October 12, 2017, Calgary, Alta. – The Alberta government is bumping up funding for more spaces at the University of Calgary's veterinary medicine program.Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt says the province will reallocate $4.7 million per year to the Calgary program beginning in 2020.However, the move is accompanied by a decision to withdraw more than $8 million in annual funding to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.The dean of WCVM, Douglas Freeman, says he is ''deeply disappointed'' with the move, saying it severs a 54-year-old partnership that began in 1963 when the Saskatoon institution was jointly established by the four western provinces.Freeman says losing that large chunk of funding beginning in 2020 will ''certainly have an impact'' on the WCVM's programs and services.Alberta hopes to add 80 additional positions to the Calgary program by 2023, bringing its capacity to more than 200 veterinary students.''The University of Calgary's veterinary program has grown into a world-renowned institution, and with this new funding we will now have the capacity to train all of our students right here in Alberta,'' Schmidt said in a news release.''The partnership with the other provinces worked for many years, but by focusing our support on one Alberta-based program, we will achieve provincial cost savings and increase access. This will make life better for students, families, and communities.''Dru Marshall, academic vice-president at the University of Calgary, said the government investment cements the province's support for the Alberta livestock industry.Freeman, meanwhile, said the WCVM will soldier on without Alberta's participation.''One province's decision doesn't erase all that we have built and accomplished together in the past five decades,'' he said. ''The WCVM will continue to be Western Canada's veterinary college, providing quality veterinary education, research and clinical expertise to the region. We will not let the loss of support from one partner jeopardize our college's value to all western Canadians.''
June 9, 2017, Vancouver, B.C. - A&W Canada has announced that it will support the University of Saskatchewan to expand an important research project that will examine lighting enhancements and related health and welfare outcomes for broiler chickens.The project's broader research focus is to determine lighting effects on the mobility, behavior and physiological welfare of poultry by measuring the impact of the various wavelengths of barn lighting.A&W is providing $45,000 in funding to the University of Saskatchewan's Dr. Karen Schwean-Lardner to expand the data collection on the impacts of energy efficient LED lighting on broiler chicken welfare and production this fall. They will examine the differences LED lights make on poultry behavior, welfare and health outcomes. Incandescent lighting has been phased out and much less is known about the welfare and behavioral impacts of LED lighting."Through our research, we are always looking for ways to improve food quality and production while maintaining high animal care and welfare standards. Partnerships in research like this allow us to find the sustainable caring solutions we need to feed a growing world," says Mary Buhr, dean of the College of Agriculture and Bioresources.Dr. Karen Schwean-Lardner is a global leader in poultry barn lighting. Her work is internationally cited and has helped to establish international standards of practice for lighting. She served as the Chair of the Scientific Committee for the Canadian Poultry Code of Practice, as well as being a member of the Poultry Code Development Committee through the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC). NFACC's Code of Practice development process ensures credibility through scientific rigor, stakeholder collaboration and a consistent approach."At A&W we are constantly impressed with the leadership work Karen Schwean-Lardner and the University of Saskatchewan are doing in poultry welfare. We are proud to make a financial contribution to this research to allow the research team to further their understanding of LED barn lighting," says Trish Sahlstrom, Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, A&W Canada.Dr. Schwean-Lardner says, "The University of Saskatchewan is committed to research that will continue to reinforce Canada's leadership in poultry welfare. Partners like A&W share a commitment to new research that can contribute to the development of new best practices."
May 23, 2017, Guelph, Ont. - A team of investigators from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Guelph, Ontario, has discovered a gene that confers resistance to the important broad-spectrum antibiotic, fosfomycin. The researchers found the gene in isolates of the pathogen, Salmonella enterica, from broiler chickens. The research is published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.The gene, dubbed fosA7, confers a high level of resistance to fosfomycin, which is otherwise a safe and effective agent for eliminating infections caused by multidrug resistant bacteria. (The "7" in fosA7 indicates that this is the seventh antibiotic resistant fosA gene that has been discovered.)Currently, there is only limited fosfomycin resistance among Salmonella species, said corresponding author Moussa S. Diarra, PhD, Research Scientist in Food Safety at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. But the powerful resistance the fosA7 gene confers is worrisome, said Diarra. It could spread among different Salmonella serovars (a serovar is a strain of a species), as well as other bacterial pathogen species, via horizontal gene transfer, due to increased use of fosfomycin in both clinical and veterinary settings, said Diarra. Thus, "vigilant monitoring for the spread of fosfomycin resistance in bacteria, isolated from humans and animals, is needed."With that in mind, the researchers tested the strength of the resistance the gene could confer on the closely related Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis. To do so, they cloned the gene, and inserted it into the chromosome of non-antibiotic resistant S. Enteriditis. Their worries were confirmed: the gene boosted the minimum concentration of fosfomycin required to inhibit reproduction in the microbe by more than 256-fold.These results provided strong support for the hypothesis that fosA7 is, indeed, responsible for fosfomycin resistance, and that if fosA7 were transferred to plasmids--renegade pieces of DNA that can insert themselves into different bacteria--it could induce a high level of resistance in the recipient bacterial strain, according to the report.The product of the fosA7 gene is an enzyme called glutathione-S-transferase. It inactivates fosfomycin by binding to it, and rupturing a molecular ring structure which is part of the antibiotic.Fosfomycin resistance genes are often present in multidrug resistant bacteria. "This could further challenge the use of fosfomycin as an alternative treatment approach against urinary tract infections caused by both multidrug resistant E. coli, and blood infections from multidrug resistant Salmonella," said Diarra. So far, the investigators have found fosA7 only on S. enterica serovar Heidelberg and three other serovars of this species. A serovar is a strain of a species.Salmonella enterica serovar Heidelberg--the strain in which the researchers found fosA7--is among the most common causes of human salmonellosis worldwide.The rise of resistance to multiple antibiotics, particularly to extended spectrum cephalosporins in Heidelberg has limited the number of therapeutic options against this Salmonella serovar. In the current study, the investigators found this resistance gene in all of 15 Salmonella Heidelberg isolates in their collection.
May 16, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. - The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) starts the initial steps to develop a tool set to provide veterinarians with guidelines to support responsible and prudent use of antimicrobial medications in animals during a planning workshop in Ottawa, Ontario from May 9 and 10, 2017.“The veterinary community has a professional responsibility to support Canada's overarching strategy on antimicrobial resistance and use, and to adopt a multidimensional approach towards antimicrobial stewardship,” says Dr. Troy Bourque, CVMA President. “We are excited to embark on this project to meet veterinary needs for critical information, oversight and decision-support related to prudent antimicrobial use (AMU) in animals.”Participating in the workshop are Canadian veterinarians, veterinary researchers and educators, government officials and species-group stakeholders working in the areas of swine, poultry, beef, dairy, small ruminants and companion animals.They are working together to help identify AMU stewardship issues of concern, anticipate content and format needs for veterinary practitioners, address existing information gaps and discuss ways to communicate and engage the new tool set.The overall outcome of the project is to develop guidelines for prudent AMU across the six species groups and pilot a prototype tool set to review effectiveness and guide further improvements.“Ultimately, we want to promote enhanced antimicrobial stewardship to slow or limit the rising trend of AMR,” says Dr. Phil Buote, Chair of the Expert Advisory Group involved in the project, as well as Deputy Registrar for the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association.“Providing these guidelines and tools to veterinarians is intended to influence their prescribing behaviours and enhance communication with producers and industry on the science-based rationale for antimicrobial use. The goal is to promote stewardship and maintain access to effective medically important antimicrobials.”The CVMA is building on past achievements with its specific-usage Antimicrobial Prudent Use Guidelines for Beef Cattle, Dairy Cattle, Poultry and Swine (2008), and small animal guidelines through an Antimicrobial SmartVet application for urinary tract infections.Funding for the project is provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada via their AgriMarketing Program supplemented with in-kind contributions by partners including the CVMA and veterinarians.
April 24, 2017, Tucker, GA – The U.S. Poultry Foundation announced the completion of a funded research project at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware, in which researchers report a potential cause of wooden breast lesion in broilers. The “woody breast” condition has long confused producers and processors, and research has been ongoing to find an explanation for the condition.The research project is part of the Association’s comprehensive research program encompassing all phases of poultry and egg production and processing.Dr. Benham Abasht and colleagues at the Univ. of Delaware found that the early lesions of the condition could be found in the breast tissue of one-week old broilers, and the first stage of the condition involves inflammation of the veins in the breast tissue and accumulation of lipid around the affected veins. The study went onto say that this condition was followed over time by muscle cell death and replacement by fibrous and fatty tissue. Genetic analyses also indicated that there was dysfunction in lipid metabolism in affected birds. This new understanding that inflammation of veins is the likely cause of wooden breast lesions in broilers will provide important direction for future research on this condition. READ MORE
February 17, 2017 – Biomin welcomed 145 delegates from 23 countries representing the feed and poultry sectors over several days in mid-February in order to address how to solve the antibiotic-free production puzzle. With the subheading of “Guidelines for a responsible use of antibiotics in the modern broiler production,” the event afforded participants the opportunity to consider a host of different viewpoints.Expert speakers explored the role of genetics, nutrition, biosecurity and farm management. Highly interactive exchanges throughout the event converged on the idea that a holistic approach is the way forward in reducing antibiotics while maintaining high performing flocks.
August 25, 2017 - For its latest World Mycotoxin Survey, Biomin conducted more than 33,000 analyses on 8,452 finished feed and raw commodity samples from 63 countries from January to June 2017. These analyses covered common components used for feed such as corn, wheat, barley, rice, soybean meal, corn gluten meal, dried distillers grains (DDGS) and silage, among others.Results of the analyses found that deoxynivalenol (DON) and fumonisins (FUM) are the most common mycotoxins found in feedstuffs.The survey details the incidence of the main mycotoxins occurring in agricultural commodities, which include aflatoxins (Afla), zearalenone (ZEN), deoxynivalenol, T-2 toxin (T-2), fumonisins and ochratoxin A (OTA).Overall, deoxynivalenol and fumonisins were detected in 81 per cent and 71 per cent of all samples at average levels of 798 parts per billion (ppb) and 1,840 ppb, respectively. Out of all samples, 52 per cent were contaminated by zearalenone. Aflatoxins, T-2 and OTA were present in 26 per cent, 19 per cent and 18 per cent of samples, respectively.Ninety-four per cent of all samples contained at least one mycotoxin, and 76 per cent of all samples contained two or more mycotoxins. READ MORE
June 13, 2017 - A new international cooperation has been created to develop and establish guidance concerning new animal feed ingredients and new uses for existing feed ingredients.The International Cooperation for Convergence of Technical Requirements for the Assessment of Feed Ingredients (ICCF) was launched by animal feed and feed ingredient associations from Canada, the European Union and the United States including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the European Commission (DG SANTE), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), the Animal Nutrition Association of Canada (ANAC), the EU Association of Specialty Feed Ingredients and their Mixtures (FEFANA) and the International Feed Industry Federation (IFIF).“The ICCF is the result of a concerted effort to bring together feed regulators and industry feed associations to work together to develop common guidance documents for technical requirements needed in the assessment of feed ingredients,” said ICCF Chair Melissa Dumont.The ICCF Steering Committee will define the priorities and activities of the project. ICCF expert working groups will develop specific technical guidance documents. READ MORE
May 29, 2017, Spain - A study performed in Spain found that birds yielded larger live and carcass weights and a higher percentage of breast meat when fed hydroxy trace minerals as compared to broilers fed inorganic trace minerals.Over the past 20 years, numerous studies conducted globally to evaluate various forms of supplemental copper and zinc in broiler diets have confirmed the ability of these important trace minerals to improve carcass weights, yield and quality.More specifically, hydroxy trace minerals have been shown to be able to improve the value of each bird over inorganic sources of trace minerals.In 2016, a study conducted at an experimental facility in Spain measured the results of hydroxy trace mineral sources of copper and zinc versus inorganic trace minerals (sulphates) when fed at nutritional levels.Researchers allocated a total of 28 pens of 44 birds each to two treatments.During 35 days, both treatment groups were fed either 80 ppm copper and zinc as hydroxy trace minerals -Selko IntelliBond C and Selko IntelliBond Z - or in the form of sulphates. Carcass traits were assessed at a rate of 2 birds per pen.At the end of the study, researchers found numerical improvements in the broilers fed hydroxy trace minerals over those fed inorganics.Birds in the hydroxy trace mineral programme had heavier live weights (7.4%) and heavier carcass weights (7.7%) compared to sulphate-fed broilers.Hydroxy trace minerals also contributed to an increased breast meat percentage (16.1%) compared to birds fed inorganic trace minerals (15.3%).These data indicate that changing the source of trace minerals from inorganic sources to hydroxy trace minerals in the diet of broilers may have the ability to improve carcass traits such as weight and breast meat yield.
May 8, 2017 - Supplements containing arsenic have been banned in the European Union since 1999 and in North America since 2013. In many countries they are still added to poultry feed to prevent parasitic infection and promote weight gain.Scientists have now demonstrated that the danger to human health may be greater than previously thought because the metabolic breakdown of these compounds in chickens occurs via intermediates that are significantly more toxic than the initial additives. READ MORE
April 27, 2017, Gatineau, QC - The U.S. Federal Drug Agency (FDA) is giving Quebec-based Agrisoma Biosciences Inc. regulatory clearance to produce a new GMO-free and low carbon animal feed.The approval gives Agrisoma agricultural license to commercialize a protein byproduct of the Carinata oilseed.Carinata is currently grown by farmers to produce oil that makes low carbon biofuels for the aviation industry. Agrisoma has discovered a powerful, natural protein inside the Carinata seed, which can also be processed to produce a nutritious, low carbon animal feed with overall greenhouse gas emissions significantly lower than animal feed made from other common crops used as feed in the livestock industry."This decision places Agrisoma at the forefront of creating a planet-friendly animal feed alternative that helps reduces overall greenhouse gas emissions in livestock production, poultry, aquaculture and dairy markets," says Steve Fabijanski, President and CEO of Agrisoma. READ MORE
April 6, 2017, Nottingham, UK – Specially-bred wheat could help provide some of the key nutrients essential for healthy bones in poultry, reducing the need to supplement the feed, researchers at Nottingham Trent University and Aarhus University in Denmark have found. Scientists from the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Aarhus University, discovered that wheat can be bred naturally to produce high levels of phytase – an enzyme needed to release phosphorous, which the bird requires to grow a healthy skeleton. The wheat was tested on poultry in feed trials carried out at Nottingham Trent University’s Poultry Research Unit. The poultry industry has been very successful in improving bird productivity, with growth rates increasing threefold over the last 50 years. However, in order to ensure that bird welfare is not compromised, particular attention has to be focused on ensuring that a healthy, well-developed skeletal frame is produced. Nutritionists have tackled this issue through supplements, to ensure the correct mineral balance in the diet. A key component is phosphorous, a mineral found in plant tissues, grains and oil seeds and which is vital for skeletal growth and maintenance. However, not only is phosphorous supplementation very expensive but also the phosphorous, from plant sources, present in the feed of poultry and pigs has a very low bio-availability, being bound up in a plant substance called phytate. Phosphorous bound in phytate cannot be utilized by these monogastric animals because they have negligible amounts of the phytase enzyme in their gastrointestinal tract – which is needed to make the phosphorous from phytate bioavailable. This anti-nutritional effect of phytate is estimated to cost animal producers billions of dollars a year. In addition to this, phytate-bound phosphorous, which is excreted, can have negative impact on the environment such as via eutrophication. For the latest work, published in the journal Animal: An International Journal of Animal Bioscience, plant-breeding scientists from Aarhus University used their expertise to make it simple and efficient to breed wheat with naturally high levels of phytase. Scientists in Nottingham Trent University’s poultry nutrition research team then designed and carried out a poultry nutrition trial to compare this new source of phytase to traditional poultry diet formulations. The trial shows that inclusion of the high phytase wheat in the feed is a highly effective way to unlock the phosphorous in the diet for use by the animal. ”Aiming for high phytase activity in wheat grains has been a key research target for many years,” said Dr Henrik Brinch-Pedersen, group leader at Aarhus University’s Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics. ”Reaching it was a milestone, but seeing that it works well in animal feeding is extremely satisfactory,” he added. “A particularly exciting additional implication of this work may actually be for humans. 700 million people globally suffer anaemia partly caused by the high phytate content of their diet. Providing a variety of wheat that contains its own phytate-destruction enzyme could improve the population health of many nations.” ”It has been exciting to explore a completely different way of providing meat chickens with the phosphorous needed for healthy bones,” said Dr. Emily Burton, head of the Poultry Research Unit in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences. ”We will be looking to explore further the possibilities of wheat-derived phytase, as emerging research in this field shows the anti-nutritional effects of phytate in poultry extends far beyond locking away phosphorous.” ”Wheat is the predominant ingredient used in poultry diets and over 50 per cent of all the wheat grown in the EU is used in the manufacture of animal feeds,” said Steve Wilson, monogastric nutritionist at the animal feed producers ForFarmers. “If the naturally occurring level of phytase in this major cereal can be increased then it can make a significant economic contribution to our aim to improve the efficiency and sustainability of future feed production.” Plant Bioscience Ltd (PBL, Norwich, UK) – an independent technology management company specializing in plant, food and microbial science – was also involved in the study and funded the work. PBL is now working with partners in the plant breeding and feed industry to bring this innovation into use.
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 https://poultry.ces.ncsu.edu/layer-performance/
The topic of slow-growth broilers is a complex one, with a battle to sway public opinion seemingly at the forefront. As background, about a century ago it took around four months for a typical commercial chicken to get to three pounds. Today’s broilers reach about twice that size in about half the time due to changes in production factors such as genetics and nutrition.
The German food industry has come together to form a partnership that addresses animal husbandry issues. Together, farmers, retailers and the meat industry are working to ensure stricter animal welfare standards are enforced – and that farmers are compensated for going the extra mile.
Dec. 5, 2016 - The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is seeking public comment on proposed amendments to the Health of Animals Regulations Part XII which deals with humane transportation. This is an opportunity for Canadians to share their views on the transportation of animals.The draft amendments appeared in the Canada Gazette, Part I on December 3, 2016 and the public comment period will run until February 15, 2017.Quick Facts The CFIA establishes and enforces regulations for the welfare of animals during transport, as specified in the requirements of the Health of Animal Regulations, which governs the humane transportation of animals in Canada. The current regulations were developed in 1977 and few amendments have been made since then. The proposed regulations are the product of ten years of consultation with industry, the public and special interest groups. Protecting animal welfare in Canada is a shared responsibility between governments (federal, provincial and territorial), industry (e.g. producers, transporters, processors, registered slaughter establishments) and the public. Health of Animals Regulations: Part XII: Transportation of Animals-Regulatory Amendment - Interpretive Guidance for Regulated Parties
Chickens, like all vertebrates, are governed by a circadian rhythm that is governed by the natural light/dark cycle of day and night. As such, chickens mostly rest and are inactive at night, especially when it is dark. Although they do rest during the daylight hours, most of their feeding and activity is performed during this time. Studies show that just as in humans, major abrupt changes to the day/night cycle of the chickens, such as waking up the chickens at night with loud noises, will lead to stressed and anxious chickens. In addition, studies have shown that loud noises such as found near airports, rail road tracks or loud hydraulic or pneumatic equipment and machinery close to the chickens leads to lower egg production, stunted growth, higher blood pressure, stress and fatigue in the birds. A study has shown that loud noise simulating noisy ventilation fans and operational machines found at slaughterhouses led to increased plasma corticosteroids, cholesterol and total protein.1 This study recommended the control of noise pollution near the chickens and chicks. Other studies show that noise levels past the 85 dB level can lead to a decreased feed intake of between 15 to 25 per cent. Lower feed intake stunts chicken growth — something the poultry farmer or processor does not want. But all is not lost. Below are some tips and advice to reduce the noise level to an acceptable and healthier level leading to happier and healthier chickens – both psychologically and physically. First identify the sources of noise pollution equipment. Use a sound measuring tool if necessary. Erect sound barrier secondary glazing in windows. Establish your chicken farm in a quiet area away from airports and industrial areas and rail yards. Maintain your ventilation fans and feeding machines making sure they are not producing excess noise. Try to buy machines that produce the least noise possible. Avoid repairs and renovations with noisy equipment, especially during the rest and sleep hours of the chickens Muffle noisy equipment. Make sure that family members do not honk the car horn too often during chicken sleep hours. Investigate “active noise control” - a noise cancelation anti-noise system that produces sound waves of the same amplitude as the noise pollution, but in opposite polarity causing a cancelling of the noise pollution. Train employees and family members to respect the sleep hours of the chickens - they should not be screaming out to each other, joking etc. around sleeping chickens. We simply see that it’s about common sense and respect. We need to respect the fact that chickens are living beings that need many of the same things that we need, including a good night’s sleep and some peace and quiet during the day. We just have to sensitize ourselves by imaging how we feel when we are woken up while we are asleep. We feel grouchy the next day and are less productive in the office. If we internalize this reality, we will treat the chickens with more respect, which not only is the proper thing to do, but it is actual good business sense. The results will be healthier, bigger chickens. Thus, everybody gains by respecting the chickens needs not to be exposed to high levels of noise pollution: the commercial poultry farmer, the backyard chicken farmer enthusiast, the processor and the chickens. Ronnie P. Cons is EVP of C&C Packing Inc., a leading Canadian distributor of meat and poultry. He can be contacted at
I was attracted to a review article on this topic in the September 2015 issue of the World’s Poultry Science Journal (Harlander-Matauschek et al, vol.71, pp 461-472). It is the outcome of an International Keel Bone Workshop held in Switzerland in 2014. For local interest, I also reviewed the paper of Petrik et al in Poultry Science, vol.94, pp579-585. Unusually for a review paper, this one is primarily targeted at what is not known, and mainly consists of 9 recommendations for further study. Most scientists in the field, and also experienced managers of layers, intuitively know that the keels of laying hens are susceptible to damage during the laying cycle. This was first brought to light several years ago when scientists in England examined carcases of spent hens following slaughter, and found a high incidence of keel damage and breakage. The degree to which this causes pain or distress during the life of the birds is not known. In live birds, damage to the keel can only be determined by palpation, and there is no recognized standard method, or protocol for evaluating or reporting the results. There is also the distinction between actual fracture of the keel, and various levels of distortion or deformity. Fractures usually result in a callus around the fracture site that can be detected on handling the bird. So the first recommendation in the review paper is to develop a uniform method of evaluating keel bone damage so that future results will be comparable. Petrik et al studied only keel fractures. The second recommendation was to investigate the kind of event or bird activity that results in keel damage. In non-cage systems, collisions with other birds and with furniture and equipment are thought to be some of the factors. However, even in conventional cages, keel damage occurs, but the reasons are not known. Another unknown is whether initial deviation or distortion of the keel, from whatever cause, may result in keel fracture. Do birds reared in different environments have different potential for keel bone damage in adult life? This is yet another unanswered question. Growing birds in an environment where wing flapping is encouraged is thought to improve locomotor skills and thus may avoid some of the (also largely unknown) challenges that result in keel damage. In non-cage laying systems, individual birds as well as groups may display escape reactions to events that result in panic or fright. This can result in keel bone damage. These events may result from management activities and are thus susceptible to variation and potential improvement, but they must first be identified and studied. As with any, even imprecisely measured, characteristic, there is always the question of a genetic influence. Interestingly, these 21st century scientists managed to find a study reported in 1955 showing that the tendency to develop keel deformity could be altered by genetic selection. Whether the methods used in this selection experiment would be relevant to contemporary keel damage observations would need to be confirmed. If genetics is involved, can nutrition also play a part in affecting keel bone damage? The answer to this question is, of course, related to how nutrition influences bone development and maintenance. And this in turn may be related to the interactions involved in egg shell deposition and bone integrity. The likelihood of direct involvement of calcium balance as it affects shell deposition and keel bone integrity is probably low. This is because the calcium flow from bones to the egg shell gland is from the long bones and not the keel. There are large differences in keel fracture incidence between housing systems and even within similar systems. Perches, although considered desirable from a welfare standpoint, seem to result in elevated keel damage and fracture. But different materials used for perches result in widely variable keel damage. Round metal perches seem to be inferior to other designs. Petrik et al’s work in Ontario compared keel fractures in conventional cages with single tiered floor housing and found almost double the incidence in the floor systems. The final recommendation from the Harlander-Matauschek paper in to investigate and quantify keel bone damage and production losses. A new report (as yet unpublished) shows that birds with keel fractures laid eggs with reduced shell breaking strength. This would represent a serious challenge if confirmed. The fact that most of the keel fractures appear to occur during the period of peak egg production would suggest that the nutrient status of the affected birds is inadequate to support both maximum egg production and bone maintenance. The inadequacy must be minimal though, since many flocks continue to lay at or near peak level for many months and if keel damage is compromising productivity, its effect must be very small. In reading this research, one can sense the authors’ frustration at the lack of clear information. Obviously, much more research is needed before industry would be able to take firm action to deal with this problem.
Research from the University of Saskatchewan shows that the impact of beak trimming poultry at a young age, if done properly, is minor. This is compared to the greater impact on flock welfare of not trimming. Researchers globally have studied the impact of beak trimming and beak trimming methods, as this practice has been criticized for its impact on bird welfare. “Research in our lab and labs of others have found that when beak treatment is performed appropriately, with proper techniques and at young ages, the negative impact of the treatment itself is relatively minor in comparison to the larger animal welfare concern of feather pecking and cannibalism,” writes Dr. Karen Schwean-Lardner in a report about the project. In terms of beak treatment she explains that infrared beak treatment (IRBT) birds are less impacted from a welfare perspective than birds treated with hot blade trimming. She adds that there is some suggestion that using IRBT does not seem to affect all strains of birds in the same way, particularly white versus brown feathered strains A research team led by Schwean-Lardner and Dr. Henry Classen has recently completed a three year project which addresses questions regarding the need to adjust IRBT settings for specific bird breeds. The team worked with two white and two brown feathered commercial strains of laying hens. Their work looked specifically at beak morphology differences between the strains, and aimed to determine the impact of variation in IRBT settings on beak characteristics, healing and re-growth, production and welfare. “It is imperative to establish guidelines for infrared treatment use that result in the benefits producers expect, while maintaining the welfare qualities of this procedure.” In their report, Classen and Schwean-Lardner describe the main findings of the research team: “IRBT settings should be adjusted for specific conditions, including strain, but it also suggests that some variation in treatment settings does not have important welfare or production effects.” They went onto explain: “The effects of IRBT are short-lived and minor, and likely a reaction to the treatment and beak sloughing. The nature of beak sloughing due to treatment was quite different and the effect was strain specific. However, despite these differences, growth and production later in life were unaffected.” “This research will hopefully produce consensus on the value of the technique, and will also refine the technique to permit ever increasing success in beak growth in an animal welfare appropriate way.” This research was funded by the Poultry Industry Council. The research team would like to thank Clark’s Hy-line Inc., Brandon Man. for allowing them to work in their facility.
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.
The Poultry Industry Council (PIC) funded several research projects in 2016. The following project addresses the layer sector of the poultry industry directly. Grégoy Bédécarrats and his research team from the University of Guelph will be performing research which investigates the control of reproduction in poultry, within the context of a continuously evolving genetic makeup. HPG axisSpecifically, the study will seek to reveal whether intensive genetic selection of commercial layer chickens has impacted control of the reproductive or HPG axis. HPG axis refers to the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and gonadal glands as a single system because these glands often act in concert.In an interview, Bédécarrats described recent research in which he observed that modern strains of layers no longer fully fit the accepted neuroendocrine models. He hypothesized, “While doubling egg numbers laid per hen, the past 50 years of genetic selection may have altered the normal physiological controls.” Key questionsBédécarrats highlighted the key questions being formulated through recent analysis of commercial layers, “Why do they tend to mature without stimulation? Why do they display extended laying persistency? Is there desynchronization of the ovulatory process?”Purpose of the strainThe proposed research aims to answer these questions by comparing a strain not selected for egg production versus a modern commercial strain selected for egg production. The approach is to compare production parameters and relate these to molecular events. Differences in the function of the HPG axis between the two strains will be identified. Bédécarrats explains “Identifying differences between strains will give insight into the understanding of the actual mechanisms responsible for maturation, ovulation and persistency of lay. This will show how genetic selection may have impacted the reproductive axis.” Study objectivesThe initial objective of the study will be to determine the relative importance of photostimulation versus metabolic status to initiate sexual maturation in commercial layers. The study will then go on to investigate if a previously observed second estradiol peak is specific to modern commercial strains and correlated with laying persistency. The study will conclude by determining if the second estradiol peak is the result of activation of the entire reproductive axis as opposed to independently ovarian activation. Outcomes“Outcomes of this research will assist in adjusting and/or refining on-farm management procedures and could help update codes of practice as it relates to layer flock turnover,” Bédécarrats said. This research is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Discovery Program and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs - University of Guelph Research Program.
Any method to preserve a species’ genetics is complex and costly. For poultry, raising generation after generation of a certain group of birds is one method, but because those who have been doing this don’t really receive any benefits that outweigh the costs, many are not continuing with it. In addition, relying on live flocks as a way to preserve genetics is also quite risky because something like a disease outbreak or a fire could always come along and cause the DNA to be lost forever.A solution is therefore needed, preferably one that allows for the preservation of as much avian genetic diversity as possible. This will allow for genes from heritage breeds to be fully examined and characterized – genes which may hold great future promise in commercial breeding in terms of important traits like resistance to disease. American geneticist Dr. Janet Fulton has already demonstrated that there are some genes present in heritage poultry breeds that are not present in commercial breeds, and some of this heritage DNA (very much at risk of being lost at this point in time) may become crucial in future commercial poultry breeding enhancements. But how is a central, efficient and secure way to preserve poultry genes to be developed? Cryopreservation (slow freezing) was tried because it works for mammalian sperm, eggs, embryos and more. But it turned out that cryopreservation of avian sperm significantly lowers its ability to fertilize eggs, and avian sperm doesn’t contain the entire bird genome anyway. While avian embryonic cells do, cryopreservation doesn’t work with them either. Finding a reliable way to preserve poultry genetics is also challenging because of the trickiness involved with manipulating bird eggs and sperm, explains Dr. Carl Lessard, curator of the Canadian Animal Genetic Resources program (CAGR) at the University of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan. “What’s required is to open a small spot in an egg shell and deposit desired embryonic cells into the host embryo without killing it,” he notes. “That’s very difficult. So, while freezing embryonic blastodermal cells is a good way to preserve the entire genome of a species, it just doesn’t allow for easy usability of that genome in poultry.” In 2006, Dr. Fred Silversides (now retired from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada) tried some new thinking. What about preserving the gonadal tissue (testicular and ovarian tissue) where sperm and eggs are created and stored? Might it be possible to develop a relatively efficient way to remove gonads, chill and store them, and then thaw and transfer them, resulting in the hatching of a chick with the desired genetics and not any from the surrogate mother hen? Instead of the slow freezing involved with cryopreservation, Silversides tried vitrification, where a gonad is removed from a day-old chick, treated with lots of cryoprotectant and chilled rapidly through a plunge in liquid nitrogen. The gonad is never technically frozen (there’s no ice crystal formation) but maintained in a glass-like (vitreous) state at a very low temperature. Once thawed, the gonad is surgically transferred to a day-old chick recipient that has had its gonad totally or partially removed. At the same time, Silversides and his team developed ways to preserve the viability of the tissues during and after thawing and transplantation, such as treating the recipient chick with immunosuppressants to avoid rejection of the graft.Success was achieved! Over time, the work of Silversides and his colleagues at AFFC was transferred to CAGR, where Lessard became curator in 2014. Since that point, Lessard and his team have been working hard to move all aspects of poultry genetics preservation forward. View the embedded image gallery online at: https://www.canadianpoultrymag.com/index.php?option=com_k2&Itemid=74&lang=en&layout=latest&view=latest#sigProGalleriae0a889fb63 What’s happening nowThe technique for chicken testicular tissue is now well-established, and Lessard and colleagues are currently optimizing Silversides’ technique for ovarian tissue. “The ovarian grafts are not growing the way we need them to, so we are now trying to find a new chicken line recipient,” Lessard explains. “The bird line we were using likely has an immune response that’s too high. We didn’t see this with the testicular tissue grafts in that line.”With turkeys, Lessard has established a reliable protocol for freezing gonads from newly-hatched chicks, with the next step to optimize the surgical procedures and immunosuppressive treatment to obtain successful growth of the grafts. In terms of the team’s preliminary genetic analysis, they’ve found turkey breeds have a lot of genome ‘admixture’ (many shared genes alleles between breeds), but more samples are needed to confirm this finding. Shared alleles, says Lessard, make it harder to characterize the entire genetic diversity of turkeys and establish what is, and what is not, pure turkey genetics. Once vitrification of male and female gonadal tissue for chicken and turkeys is complete, the team will launch a national call in 2017 to request genetic samples of fertilized eggs from commercial and heritage breeds. They will also move on to other poultry breeds such as ducks.Lessard and his colleagues are also creating a germplasm repository (sperm, eggs, gonads, embryos) for other types of livestock from all across Canada. “We are looking for donations from purebred animals in all areas of the country,” he says, “including bison, cattle, sheep, goat, horse, pig, deer, elk and more. It’s going well, and we’re getting more and more participation from livestock associations and individual producers. Right now (in September and October 2016), we are in Ontario and Quebec gathering samples from sheep, goat and beef cattle.” A website letting the public know what has been contributed is being developed and Lessard is looking for more Canadian and international graduate students to tackle all the work. “We need many samples for poultry and everything else produced in Canada,” he explains. “Genetic characterization of commercial and heritage poultry breeds is extremely important and we need to establish the true diversity of the different poultry breeds produced here. The number of heritage breed birds is shrinking every year, and it’s very important to capture genetics as soon as possible.” Silversides’ vitrification preservation technique has so far been adopted by the United States Department of Agriculture ‘Agricultural Research Service’ Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Lessard says individuals at that organization have already used the technique to preserve the genetics of several U.S. commercial and heritage breeds. In terms of other groups beyond CAGR working on gonadal transfer, a team in Hungary is currently working to master it. To make is easier for them and other researchers around the world learn how to successfully complete surgical transfer of vitrified gonads, Lessard has been working on a free tutorial e-book featuring detailed video and audio descriptions of each step. “This strategy (vitrification and gonadal transfer technique) has great potential to preserve the entire genome of a poultry breed and also use that genome fairly easily,” he explains. “We want it to be available to everyone.”
July 18, 2016 - The genes of some chickens make them almost completely resistant to a serious strain of bird flu, new research has revealed. The findings, which are published in the journal Scientific Reports, show that genetics play a key part in whether the birds are susceptible or resistant to the potentially deadly virus. READ MORE
Study using genetic lines of Virginia Tech chickens reveals evolution happens faster than previously thought November 4, 2015 - A critical component of an experiment that proved evolution happens 15 times faster than was previously believed relied upon genetic lines of chickens from Virginia Tech. The discovery utilized the DNA of lines of White Plymouth Rock chickens that have been developed for more than 50 years. The research was published recently in Biology Letters, a journal of Royal Society Publishing. The discovery involved researchers from several universities, including the University of York, Oxford University, the University of Sydney, Uppsala University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and Virginia Tech. “This experiment and many others involving everything from animal appetites to genetics could never have been done without the pedigree lines here at Virginia Tech,” said Siegel, distinguished professor emeritus of animal and poultry sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “This experiment was also an excellent example of international collaboration between six countries that was necessary for the success of the study.” Siegel, along with Ben Dorshorst and Christa Honaker, also in the Virginia Tech Department of Animal and Poultry SciencesDepartment of Animal and Poultry Sciences, were co-authors on the paper. The pedigree lines of White Plymouth Rock chickens were developed by Siegel, who began breeding them in 1957. From the common founder population, he produced two distinct lines of chickens selected for high- and low-body weight. Today, the high-weight line dwarfs its low-growth counterpart by an average of 12 times more by the time they reach the eight-week selection age. In the latest experiment, researchers analyzed blood samples of chickens of the same generation using the most distantly related maternal lines to reconstruct how the mitochondrial DNA passed from mothers to daughters. Mitochondria are specialized structures in the cells of animals, plants, and fungi that generate energy, synthesize proteins, and package proteins for transport to different parts of the cell and beyond. Previously, estimates put the rate of change in a mitochondrial genome about 2 percent per million years,” Greger Larson, professor of archaeology at Oxford University, said in a news release. “At this pace we should not have been able to spot a single mutation in just 50 years, but in fact we spotted two.” The sampling scheme yielded 385 mitochondrial transmissions that were analyzed for linkages within the mitochondrial DNA. The rate of evolution was calculated by analyzing the number of observed mutations in the approximately 16,000 samples of mitochondrial DNA in the genome over 47 generations. The scientists then reconstructed the maternal pedigree based on the mitogenome sequences. “Our observations reveal that evolution is always moving quickly, but we tend not to see it because we typically measure it over longer time periods,” Larson said in the news release. “Our study shows that evolution can move much faster in the short term than we had believed from fossil-based estimates.” The experiment also determined that mitochondria are not solely passed down from maternal lines. Strictly maternal inheritance has long been thought of as the characteristic of mitochondrial genomes. “The thing everyone knew about mitochondria is that it is almost exclusively passed down the maternal line, but we identified chicks who inherited their mitochondria from their father,” said Michelle Alexander, lead author. This finding supports the theory that “paternal leakage” is not such a rare phenomenon. This is not the first time the scientific community has benefited from the research done on Virginia Tech’s high- and low-body weight chicken lines. A 2010 article in the scientific journal "Nature" highlighted a breakthrough in genetic studies of animal domestication, thanks in part to these two lines. In 2010, the American Poultry Historical Society inducted Siegel into the American Poultry Association Hall of Fame, the industry’s top honor. In 2011, he was given an honorary doctorate from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
August 16, 2017, Mumbai, India – The rapid growth of factory farming in Asia for livestock and seafood poses enormous environmental and forced labor risks, in addition to threats to public safety and health, according to a report by an investor network. Half of Asia's aquaculture production is from factory farms, said the report published this week by Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR), referring to the major, industrial operations that raise large numbers of animals for food. "Asia's meat, seafood and dairy industries face a range of badly managed sustainability risks – from emissions to epidemics, fraud to food safety, and abuse of labor," said Jeremy Coller, founder of FAIRR. "It is clear that significant environmental and social risks are building up."READ MORE
July 28, 2017, Qingdao, China – Experts from agricultural colleges and research institutions throughout China joined together to discuss agricultural and environmental challenges, including how to reduce waste and making farming operations more sustainable, at a recent Alltech China Research Alliance meeting, held in Qingdao.Alltech China has built long-term cooperative research relationships with 10 well-known universities, research institutes and leading feed and food enterprises.“The Alltech China Research Alliance is focused on building toward a green agriculture future in China,” said Dr. Mark Lyons, global vice president and head of Greater China for Alltech. “The roadmap to this future requires practical solutions, which will be developed through advanced scientific research and technology and the powerful partnership of these leading agricultural minds.”Defa Li, professor at China Agricultural University and academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and Kangsen Mai, professor at Ocean University of China and academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, along with more than 30 other professors from agricultural colleges and research institutions, attended and spoke at the meeting, sharing the results of their latest research.“This meeting of the alliance explored how to reduce antibiotic residues in food, how to effectively use limited resources in the midst of population explosion, and how to reduce water and soil pollution,” said Karl Dawson, vice president and chief scientific officer at Alltech.A new mycotoxin detection methodThe Institute of Agriculture Quality Standards and Testing Technology for Agro-Products of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (IQSTAP) has established a method for the simultaneous detection of 21 mycotoxins, or their metabolite residues, in the plasma of animals. These include toxins such as aflatoxin B1. This testing is expected to become the agricultural industry standard for the detection of mycotoxins in China.Recently, Alltech and IQSTAP published an article entitled "Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry for Simultaneous Determination of 21 Kinds of Mycotoxins or Their Metabolites in Animal Plasma." Dr. Ruiguo Wang of IQSTAP, who introduced the study, says that it established a liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry method that simultaneously detects animal plasma aflatoxin B1 and 21 other kinds of mycotoxins or their metabolite residue.Existing mycotoxin detection methods have very complex sample treatment operations, and high detection costs make it generally difficult to do a variety of simultaneous determinations of mycotoxins. The QuEChERS method (Quick, Easy, Cheap, Effective, Rugged, Safe) is a fast, sample pre-treatment technology developed for agricultural products. It uses the interaction between adsorbent filler and the impurities in the matrix to adsorb impurities to achieve purification.In this study, 21 samples of mycotoxins and their metabolites in animal plasma were developed by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) based on the QuEChERS principle. The method is simple, rapid, low-cost and accurate. It can be used for combined mycotoxin animal exposure assessment and mycotoxin toxicokinetic study. Wang said this method has been submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China for review and is expected to pass as a fungal detector by agriculture industry standards.Functional ingredients for better pork qualityAnother breakthrough came from collaboration between Alltech and Jiangnan University to improve food safety and quality. A Jiangnan University research project showed that the addition of rapeseed selenium in the diet can improve the quality of pork, increasing its water-holding capacity and tenderness. An article published based on Alltech and Jiangnan University’s study confirmed that the additions of flaxseed oil and sesame selenium to the diet can improve pork quality, reducing drip loss by 58–74 percent. The organic selenium diets increased muscular selenium content up to 54 percent. Flaxseed oil and selenium can be used to alter the fatty acid structure of pork, increase omega-3 fatty acids and reduce the proportion of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids in meat, which can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in consumers.Minerals matter: How trace minerals can impact pollutionImproper sewage treatment and greenhouse gas emissions are leading to heavy pollution of water, soil and air, and some small-scale farms have been closed because of this pollution."This will require improved feed conversion, which will reduce damage to the environment without affecting the performance of the animal," said Li.Inorganic trace minerals in feeds have contributed to this environmental pollution. Due to their low absorption rates, 80–90 percent of inorganic zinc and copper will generally be excreted by the animal, contaminating water and soil.Organic trace minerals, however, are absorbed more readily. Alltech’s Total Replacement Technology™ is a groundbreaking approach to organic trace mineral nutrition. It features products such as Bioplex®, which includes copper, iron, zinc and manganese, and Sel-Plex®, which includes selenium. Compared to conventional inorganic minerals, these formulations are better absorbed, stored and utilized by the animal and are thus able to meet the higher nutrient needs of modern livestock for rapid growth, maximum reproductive performance and animal health. Additionally, because they are absorbed more readily, less is excreted into the environment.Some Chinese feed companies are already using Alltech’s Total Replacement Technology. In addition to aiding in animal performance and health, many customers have noted it improves the smell of pig farms.
May 19, 2017, Waterloo, Ont. - Farmers know the importance of keeping the land, water and air healthy to sustain their farms from one generation of farm family to the next. They also know that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand.The Honourable Bardish Chagger, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism, today announced a $1.9 million investment with the University of Waterloo to examine greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with agricultural activities and the potential benefits of alternative land use practices and beneficial management practices (BMPs).This project with the University of Waterloo is one of 20 new research projects supported by the $27 million Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP), a partnership with universities and conservation groups across Canada. The program supports research into greenhouse gas mitigation practices and technologies that can be adopted on the farm.
May 16, 2017, Lancaster, PA - Farmers have been referred to as the first environmentalists. Their livestock and crops depend on a healthy environment to thrive. Still, there’s often room for improvement.According to some early findings from a study by Penn State graduate student Erica Rogers, poultry producers are potentially lowering their impact on the Chesapeake Bay.Rogers and fellow Penn State graduate student Amy Barkley discussed those initial findings from their two master’s thesis projects with the poultry service technicians attending Monday’s Penn State Poultry Health and Management Seminar at the Lancaster Farm and Home Center.Her project’s goal is to accurately depict poultry’s contribution to the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load. The Chesapeake Bay “is one of the most studied watersheds in the world,” she said, but the problem with the current model is “they are using outdated information for poultry.”Rogers built her work around the concept that poultry litter management has changed and farmers have adopted more precise diets for their flocks. READ MORE
May 8, 2017, Africa - One strategy for dealing with poultry poop is to turn it into biofuel, and now scientists have developed a way to do this by mixing the waste with another environmental scourge, an invasive weed that is affecting agriculture in Africa. They report their approach in American Chemical Society’s journal Energy & Fuels. Poultry sludge is sometimes turned into fertilizer, but recent trends in industrialized chicken farming have led to an increase in waste mismanagement and negative environmental impacts, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.Droppings can contain nutrients, hormones, antibiotics and heavy metals and can wash into the soil and surface water. To deal with this problem, scientists have been working on ways to convert the waste into fuel. But alone, poultry droppings don’t transform well into biogas, so it’s mixed with plant materials such as switch grass.Samuel O. Dahunsi, Solomon U. Oranusi and colleagues wanted to see if they could combine the chicken waste with Tithonia diversifolia (Mexican sunflower), which was introduced to Africa as an ornamental plant decades ago and has become a major weed threatening agricultural production on the continent.The researchers developed a process to pre-treat chicken droppings, and then have anaerobic microbes digest the waste and Mexican sunflowers together. Eight kilograms of poultry waste and sunflowers produced more than 3 kg of biogas — more than enough fuel to drive the reaction and have some leftover for other uses such as powering a generator. Also, the researchers say that the residual solids from the process could be applied as fertilizer or soil conditioner.The authors acknowledge funding from Landmark University (Nigeria).
Sept. 20, 2016 - Ontario farmers are invited to safely and responsibly dispose of their unwanted or obsolete pesticides and livestock (including equine) medications from Sept. 20-30. This collection program is offered at no cost to Ontario farmers. CleanFARMS, an industry-led, national not-for-profit agricultural waste management organization partnered with the Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI) and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to co-fund the disposal program with support from CropLife Canada, Ontario Agri Business Association, Farm & Food Care Ontario, and the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers' Association, in offering this free program."Ontario farmers are environmentally conscious and are pleased to partner with CleanFARMS to safely dispose of obsolete pesticides and livestock medications," says Craig Hunter from the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. "The CleanFARMS collection program provides an excellent one-stop service for Ontario farmers to continue to protect the land."Farmers in Ontario have a long history of good stewardship practices. Since 1998, Ontario farmers have turned in more than 500,000 kilograms of obsolete pesticides."Ontario has a history of successful collections," says Barry Friesen, General Manager of CleanFARMS. "The participation of Ontario farmers shows they are good stewards of their land and committed to protecting the environment."After collection, the pesticides and livestock medications are taken to a licensed waste management facility where they are disposed of through high temperature incineration.The following locations will be accepting obsolete pesticides and livestock/equine medications from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on the dates specified:Tuesday, Sept. 20Brodhagen - Hoegy's Farm SupplyGuelph - Woodrill FarmsGlencoe - Parrish & HeimbeckerWednesday, Sept. 21Brussels - Brussels AgromartAilsa Craig - Hensall District Co-opAylmer - Max Underhill's Farm SupplyThursday, Sept. 22Beamsville - NM BartlettForest - Lakeside Grain & Feed LtdKitchener - GROWMARK IncMonday, Sept. 26Bothwell - Hagerty CreekAlliston - Alliance Agri-TurfTara - Sprucedale AgromartNew Hamburg - Good Crop ServicesLancaster - Munro's AgromartTuesday, Sept. 27Tupperville - Agris Co-opWellandport - Clark AgriServiceBradford - Bradford Co-opWalkerton - Huron Bay Co-opAlfred - SynagriWednesday, Sept. 28Paincourt - South West Ag PartnersPrinceton - CargillOakwood - Oakwood Ag CentreHarriston - CargillCasselman - Agro Culture 2001Thursday, Sept. 29Blenheim - ThompsonsBolton - Alliance Agri-TurfTrenton - TCO AgromartDundalk - Huron Bay Co-opRichmond - SynagriSept. 27-29Verner - Verner Ag CentreGore Bay - Northland AgromartPembroke - M&R Feeds and Farm SupplyArnprior - M&R Feeds and Farm SupplyThornloe - Temiskaming Ag CentreThunder Bay - Thunder Bay Co-opFriday, Sept. 30Courtland - CargillOrangeville - Holmes AgroPicton - County Farm CentreLeamington - Agris Co-opChesterville - SynagriFor more information, please call CleanFARMS at 877-622-4460 or visit www.cleanfarms.ca
September 21, 2017, Calgary, Alta. – New research was released last week by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI), studying consumer concerns and expectations surrounding food transparency and the overall food system. Canadians feel the food system is headed in the right direction, proven by an increase from 30 per cent in 2016 to 43 per cent of Canadians this year.While consumer confidence is increasing, an equal number of Canadians (43 per cent) say they aren’t sure if the food system is on the right track, down from 50 per cent in 2016. These findings are significantly different than the American consumers’ findings from 2016, which showed more definitive opinions with 55 per cent choosing right direction and only 23 per cent saying they were unsure.The 2017 CCFI Public Trust Research occurred in-the-field in June, asking 1,307 Canadians about top life concerns, specifically their level of concern, trust and transparency expectations related to food and how it’s grown.Those polled clearly identified food companies to be the most responsible for providing information about food and how it’s grown. Other food system partners including farmers, government, restaurants and grocery stores also ranked highly as being responsible for transparency.“Canadians are looking for credible information to make informed decisions about their food,” stated Crystal Mackay, CCFI's president, in a press release. “This research reinforces that everyone in the Canadian food system, from the farm through to grocery stores and restaurants, should engage in conversations about food.”Those polled are personally concerned and want more information about specific topics, including food safety, environment and farm animal treatment. Consumers are looking for information on food company websites such as third-party audits, track record, practices and policies that demonstrate their values. When studying these elements of transparency, accuracy rose to the top as the most important attribute to Canadians.Many Canadians are unsure about their food or how it’s grown, but want to learn more. Canadians ranked the rising cost of food and keeping healthy food affordable as their top two life concerns above rising energy costs, healthcare and the economy for the second year in a row.These findings and other insights were key areas for discussion when leaders from across the entire Canadian food system met at the CCFI Public Trust Summit in Calgary last week.Find out more by reading the full 2017 CCFI Public Trust Research report on www.foodintegrity.ca.
September 5, 2017 - The 20-somethings were from all over the world: the U.S., England, Ireland, Turkey, Brazil, Kazakhstan and Peru. And if they had one thing in common, it was their view of the supermarket.“Do you think grocery stores are important?” they were asked by Alltech chief innovation officer, Aidan Connolly.“Yes, they’re very important,” replied one young woman, “for old people.”Leading Alltech’s Corporate Career Development Program, Connolly was hearing in this next generation of consumers a receptiveness for the sweeping, fundamental changes in the production, distribution, purchase and consumption of food heralded by the $13.4 billion Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods.“When we buy our groceries, we mostly buy online,” one student told him.The huge e-commerce company had already been dipping its toe in the food delivery market when it turned its eye toward Whole Foods. AmazonFresh, a subsidiary of Amazon.com, is a grocery delivery service currently available in some U.S. states, London, Tokyo and Berlin.The announced intentions of this mega consumer product distributor to take a step further into the brick-and-mortar premium grocery business has made waves all along the food chain, from retail to agriculture.“I think it's an extraordinary moment,” said Mary Shelman, former director of Harvard Business School's Agribusiness Program. “This could truly be a disruption rather than a change."“Disruption means you do something in a completely different way rather than just making some incremental changes to it,” Shelman continued. “Amazon, which had historically envisioned a world without brick-and-mortar stores, is now, in one fell swoop, making a significant run into that brick-and-mortar world.”The deal, providing Amazon access to Whole Foods’ 466 stores in the United States and the United Kingdom, hasn’t yet closed, and there is plenty of speculation that competitive bids could materialize. But Amazon has its reasons to pursue the acquisition with determination.“Food is the least penetrated category from the online shopping standpoint,” explained Shelman. “Amazon clearly wants to bring that into the fold. I think the realization is that it takes some different skills and infrastructure in food than perhaps they are set up to deal with, so this gives them a tremendous opportunity to learn from that, and to run with that.”Addressing widely held consumer perceptions may also play an important role in this odd-couple marriage.As Shelman sees it, “For Amazon, the biggest challenge in delivering fresh products to your home is what everybody always says: ‘Oh, I don't trust them. I want to go pick out my fruits and veggies and my meats myself.’ Whole Foods brings in that brand name that has value, so it’s: ‘I trust Whole Foods, so now I trust Amazon bringing me Whole Foods quality. Do I trust Whole Foods to deliver for me? I don't think they're very efficient. But Amazon delivering Whole Foods is like, wow!’ So both sides win from the opposite brand name.”What might this mean at some key points along the food supply chain?Producers and growers in an Amazon/Whole Foods worldThe biggest obstacle for producers trying to access markets through the food retail industry today is the enormous power held by the supermarket and big box chains as gatekeepers to the consumer.Control of in-store product positioning provides an enormous source of revenue for traditional supermarkets. So-called “slotting fees” must be paid to win premium space in order for a product to appear on the shelves of Krogers, Safeways and other major chain stores.“Only big companies can afford to do that,” said Shelman. “Even if you are a small company and can find the money to pay a slotting fee to get on the shelf, the ongoing costs of the promotion and support that it takes to actually get your sales up to a level that is acceptable to that retailer is a staggering number — something like $100 million, $10 million to introduce a new brand today.”A major casualty of this, she notes, is creativity.“We see that in the big packet food industries: They just bring out yet another flavor, another line, another variation in that brand, and they keep blocking up that shelf,” she explained. “You really don't get any true innovation there.”Shelman believes the evolution of the “Amazon marketplace” is providing new opportunities for smaller producers to bypass those costs and directly reach the consumer.But Connolly believes “Big Ag” and smaller farmers alike have some concern.“It's part of seismic changes taking place in the food chain,” he said. “The top 10 food companies have seen a decline in their sales, profits and share prices as consumers reject traditional famous food brands built around processed foods.”Every day these shifts are reflected in the news: Nestlé being a $3.5 billion target by an activist investor; Kraft’s attempted takeover of Unilever; Amazon gobbling up Whole Foods; and Wal-Mart’s purchase of Jet.comSo, if traditional “Big Food” players are in trouble, how should agribusiness respond?“It must adapt to the new reality,” says Connolly, listing the top three strategies food businesses must take to thrive in the changing landscape:Become lean: Big Food that is merging or being acquired will seek to drive costs out of the system.Deliver prosumer values to address the prosumer and millennial agenda of traceability, transparency, sustainability, welfare and removing unwanted additives.Go direct and to build your own brands again.Connolly notes that “this is a new era with the food business re-fragmenting, and smaller brands will be faster to build and sell direct. Consumer sales over the internet offer an opportunity for ‘Big Ag’ that was not available 20 years ago.”In this new coupling, who will take the lead? Shelman expects that Amazon will pull Whole Foods toward its brand promise and mass appeal: convenience and reasonably priced items across quality levels.“I don't believe Amazon will broadly adopt the same positioning and values as Whole Foods across their broader food portfolio,” she said. “I can't imagine them not selling Cheerios or Kraft Mac & Cheese online. They may initially adopt a higher quality approach in fresh products — meats and produce, since those seem to require a stronger brand to sell.”Consumers in an Amazon/Whole Foods worldToday’s consumer is swimming in a sea of options and information. The innovation of the “food kit” has given rise to the home-delivered packages offered by Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Plated, Purple Carrot and Home Chef. Nestlé has invested in the prepared meal delivery service Freshly, and Sun Basket has attracted Unilever capital.It takes time to complete a merger with all the complexities brought to the table by Amazon and Whole Foods. So what's going to happen to the rest of the food industry while t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted? Views differ about the extent to which the merger will cause change.Speaking to analysts and investors at a conference in Boston, Kroger CFO Mike Schlotman said he doesn’t envision a major shift to people ordering groceries online for delivery to their homes.“Part of me refuses to believe that everybody is just going to sit at home and everything is going to be brought to their doorstep and nobody is ever going to leave home to do anything again,” said Schlotman.But, according to Connolly, “the United States has been slower to the party than other parts of the world,” and there is plenty of evidence that significant change is already well underway.“Maybe there are some of us that take joy in walking up and down the grocery aisle and doing that as our chore, but what consumers are saying is that they're voting with their feet,” Connolly said. “They're saying, ‘If you give me a better alternative, I won’t go to the store.’"Connolly recalls the observations of a friend who is involved in the food industry in the U.K., working with Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, who forecasts that we're in the last five to eight years of the big box model of the supermarket.“What we're going to see in the future, according to him, is much more of a Starbucks version of a grocery store,where you can buy the small produce, organic, the pieces that you want to have hands on, but for the most part, you're going to pick it on your cell phone, ordering it directly, and it will arrive today by delivery in a half-an-hour increment,” he explained. “So if you say 4:00 p.m., it'll be between 4:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. In the future, that will be delivered by robots, which is already happening in England, and eventually it'll happen by drone.”One of the world’s largest pork producers, Smithfield Shuanghui of China, has a strategic cooperation agreement to sell packaged Smithfield meats through JD.com, a Chinese version of Amazon.“They’re creating a cold chain system from the warehouse to the customer, selling fresh chilled foods, including packaged meats,” says Michael Woolsey, senior strategic manager for Alltech China. “If a customer in the morning decides they want to have hotdogs from Smithfield for dinner that night, they take out their cell phone, dial up JD.com, order the hotdogs and the truck shows up later that afternoon. Chilled distribution the entire way to the consumer’s door. So, it’s a superior product. It’s what consumers want. It’s an exciting development.”Shelman says today’s marketplace “is just fundamentally different” as consumers are being conditioned to a whole different set of solutions.“I think for everybody now, the fun of thinking about these different scenarios and letting go of the old retail model is leading us all to be very challenged to think about what that future is going to be like,” she said. “How are we going to get our food 10 years from now?”Connolly sees profound change arriving even sooner.“If we think of machine vision, where you use a camera with artificial intelligence, you can teach your camera to recognize what you want in your meat, what you want in your produce,” he said. “It can learn to smell the produce. It can learn to recognize the color that you want. It can probably even, using these internet of things-type devices, give you all of the origins of and the pesticides used in the products, all of the things that might cause allergies.“So, your drone, equipped with the right camera and the right artificial intelligence, can do these things,” continued Connolly. “And we are not talking about something that is going to happen in the next 30 years. This can happen within the next 12 months.”And 20-somethings from Brazil to Kazakhstan can hardly wait.
Half of Canadians are unsure about whether our food system is going in the right direction. It’s with this as the backdrop that the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI) launched last summer. Its goal is to help Canada’s food system earn trust through research, dialogue and forums.Understanding consumer concerns and questions is the important base everyone in the food system needs to set benchmarks for success in communicating with Canadians about our food and how it’s produced. Success will only happen if there are shifts between consumer expectations and industry practices – the two must be more closely aligned. New public trust research by CCFI aims to help bridge that gap. It shows the rising cost of food and access to healthy, affordable food as two top concerns for Canadians, above concerns for health care or the economy. But with 93 per cent of Canadians saying they know little or nothing about farming, determining fact from fiction about our food continues to be a growing issue. The study, which polled 2,510 Canadians, shows two-thirds want to know more about how their food is produced. Overall impressions of agriculture and trust in farmers and researchers are high. View the embedded image gallery online at: https://www.canadianpoultrymag.com/index.php?option=com_k2&Itemid=74&lang=en&layout=latest&view=latest#sigProGalleria6d61e9202c However, when asked specific questions on topics like antibiotics, environmental stewardship or GMOs, the support shifts significantly from positive to close to half being unsure. When people are unsure, it’s easiest to be against something. Advocating for scientific advancements in general requires significant planning, strategy and resources to be effective. Advocating for scientific advancements related to food requires even more effort and investment. After studying lessons from losing social licence and public trust in other sectors like oil and gas and forestry and agri-food sectors in other countries, we clearly need to be proactive and transparent about how our food is produced in Canada. The CCFI research shows it’s an opportune time to open up more dialogue with Canadians. Let’s bridge the gap between farm gates and dinner plates!Crystal Mackay is president of the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity, which represents a coalition of farmers and associated food and agri-businesses proactively working together to provide credible information on food and farming. She is a dynamic presenter who has delivered hundreds of presentations to a broad range of audiences from farmers to university students to CEOs across North America. Visit www.foodintegrity.ca for more information on the organization’s work and a summary of key research findings. Look for new work on public trust in food and transparency to be released at the CCFI Public Trust Summit Sept. 18-20, 2017 in Calgary.
July 20, 2017, Toronto, Ont. - A new poll conducted by NRG Research Group shows nine out of 10 Canadians want food companies to commit to greatly reducing the suffering of chickens in their supply chains, even if it results in higher prices.To view the poll results, visit bit.ly/CanadaChickenSurvey.The poll surveyed consumers on improving each step of a broiler chicken's life, from genetic selection to slaughter. Key findings include the following: 90% oppose using chickens bred to grow so fast they often become crippled under their own weight and support switching to breeds with higher welfare outcomes 88% support ending live-shackle slaughter in favor of less cruel systems that eliminate the suffering caused by shackling, shocking, and slitting the throats of conscious animals 88% oppose extreme crowding by which each chicken is provided with less than a square foot of floor space 86% support banning these conditions even if per-pound cost of chicken meat increases Respondents also strongly support measures such as keeping chicken litter clean enough to prevent eye sores, flesh burns, and respiratory distress; providing environmental enrichment, such as straw bales and pecking objects, so chickens can engage in natural behaviors; improving lighting standards, including at least six hours of darkness each day to avoid further accelerating the chickens' growth; and implementing third-party auditing programs to ensure laws and commitments are not violated.The poll was conducted just days after the release of an undercover investigation exposing sadistic animal abuse at more than a dozen Lilydale chicken supplier farms. The investigation revealed workers ripping chickens' legs off, hitting and kicking chickens, and performing crude sex acts with the birds.Many leading food companies, including Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Boston Pizza, have already adopted meaningful welfare standards to address these issues. But the nation's largest restaurant conglomerate, Cara Foods, which operates brands such as Harvey's, Milestones, and Kelsey's, has yet to commit to a comprehensive broiler welfare policy like its competitors.The online survey of 500 Canadian consumers was commissioned by Mercy For Animals and conducted by NRG Research Group June 15–20, 2017.
July 11, 2017 - Proponents of the slower-growing broiler movement claim that the meat product from those chickens has a superior flavor. However, Dr. Eilir Jones, CEO of Poultry Nutrition Limited, questions the validity of those claims.Why is chicken flavor often masked? Jones, who spoke at the recent Alltech Ideas Conference in Lexington, Kentucky, wondered about how important flavor really is to chicken consumers.He stated that about 50 percent of all chicken meat sold is either further processed or part of packaged meals. Those products include sauces, gravies, spices and vegetables that “mask the flavor of chicken.”He even quipped that the night before, he ate some chicken wings that were covered in a sauce so strong, “he was still tasting it today,” and he didn’t think he even could taste the chicken when he was eating it. READ MORE
June, 28, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. - Results from the newest Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) report Canadians are consuming more of their calories from protein than they did over a decade ago. Fat consumption amongst adults increased slightly and there was a small decline in carbohydrates consumption.According to Dr. David Ma, PhD, Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph: "While there are some differences in consumption since the last survey in 2004, the data shows Canadians are generally consuming carbohydrates, fats and protein within recommended ranges. We need to eat these in the right proportions of total energy to reduce risk of chronic disease and to provide enough essential nutrients."The report notes that for children and teenagers, the percentage of daily energy intake from protein increased one per cent (from 14.6 per cent in 2004 to 15.6 per cent in 2015). For adults, it edged up from 16.5 per cent to 17.0 per cent. This still lingers at the lower end of the acceptable range of 10 to 35 per cent of calories set by the Institute of Medicine."The data is encouraging as the previous national survey showed Canadians were consuming protein at the lower end of the acceptable distribution range," said Dr. Stuart Phillips, PhD, Director of the Physical Activity Centre of Excellence (PACE) and McMaster Centre for Nutrition, Exercise, and Health Research. "Protein is essential for all tissues in the body, providing amino acids that are important for growth and development. Protein is particularly important for older people to help slow muscle loss.""Based on my research, consuming even more than the recommended amount of high quality protein, from nutrient-rich sources such as pork, beef, lamb, dairy products and eggs throughout the day, combined with regular exercise, helps prevent the loss of muscle tissue as we age," he adds.Many Canadians consume an abundance of foods, but many do not obtain the nutrients they require for good health. Meat, for example, is a compact source of many nutrients that are essential for good health and life. These include: protein, phosphorus, zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B12, thiamin, vitamin D, niacin, and riboflavin."Research shows that diets with increased protein and reduced carbohydrates may help prevent type 2 diabetes by facilitating weight loss through increased satiety, increased thermogenesis, and muscle retention," said Mary Ann Binnie of the International Meat Secretariat Nutrition Committee and a Canadian Meat Council spokesperson. "This is especially important given the number of Canadians diagnosed with diabetes has tripled in the past 20 years."
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Eastern Ontario Poultry ConferenceWed Nov 29, 2017
PIC Science in the PubMon Jan 22, 2018
Pacific Agriculture ShowThu Jan 25, 2018
International Poultry Scientific ForumMon Jan 29, 2018
International Production and Processing ExpoTue Jan 30, 2018