciences, is the University Chair in Animal Welfare and director of the internationally recognized Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare (CCSAW), which has a reputation of hosting the largest animal welfare graduate program in North America. She is also the research chair of Poultry Welfare for the Egg Farmers of Canada.Dr. Torrey is a senior research scientist in Applied Animal Behavior and Welfare, with an expertise in applied animal welfare. Her team of graduate and undergraduate students focuses on fundamental and applied research with broiler and broiler breeder chickens and turkeys.Currently, fast-growing chicken breeds resulting in poor welfare outcomes represent 98 percent of all commercially available chicken meat in North America. Modern chickens have been genetically selected for their fast, efficient growth and higher yield of breast meat. However, this has had detrimental impacts on the welfare of broiler chickens, including immune and musculoskeletal problems, resulting in limitations to the birds’ ability to express natural behaviors like perching, flying, and even walking.This study will help create a way to objectively evaluate different genetic strains using a comprehensive list of parameters related to behavior, growth, health and production with the end goal of improving chicken welfare and specifically address the many issues resulting from fast-growing breeds.More than 600 chicken farms currently use the GAP standard, affecting the lives of 277 million chickens annually and making it the most significant higher welfare farm animal standard in the country. Retailers, foodservice companies and restaurants have committed to adopting GAP’s new chicken standard and moving away from breeds of chickens that result in poor welfare outcomes by 2024, including Whole Foods Market, Compass Group, Quiznos, and Boston Market.The Global Animal Partnership is a global leader in farm animal welfare that has established a comprehensive step-by-step program for raising animals that requires audits of every single farm. GAP makes it easy for consumers to find meat products that reflect their values. A nonprofit founded in 2008, GAP brings together farmers, scientists, ranchers, retailers, and animal advocates with the common goal of improving the welfare of animals in agriculture. So far, the 5-Step program includes more than 3,200 farms and ranches that range from Step 1 to Step 5+ and now raise more than 290 million animals annually.
April 4, 2017, Edmonton, Alta – The popular University of Alberta (U of A) Heritage Chicken program is here once again, offering small flock enthusiasts the chance to order heritage chicks until April 19. “Heritage chicks are vaccinated and hatched at the U of A’s Poultry Research Centre,” says Jesse Hunter, program coordinator. “This year, we’re offering Plymouth barred rock, brown leghorn, random bred broiler 1978, light Sussex and Rhode Island red chicks. We hatch a certain number of each breed every year, so check the website to order your favorite breed before they're gone.” Heritage chicks must be pre-ordered on the Heritage Chicken website, and will be available for pick-up at local Peavey Marts across Alberta. Up to 20 day-old chicks cost $8 each, 21-100 are $6, and 101-500 are $4. As part of the program, two small flock workshops are being held, April 12 in Spruce Grove and April 13 in Red Deer, and run from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Food and refreshments will be provided. “The workshops are an opportunity to learn about biosecurity, housing, nutrition, disease identification, behaviour, anatomy, and more,” says Hunter. “To register for one of the workshops, go to Eventbrite.” Register for Spruce Grove Register for Red Deer The Heritage Chicken program was established in 2013 to conserve multiple heritage chicken breeds housed at the University of Alberta Poultry Research Centre. The program gives people the opportunity to adopt a chicken and receive a dozen farm fresh heritage eggs every two weeks. All proceeds from the sales are donated back to the Poultry Research Centre to maintain the heritage chickens.
Canadian farmers are cultivating some sustainable farming techniques that the United Nations' latest climate change report identified as particularly useful for an industry it concluded must make drastic changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report last week warning that global food supplies are at risk from climate change and land degradation.One major conclusion was that the agricultural sector needs to rethink traditional practices, including producing less meat and more plants – which require less room to grow and produce fewer emissions – otherwise Canada will not be spared from the global impacts of food shortages and price shocks if temperatures continue to rise.Along with setting out the potentially dire consequences of inaction, the report also outlined some of the techniques that could both reduce emissions and reverse the trend.One of the most decisively helpful options was to increase the organic content in soil, by using the land to capture carbon – a practice an increasing number of Canadian farmers employ using a variety of techniques.Crop farmers have been working to capture carbon, which helps not just on the climate front but also for the sustainability and resilience of the soil, said David Burton, a professor in Dalhousie University's department of plant, food and environmental sciences.''It's a rare example of one of the mitigation options that has really, really big positive advantages beyond greenhouse gas mitigation.''Decades of intensity farming have started to push down the organic matter in soil that helps keep it healthy and fertile and prevents erosion, he noted.''We're realizing we can't just push this thing to the max all the time, we're going to have to start thinking about the condition of the soil.''A key technique for farmers is to no longer till the soil, so the organic matter isn't disturbed and can properly break down.''That's how soil organic matter forms, by leaving it alone,'' said Burton.No-tillage seeding has grown significantly in the past two decades, from use in less than seven per cent of cropland in 1991 to 56 per cent in 2011.Manitoba farmer Wes Pankratz started using no-till many years ago and hasn't looked back, though he said at the time there was a lot of skepticism about it.He's now trying to adopt some regenerative techniques that capture more carbon in the soil, such as growing a non-cash crop simply to add organic matter to the soil.Farmers using the technique often plant the non-cash crop after the fall harvest, but Pankratz said that a shorter growing season has led him to plant his in the spring, in amongst his wheat crop, hoping it will continue to grow after the harvest.''If you can build up the soil organic matter, your soil will be healthier, you can maybe grow a reasonable crop with a lot less inputs, which is good for the bank account as well as the environment.''Pankratz said it's still early days for him, but hopes he can make it work.''When zero-till first came in, it just almost seemed impossible, and now we're getting into regenerative agriculture and hopefully we'll get that figured out too.''The UN report and others have targeted cattle production for its methane emissions, but Canadian farmers are finding ways to use regenerative practices to help the grazing grounds capture more carbon to help offset greenhouse gas emissions from that sector.Blain Hjertaas, a livestock farmer in southeastern Saskatchewan, was an early adopter after he decided conventional farming techniques weren't sustainable.''Agriculture is basically destroying our planet the way we're approaching the system,'' he said.Hjertaas uses a practice that involves letting the cattle forage in a controlled area, then moving the herd to another area every day. It allows the cattle to spread fertilizer and stimulate growth in the prairie grasses, which are then left to re-grow for two to three months until they approach waist height.''The principle is: keep it green as long as possible, so we always want tall grass,'' said Hjertaas.The scientific community is still debating the benefits of regenerative cattle farming. But Hjertaas said his techniques have him capturing more carbon than the animals produce.''It's not the cattle, it's our management that's the problem. To concentrate them all into a huge feedlot, that's an ecological disaster.''Hjertaas said farmers tend to be traditional and slow to change, but financial incentives could go a long way to making the switch and overcome cost and uptake challenges.''I'm all for a carbon tax, we need to tax bad behaviour. But what's missing is we need to reward the good behaviour.''
In light of climate change, it’s increasingly important for the poultry industry to consider both short and long-term strategies to reduce and manage heat stress.
The definition of sustainability seems to vary from industry to industry. One thing each sector shares, however, is that their interpretations have evolved from a focus on environmental impacts to a broader concept that requires a multi-layered strategy. Poultry is no different.
What will keep the Canadian egg industry healthy and sustainable into the future? Egg Farmers of Canada’s four research chairs – an ecological economist, an animal welfare scientist, a behavioural economist and a public policy researcher – recently combined efforts to start to answer exactly that question.
Food production is an important contributor to climate change, accounting for about a quarter of carbon emissions globally.
What came first, the chicken or the lettuce?Iowa State University researchers are conducting experiments to determine what advantages may arise from integrating chickens into vegetable production systems. The researchers must balance a range of concerns, including environmental sustainability, costs and food and animal safety. But Ajay Nair, an associate professor of horticulture and a vegetable production specialist for ISU Extension and Outreach, said finding ways to integrate vegetable and animal production may lead to greater efficiency and healthier soils.The experiments, currently in their second year, take place at the ISU Horticulture Research Station just north of Ames. The researchers are testing what happens when a flock of broiler chickens lives on a vegetable field for part of the year. The chickens forage on the plant matter left behind after the vegetables are harvested and fertilize the soil with manure. This integrated approach could reduce off-farm inputs and also provide producers with sustainable crop rotation options.The researchers are testing three different systems on a half acre of land at the research farm. The first system involves a vegetable crop – one of several varieties of lettuce or broccoli – early in the growing season, followed by the chickens, which are then followed by a cover crop later in the year. The second system involves the vegetable crop, followed by two months of a cover crop, with the chickens foraging on the land later in the year. The third system is vegetables followed by cover crops, with no chickens.The experiment involves roughly 40 chickens, which live in four mobile coops that the researchers move every day. Moving the coops around ensures the chickens have access to fresh forage and keeps their manure from concentrating any particular part of the field. An electric fence surrounds the field to keep out predators.Moriah Bilenky, a graduate assistant in horticulture, checks on the chickens every morning to make sure they have food and water. She also weighs them periodically to collect data on how efficiently they convert food into body mass. The researchers designed the trial to uphold animal health, and Bilenky said she keeps a detailed log on how foraging in the fields impacts the birds’ health and performance.Nair said the researchers are looking at several facets associated with sustainability. Nitrogen and phosphorous deposited in the soil from the chicken manure could alleviate some of the need for fertilizer application, while working cover crops into the system can prevent the loss of nutrients into waterways. Economics must also factor into the research, he said.“We might come up with results that really help the soil, but if the system is not economically stable, I doubt growers will be willing to adopt it because it has to work for their bottom line as well,” he said.The trials also adhere to food safety regulations. For instance, all vegetables are harvested before the chickens are introduced to the fields, ensuring none of the produce is contaminated. The researchers consulted food safety and animal science experts at Iowa State while designing their experiments, and the work undergoes regular IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) inspection and documentation, he said.The trials remain ongoing, so the researchers aren’t drawing any conclusions yet about the success of their integrated system. The project is currently supported through a SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant. Nair said he’s seeking additional funding to investigate the animal health and integrated pest management aspects of this research.So why did the chicken cross the road? It’s too early to tell, but maybe so it could get into the lettuce and pepper fields.
In a recent column, I shared one agvocate’s call to arms. As a refresher, dairy farmer Andrew Campbell has been speaking at poultry events from coast to coast urging producers in supply managed sectors to raise awareness about the value of the system.
Eating chicken puts consumers at a higher risk of a rare form of blood cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, as well as prostate cancer in men, according to researchers from Oxford University.The research involved tracking 475,000 middle-aged Britons over a period of eight years between 2006 and 2014.Their diets were analysed alongside the diseases and illnesses they suffered with.Around 23,000 of them developed cancer.For the full story, click here.
Chicken purchasers cite more positive attributes than purchasers of beef, pork, fish and plant-based meat proteins, according to new research presented today at the 2019 Chicken Marketing Summit.The National Chicken Council (NCC) and WATT Global Media presented the results of a study that explored the drivers for grocery purchases of chicken compared to other meat and plant-based proteins. IRI provided supporting data from its retail databases. The study was commissioned by the NCC and conducted online by IRI July 1-10, 2019, among 780 adults. Funding was provided by Elanco, WATT Global Media, NCC and Meyn. Chicken checks more boxesBuyers were asked about attributes in eight categories: taste, health, versatility, family appeal, value for price, natural/organic/absence of negative (hormones, antibiotics), sustainable and convenient.Chicken buyers choose it for 7 of 8 of these attributes.All meat buyers are driven by taste, yet taste is a less important driver for the plant-based consumers. Fish is purchased for health and convenience reasons.Consumers of chicken, beef, pork and fish reported that their trust in the overall safety, quality and nutrition of these meats has not changed. While 15% of chicken consumers say their trust in chicken has increased, 55% of plant-based meat consumers say their trust in that protein has increased.Top trends driving and disrupting meatChris DuBois, senior vice president and principal, IRI, and Joyce Neth, vice president, director of audience development and research, WATT Global Media, presented data supporting these four trends: Convenience and simplification Sustainability Protein growth Ecommerce and new technologies Convenience: Chicken is an all-around winner on the majority of preparation-related attributes. All protein types are perceived as easy-to-prepare. More traditional meats (chicken, beef, pork) show advantage in family appeal and tradition (grew up eating it), while the plant-based protein advantages lie in safety, preparation ease and the cleanliness aspect of preparation.Sustainability: Plant-based consumers show the strongest drive from sustainability. “Recent NCC research shows that half (49%) of survey participants indicated a willingness to eat more chicken if they learned it is more sustainable than other meats or meat substitutes,” according to Tom Super, NCC senior vice president of communications, “which shows that most people aren’t familiar with chicken’s sustainability story.”Protein growth: Across the store, products with protein claims have grown 9%, with frozen meals leading the way.New technologies: Smart speakers, retail robots and endless aisles through ecommerce are changing the customer experience. Retail-as-a-service will change the supply chain for retailers.Future consumption intentLess than 2% of chicken consumers intend to consume less chicken in the next 6 months. While the future consumption intent is steady for the traditional meat proteins, both fish- and plant-based meat shows more positive consumption intent, with 23% of fish and 44% of plant-based consumers planning to consume more of those proteins in the next six months.Chicken Marketing Summit attendees were encouraged to “deliver on higher emotional attributes” to increase chicken consumption among those already buying chicken. Neth explained that the research found that humanely-raised, sustainable and satisfying had a higher correlation to increased consumption than more practical attributes of better value, taste and easy to store.Plant-based meat awareness and purchase intentWhen it comes to plant-based meat, DuBois said, “It’s meat and these products, not or,” showing data that grocery trips where meat substitutes are purchased are four times more likely to include meat.Only about 16% of total protein buyers buy plant-based meat/meat blend alternatives, yet the majority (67%) of those who haven’t purchased these types of protein alternatives are aware of such products.Of total meat buyers, 44% are open to giving plant-based meat/meat blends a chance, and 14% of total meat buyers will purchase it in the next six months.Current estimates show plant-based meats at 2% retail sales of the total retail meat sales of $50 billion.In the US, the consumption of chicken has grown more than 300% since 1960, outperforming all other major proteins. At 94 pounds per capita, chicken consumption is nearly twice that of beef and pork. Chicken outpaced pork in 1984 and surpassed beef as America’s favorite meat in 1991.
Most of us are probably guilty of eating some raw cookie dough or licking the spoon when making a cake without much thought about the food safety implications.
A new study provides further understanding into the tides of public opinion around Canadian food, how it's grown, and the relationship consumers want with farmers and those that process their food.Public Opinion: a study of Canadian conversations online about food and farming led by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI), uncovered how food, farming and a handful of hot button issues capture national interest in millions of natural conversations online. The issues Canadians are most engaged with include climate change and the links to food production, organic foods, and discussions on genetically modified organisms (GMOs)."This groundbreaking work captured and quantified actual discussion and real sentiment of over 254,900 Canadians talking about food and how it's grown," stated Crystal Mackay, CCFI President. "This kind of research is integral to truly addressing consumer demands and questions in an open and authentic manner."Key conversations Canadians were discussing online over the two-year period included: 8 million people were discussing cannabis 2.5 million climate change as it relates to food production 2.1 million genetically modified foods (GMOs) 2 million organic food and farming Surprisingly, for the most part, millennials and baby boomers were found to be similarly aligned in their views on food issues based on their online conversations. This is not the case in CCFI's more traditional quantitative research. The study also identified opportunities for players in the Canadian food system to join the millions of conversations online around key topics such as cost of food and climate change.The topics covered farm practices and food production in general, and specifically GMOs, hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides. As found in previous CCFI research, Canadians most commonly associated farmers with all the key topics studied; more so than any other food system stakeholders.The Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI) study measured the discussions related to food and farming of 254,900 Canadians for 24 months on social media, from January 2017 to January 2019. The study assessed many social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit using a proprietary artificial intelligence tool to analyze public social media, with no personalized data attached to the findings.View the more detailed report findings on this study and other CCFI studies related to Canadians' opinions on food and farming in French or English at
If you relied on Canadian media and politicians alone, you might think topics like the economy and health care were what Canadians cared about most. You would be wrong. Canadians’ top priority is much more fundamental than that – before they can worry about hospital wait times or the cost to heat their homes this winter, they first and foremost need healthy, affordable food to eat and feed their families.

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