January 18, 2016 - The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the pathogenicity of eight of the nine H7N8 avian influenza detections announced on January 16. The turkey flocks have been confirmed as low pathogenic avian influenza, with additional testing ongoing for the ninth flock. These January 16 detections were identified as part of surveillance testing in the control area surrounding the initial highly pathogenic H7N8 avian influenza (HPAI) case in that state, identified on January 15. “It appears that there was a low pathogenic virus circulating in the poultry population in this area, and that virus likely mutated into a highly pathogenic virus in one flock,” said Dr. John Clifford, USDA Chief Veterinarian. “Through cooperative industry, state and federal efforts, we were able to quickly identify and isolate the highly pathogenic case, and depopulate that flock. Together, we are also working to stop further spread of the LPAI virus, and will continue aggressive testing on additional premises within the expanded control area to ensure any additional cases of either HPAI or LPAI are identified and controlled quickly.” APHIS continues to work closely with the Indiana State Board of Animal Health and the affected poultry industry on a joint incident response. State officials quarantined the additional affected premises and depopulation of birds has already begun. Depopulation prevents the spread of the disease. Birds from the flock will not enter the food system. No human infections associated with avian influenza A viruses of this particular subtype (i.e., H7N8) have ever been reported. As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F kills bacteria and viruses, including HPAI. As part of existing avian influenza response plans, Federal and State partners continue to work on additional surveillance and testing in the nearby area. No new presumptive cases have been identified since January 16. The rapid testing and response in this incident is the result of months of planning with local, state, federal and industry partners to ensure the most efficient and effective coordination. Since the previous HPAI detections in 2015, APHIS and its state and industry partners have learned valuable lessons to help implement stronger preparedness and response capabilities. In September, APHIS published a HPAI Preparedness and Response Plan that captures the results of this planning effort, organizing information on preparatory activities, policy decisions and updated strategy documents.
July 14, 2015 - Canada's poultry industry will be able to address a significant productivity issue thanks to a $400,000 investment from Western Economic Diversification Canada. This investment will enable the University of Saskatchewan's Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) to develop and commercialize a novel technology that delivers an immunity-boosting aerosol protectant to chickens as an alternative to antibiotics. This project supports a multi-regional partnership with poultry farms based in Saskatchewan and British Columbia, and engages highly qualified personnel in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia as well as industry associations from both Alberta and Saskatchewan. The funding will allow WCVM veterinary pathologist Dr. Susantha Gomis to realize nearly 10 years of avian immunity research and develop a novel, non-antibiotic, non-vaccine aerosol that can be used at the hatchery to protect birds before they are shipped to farms. More information is available here.
Dr. Suresh Neethirajan and his team from the “BioNano Laboratory” of the University of Guelph have worked to develop a new detection system capable of detecting small amounts of avian influenza virus within minutes. It’s a diagnostic tool not only capable of detecting the virus rapidly on-site, but that will also enable field deployable, point-of-care diagnostic systems. Influenza is one of the most common infectious diseases, resulting in up to half a million human deaths annually. Influenza A, a subtype of the virus associated with pandemics and causing most deaths, is further classified according to the properties of two viral surface proteins called hemagglutin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). The H1N1 human-adapted strain of the virus caused up to 40 million human deaths in 1919 and the recently detected H5N1 avian influenza strain, commonly termed “bird flu”, has resulted in up to half a million human deaths since 2000. “Considering the threat which avian influenza poses to human health and the growth of the agricultural sector, investing in disease control strategies is vital”, explains Dr. Suresh Neethirajan in describing the issue at hand. “Preventing the spread of the infection is the best way to keep the disease under control. Prevention in this case starts with effective surveillance.” Dr. Neethirajan explains the current status of their findings in a report: “a novel sensing mechanism for quicker detection of avian influenza. Sensitivity of the sensing mechanism is possible for both H1N1-HA and H5N1-HA allowing the discrimination between avian and human influenza. This proves to be extremely valuable in the recent human influenza pandemic caused by poultry birds. We have created a rapid animal health pen side diagnostic tool that only needs less volume of blood, less chemicals and less time compared to the currently used methods. The sensing mechanism and the technique have the potential to serve as a feasible and sensitive diagnostic tool for influenza virus detection and discrimination for poultry industries, with further improvement on the architectures”. The developed sensing assay will aid not only the poultry industries, producers and farmers, but also the public. The technology under development will ultimately be deployed towards early diagnosis of avian influenza. The results from the proposed point of care test for early diagnosis will assist in identifying potential public health threats. This project was funded by the Poultry Industry Council and the Turkey Farmers of Ontario.
April 15, 2015 - U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have developed an improved Newcastle disease virus (NDV) vaccine evaluation procedure that could be used to select better vaccines to treat the disease. Newcastle disease, one of the most important poultry diseases worldwide, can cause severe illness in chickens and other birds. Severe, or virulent, strains rarely occur in poultry species in the United States, but they are regularly found in poultry in many foreign countries. Available commercial NDV vaccines perform well in chickens infected with virulent NDV under experimental conditions. They also perform well under field conditions where virulent virus is not common. However, they often fail in countries where virulent viruses are endemic.At the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL) in Athens, Georgia, microbiologist Claudio Afonso and veterinary medical officer Patti Miller have updated the traditional vaccine evaluation method, which does not compare vaccines or take into account suboptimal field conditions. Under perfect conditions, vaccines should work, but conditions are not always perfect in the field, according to Miller. Chickens sometimes get less than the required vaccine dose and don't always have the minimum amount of time required to develop an optimum immune response. The improved vaccine-evaluation procedure compares vaccines made using genes from the same viral strain-or genotype-that the birds are exposed to in the field to vaccines made with a strain that differs from the virus birds are exposed to. Using the improved procedure, scientists inoculated chickens with different vaccine doses before exposure to a high dose of virulent NDV. Birds given the genotype-matched vaccine had reduced viral shedding, superior immune responses, reduced clinical signs, and increased survival than the birds vaccinated with a different-genotype vaccine. By using genotype-matched vaccines, viral shedding and death were significantly reduced.ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.
March 4, 2015 - Prairie Diagnostic Services Inc. will receive $549,278 from Ottawa for new equipment to "expand and modernize'" its testing efficiency. Brad Trost, MP for Saskatoon-Humboldt, said the funding will help veterinarians, livestock and feed producers and exporters to be able to better ensure Canada's food safety both domestically and abroad. He says the new equipment will help with bacteriology, toxicology, pathology and food testing. The Leader Post reports.
A number of poultry industry groups are using a less costly method to collect avian influenza virus samples, thanks to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists. At the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL) in Athens, Ga., scientists conduct studies not only to identify various avian influenza virus strains, but also to determine their origin and whether current tests and vaccines are effective against them. In addition, the scientists investigate the best methods for collecting virus samples from poultry for testing. In the United States, all meat chickens and turkeys must be tested for avian influenza before processing. Sample collection is an important component of this process. A certain number of swab samples, taken from inside the birds’ mouths, are needed per flock to get a reasonable virus sample, according to microbiologist Erica Spackman, who works in SEPRL’s Exotic and Emerging Avian Viral Diseases Research Unit. The current method used to determine if virus is present works well, but requires placing only one to five swab samples in a tube. Spackman found that improvements could be made by switching the type of swab used and increasing the number or swabs in each tube. “One of the most important variables is the number of swabs required—the sample size we take from inside the mouth of the chicken or turkey to see if the virus is there,” Spackman says. “We need to collect a certain number of swab samples per flock to get a reasonable virus sample.” Swab samples are collected from the same flock and put into tubes for testing. Traditionally, each tube contains 1-5 swab samples. The idea was to determine whether more swab samples could be pooled together into a single tube without inhibiting or affecting the sensitivity of the test. Spackman found that putting 1, 5, or 11 swab samples in the same tube did not affect testing. A similar experiment with Newcastle virus samples had the same results. This research, which was published in BioMed Central Veterinary Research in 2013, supports the USDA’s priority of promoting international food security. ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency.
September 21, 2016 - With early harvest feed grain samples confirming a high risk year for potential feed quality issues, livestock operations and feed mills are advised to take cautionary steps to safeguard feed quality and livestock performance. “The risk of feed grain quality issues that can affect livestock performance is quite high this year,” says Rob Patterson, Technical Director for Canadian Bio-Systems Inc. (CBS Inc.) “That’s no surprise with the type of growing season it has been across the Prairies. In many areas it has been very wet with high disease pressure and high risk of mycotoxins, mold and other issues. We are now seeing the risk confirmed in reports from across the region, based on analysis of early harvest grain samples.“It’s a year when livestock operations and feed mills will want to be even more diligent than normal in taking the right steps to safeguard the quality of feed and the performance of livestock consuming the feed.”A good starting point is to send in feed grain samples for analysis, says Patterson. “This can identify the presence and level of mycotoxins and other contaminants. Once you know what you’re dealing with you can take the steps needed avoid any issues.”The convenience, sophistication and accuracy of fast test capability has improved dramatically in recent years, says Mark Peters, Director of Sales and Marketing for CBS Inc. “We have seen a lot more interest in the testing. Industry has become more knowledgeable and cautious about the risk out there and how it can impact production. The testing is a good insurance policy and it’s good for peace of mind. Especially in a year like this one.”CBS Inc. is an example of industry taking on greater capacity in grain analysis to help serve customers. The company offers a tool called MycoCheck that has been developed in part based on studies in partnership with Canadian universities.“The customer sends us a sample, we run the analysis and get back quickly with the information to support a sound management decision,” says Peters. “The technology has come a long way. We see increasingly more livestock operations and feed mills taking advantage.”More information on grain sample analysis options, potential quality issues and options for safeguarding feed and livestock is available by contacting CBS Inc. directly. CBS Inc. offers additional FeedCheck analysis tools. The company also conducts an annual Wheat Survey in cooperation with industry and the University of Manitoba.More information on CBS Inc. and its comprehensive line of feed technology is available at www.canadianbio.com
August 2, 2016- Canadian biotechnology company AbCelex has received an investment of $3.4 million from the federal government to develop a new line of anti-microbial feed additives to help control disease outbreaks in poultry flocks. Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (AAFC), Lawrence MacAulay, made the announcement July 29. The company is developing a line of innovative non-antibiotic, non-hormonal additives that are specifically targeted at Campylobacter and Salmonella, two of the most common food-borne bacteria that infect poultry. The new anti-microbials – called “nanobodies” – will result in healthier poultry and improve food safety. AbCelex is a Canadian biotechnology company focused on developing livestock food additives that help improve animal health and food safety. AAFC supports the development and adoption of industry-led initiatives regarding biosecurity and animal care to support the prudent use of antimicrobials. This project will be conducted in collaboration with the International Vaccine Centre at the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Toronto and the Colorado Quality Research Inc. Funding for this project comes from the AgriInnovation Program (Research and Development Stream) as part of the Growing Forward 2 agricultural policy framework.
July 20, 2016 - Enterra Feed Corporation has received regulatory approval for use of its Whole Dried Black Soldier Fly Larvae as a feed ingredient for poultry broilers, the company announced today. "This is a significant step forward," says Victoria Leung, marketing and operations manager for Enterra. "We can now offer a renewable protein alternative to those companies manufacturing and retailing chicken feed." Enterra's manufacturing process at its facility in Langley, B.C involves breeding and raising black soldier fly (BSF) larvae, and feeding them pre-consumer food waste that would otherwise go to landfill, composting or waste-to-energy operations where the food nutrient value would be lost. BSF larvae are an ideal candidate for rearing as a feed ingredient as they consume a wide range of pre-consumer waste food (e.g. waste fruits, vegetables, stale bread, grains, grocery store waste), are native to North America, do not bite or sting, are high in protein and fat, and grow rapidly under controlled conditions. There are several benefits to insect protein, and Enterra expects feed manufacturers to be eager to consider this ecological protein alternative, according to Andrew Vickerson, Chief Technology Officer with Enterra. "Insects are a natural food source for poultry," he says. "Other sources of protein used in animal feed include fish meal, which causes depleted fish stocks, or soybean meal, which requires many inputs and acres of land, which could be used for human food production." The approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) comes after four years of work, during which time the CFIA reviewed Enterra's product as a Novel Feed Ingredient, including a complete assessment of product safety (to livestock, workers, food and the environment), and a data review. In the US, the Ingredients Definition Committee of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) accepted Enterra's application to use Dried Black Soldier Fly Larvae in salmonid feed earlier this year. The definition was reviewed and agreed to by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This was the first time a federal regulatory body in North America accepted the use of an insect based ingredient as a source of energy and protein for use in animal feed. Although insects make up an important part of the diet of fish and poultry in the wild, they had not been approved as a feed ingredient in animal production in North America until this year. These approvals come at an important time as the demand for sustainable feed ingredients is growing. By 2050, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that the demand for food is going to increase by 70 per cent and the demand for meat product is going to double. News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016
July 14, 2016 - The global poultry industry is increasingly utilizing dietary β-mannanase enzyme supplementation for poultry diets as a valuable option to enhance production. But are the purported benefits supported by the latest science? New research results, unveiled at the 2016 Poultry Science Association (PSA) annual meeting, July 11-13 in New Orleans, call into question the value of single activity β-mannanase source formulations, particularly when used with soybean meal based diets representing the vast majority of global production. The fresh knowledge presented at PSA centres around a newly completed study led by Dr. Anna Rogiewicz of the University of Manitoba – an institution recognized among the global leaders in novel feed ingredient and feed enzyme research. Program collaborators include the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Poland, and Canadian Bio-Systems Inc. “We’re learning that the story around mannans and mannanase is more complex,” says Rogiewicz. “There are questions that need more validation in the context of a soybean meal based diet, including the theory that β-mannans in the feed trigger an energy-draining feed induced immune response that would be minimized by β-mannanase supplementation.” The multi-component study included analysis of β-mannan content in soybean meal based diets, along with in vitro experiments to evaluate the affinity of several leading β-mannanase source formulations, specifically with soybean meal based β-mannans. The study also involved an in vivo broiler chicken trial to further evaluate impacts with the β-mannanase source formulations added to soybean meal based diets. This component was designed to evaluate the immune trigger theory. The results confirmed that the β-mannan content within soybean meal based diets is very low and that – as opposed to the high amounts of β-mannans present in guar, copra or palm kernel meals – this small amount in soybean meal is not likely to contribute to any increased intestinal viscosity in poultry fed corn/soybean meal based diets. The in vitro experiments showed substantial breakdown of β-mannans due to β-mannanase activity. However, results with the in vivo study showed “no effect” in terms of growth performance. There was also no evidence shown to indicate that the level of soybean meal based β-mannans triggered a feed induced immune response. This was evaluated by analysis of the weight of immune organs and the level of immunoglobulins in serum and the intestine. “The theory has been that because β-mannans have a molecular pattern similar to some pathogens, this triggers a feed induced immunity response, thereby consuming energy that would be preferably directed to growth and performance,” says Rogiewicz. “However, the results of this study would indicate no feed induced immunity response triggered by β-mannans in soybean meal based diets. This may be due to the very low level of β-mannans in soybean meal based diets, as opposed to the much higher levels in, for example, copra or palm kernel meal based diets.” Broader research and analysis by the University of Manitoba program suggests the best pathway to address β-mannans, along with a full range of target substrates in poultry feed, is through a multi-carbohydrase enzyme approach that utilizes synergies between enzyme sources and activities to maximize feed nutrition capture. More information is available at www.canadianbio.com.
The hardy properties of Camelina sativa give it lots of potential for growing in Canada. It’s tolerant to frost and drought, doesn’t mind cool germination temperatures, thrives in marginal soils, and matures in a short 85 to 100 days, ideal even for northern Saskatchewan or Alberta. Also known as “false flax” or “wild flax,” camelina is most wanted for its oil but now, 100 years after being introduced to North America, the mustard plant is being re-discovered and re-evaluated as livestock feed, fuelled by close to $3.7 million in funding initiatives to develop market ready varieties. Rob Patterson is the technical director for Canadian Bio-Systems Inc., a company that researches, develops and manufactures a wide range of products used in food, feed, industrial and environmental applications. Speaking to the Poultry Industry Council (PIC) Innovations Symposium, Patterson explained how camelina had historically been replaced in modern poultry diets by rapeseed and canola but is now experiencing a resurgence due to its multiple uses as a source of omega-3 oil as well as its potential in biofuels, high-end bio-lubricants and plastics and even jet fuel. Several recent studies have been conducted to re-establish baseline feeding levels and nutritional recommendations for camelina meal in poultry diets. Cold pressed, non-solvent extracted oil cake was approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in 2015 for use in feed up to 12 per cent for broilers only; camelina is not yet approved for use in layers or pigs. How does camelina meal compare to canola meal? Using numbers from the canola feeding guide, Patterson pointed to camelina having a higher Neutral Detergent Fibre (NDF) and Acid Detergent Fibre (ADF) value than canola, but a comparable amino acid spectrum. At 12 per cent fat, camelina meal was a good energy source, compared to canola meal at 3 per cent fat due to oil extraction. The percentage of favorable linoleic and linolenic acid (omega-3) is quite high (39 per cent), but there are also some glucosinolate compounds present, similar to those in rapeseed, that are common to the brassica family and may cause feed refusals. Patterson suggested that more research and breeding work is needed to ensure this issue doesn’t put constraints on the diet. One study at the Atlantic Poultry Research Centre in Truro, N.S., found that gain in broilers dropped off as camelina inclusion reached 15 per cent of the diet, suggesting the defining line was somewhere between 10 and 15 per cent. Feed refusal resulted in less feed being consumed and therefore less growth, but feed conversion rates stayed the same. Patterson suggests that the 12 per cent cap on camelina inclusion may be unrealistic, recommending somewhere between five and 10 per cent. As an omega-3 enrichment factor, camelina meal has potential but it’s not there yet, especially with the 12 per cent inclusion rate cap. To label a product as omega-3 enriched requires a level of 300 milligrams per 100 grams of meat. Even with enzyme supplementation, one study in 2015 by Nairn et al. at the University of Alberta could not reach that level with 12 per cent inclusion of camelina, although they did reach the enrichment level in thigh meat by day 42 with 16 per cent inclusion. In the U.S., camelina can be included up to 10 per cent on broiler and layer diets in omega-3 enriched programs but the U.S. omega-3 level of claim is lower. Camelina oil has higher vitamin E levels than flax oil, meaning a longer shelf life, and it could be more effective than flax for meat enhancement, but Patterson doesn’t see camelina as a viable alternative to flax at this time. The caps to the usage of camelina in poultry diets as he sees them are with the limit to the level of inclusion and regulatory constraints at this time. While he hopes to explore new opportunities with layers within the next year, indicating there is potential there, he regards it as a niche with limited opportunity that is not set to grow much unless producers are spurred by market demand to use camelina as a replacement for flax or genetically modified canola.
April 9, 2016 - Connections and collaboration were a key theme during the Poultry Health Research Network (PHRN) Research Day at the University of Guelph March 29. The research day brought together representatives from government, industry and academia to provide updates on current research and prompt discussion for future collaborations. “The whole intent was to ensure that our industry partners and our researchers, either from academia or the government agencies that work with us, have a chance to mingle and talk about their research needs and what we can do to address those research needs,” said Dr. Shayan Sharif, an immunologist in the Ontario Veterinary College’s Department of Pathobiology and leader of the PHRN. The University of Guelph has had a long-standing commitment to innovation in animal health and production, with one of the largest groups of poultry scientists and poultry experts in North America. The Poultry Health Research Network has been steadily expanding since its inception in 2012 and now includes more than 60 members from across the UofG campus, as well as industry and government researchers. Lloyd Longfield, Member of Parliament for Guelph, addressed the group during lunch, pointing out how important it is to work together to “share resources and specific expertise to solve global problems.” Bringing everyone together in the room is where it needs to start, he added. “We’ve got researchers from the government here, we’ve got researchers from university, we’ve got industry and that’s really the chemistry we need to drive forward.” “Here at the University of Guelph we have an unprecedented and unique gathering of expertise in support of the poultry industry,” said OVC Dean Jeff Wichtel, in addressing the group. “It involves upwards of five of our seven colleges and spans the breadth from poultry welfare right through to vaccine development and molecular basis for immunity to disease.” During the day, UofG researchers, including MSc, PhD students and post-doctoral researchers, outlined current research in a variety of areas, including poultry welfare, biosecurity, vaccine development, nutrition, and antimicrobial resistance. Afternoon presentations with industry representatives, including pharmaceutical, feed, genetics and equipment companies, and researchers provided a forum to explore areas of mutual interest for future collaborations. Sharif recognized funding from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for part of the research day and also acknowledged the Poultry Industry Council, Canadian Poultry Research Council, Livestock Research Innovation Corporation and the Ontario Veterinary College for their ongoing support for PHRN’s work.
March 21, 2016 - Synergy Agri Group of Nova Scotia is the latest winner of the award for the top Cobb500 breeder performance in Canada. The award was presented to Synergy production manager Gary McAleer by Cobb-Vantress technical service manager for Eastern Canada, David Engel. The group was also presented with the award for the top chick producing Cobb 500FF flock as well as the top egg producing Cobb 500 flock in Canada Ranked on adjusted production to 65 weeks of age, the company averaged 150.91 chicks / hen housed on all of their flocks. Their flock in Barn 5 won the award for the most chicks with an individual Cobb 500FF flock and shared the award for the most total eggs, averaging 159.37 chicks / hen housed and 189.9 total eggs, adjusted to 65 weeks of age. ”Gary and the team at Synergy once again showed that paying attention to the finer details of flock management will help achieve such excellent results,” said David Engel. An award was also presented for the top Cobb 500SF flock which Couvoir Boire & Frères in Quebec won for the third year running. The flock at Girard-1 achieved 151.26 chicks / hen adjusted to 65 weeks of age. Sharing the award with Synergy’s B5 barn for the highest total eggs with a Cobb 500 flock was Barn B-52 at the Pondeuses Atlantique farm in New Brunswick. This flock produced 189.20 total eggs adjusted to 65 weeks.
March 18, 2016 - The Retail Council of Canada (RCC) grocery members, including:Loblaw Companies Limited, Metro Inc., Sobeys Inc., and Wal-Mart Canada Corp., announced that they are voluntarily committing to the objective of purchasing cage-free eggs by the end of 2025. The grocery members of the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) remain committed to taking a leadership role in animal welfare and have been working collaboratively to ensure the animal products they purchase meet stringent food safety standards and are raised in a sustainable and humane manner. Guided by this approach, RCC and its members have been actively engaged in domestic and international discussions related to egg production. "There have been significant discussions over the last several months among producers, processors, the scientific community and consumers regarding the best approach for raising hens," says David Wilkes, RCC Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Grocery Division. "These discussions have led to the announcement our members are making today, further demonstrating our commitment to providing Canadians with responsibly sourced food." Wilkes commented that: "this voluntary commitment is made recognizing the restrictions created by Canada's supply management system and importantly this objective will have to be managed in the context of availability of supply within the domestic market." A key part of RCC's approach to animal welfare issues is support for the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC). NFACC is the only group in the world that brings together animal welfare groups, retailers, government and farmers under a collective decision-making model for advancing farm animal welfare. NFACC is currently finalizing recommendations on a Code of Practice for Layer Hens. This code will provide guidance to industry on a number of areas related to the sound management and welfare practices through recommendations and requirements for housing, care, transportation, processing and other animal husbandry practices. Wilkes concluded by saying that: "RCC remains firmly committed to the NFACC process and will work with other participants to not only advance our voluntary commitment to move to cage-free environments by the end of 2025, but also by ensuring suppliers adhere to the Code's recommendations." The Code is expected to be finalized later this year.
Canada’s Inter-Agency Wild Bird Influenza Survey has been testing wild birds for the AI virus since 2005 The 2015 Avian Influenza outbreak was the largest animal health event in U.S. history, affecting 48 million commercial birds at 223 farms in 15 states over six months. North of the border the outbreak affected 245,600 birds across Canada, at 11 farms in BC, three in Ontario. But it was minus forty degrees when the AI virus first appeared in poultry flocks in the Midwest U.S. How did the wild birds interact with the poultry in that extreme cold? Are the wild birds really to blame? While the experts still shake their heads about the reasons why the outbreak got out of control or even got started, Jane Parmley, Epidemiologist with the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC), continues to investigate the role of wild birds in the spread of the Avian Influenza (AI) virus. Parmley has been part of Canada’s Inter-Agency Wild Bird Influenza Survey coordinated by the CWHC since 2005. From 2005 through 2014, over 50,000 wild birds have been tested for the AI virus in Canada. The first screening determines if the birds carry AI of any type. Positive birds are then further tested for H5 or H7 specifically; further positive tests then lead to investigation of the origin and pathogenicity of the AI virus. Does the detection of low pathogenic AI in wild birds indicate a risk to domestic poultry? “We tend to blame wild birds when we don’t have an easy explanation,” Parmley told delegates at a Poultry Industry Council Health Day in Stratford, Ont., but would early detection of the AI virus in wild birds could provide a sentinel to poultry producers? It’s a global story: the high pathogenic H5N8 strain was originally identified in South Korea in 2014, showing similarities to a virus detected in 2014 in China, eventually reaching birds in Russia, North America, Europe and Japan. There were three HPAI virus strains seen in North America in 2014/15: H5N8 Eurasian lineage, H5N1 and H5N2. It is believed that the North American viruses came across the Pacific because of their closer similarity to the Asian strain than the European strain, and the timing of arrival made more sense, said Parmley. So far the virus is not considered zoonotic, but that could shift quickly. Wild birds that are considered as natural reservoirs of low pathogenicity strains include waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans), and shorebirds (such as waders and gulls). There are four flyways across North America – the Pacific, Central, Mississippi and Atlantic – connecting wintering and breeding grounds in every part of the continent, from Alaska and Greenland through to Mexico and the Caribbean. Over 75 per cent of Canadian wild bird species spend at least half of the year outside of Canada; representatives of all of these species are in all the flyways. Because the greatest number and variety of viruses have been seen in waterfowl and shorebirds and their large population, these birds have been the focus of live bird surveillance; most of the live birds sampled have been ducks. On average, 16 per cent of live birds and one per cent of dead birds have so far tested positive for the low pathogenic North American viruses during the survey period. So far in 2015, 1134 live birds have been tested across Canada, with 93 positive for AI and three for H7 viruses that are not HPAI. In Ontario alone, 624 live birds have yielded 86 positives with no H5 or H7 so far. Also in 2015, 1576 dead birds have been tested across Canada, with 16 positive, four H5 and one H7 (not HPAI); in Ontario alone 266 have been tested with two positive and no H5 or H7. The updated results are available on the CWHC website at http://www.cwhc-rcsf.ca/data_products_aiv.php But Parmley says that the surveillance effort has varied over the past ten years for several reasons. Survey objectives have changed and available resources have changed; sample sizes are low compared to real populations, and samples are taken haphazardly across the country, often piggybacking on bird banding procedures that may not necessarily be anywhere near poultry farms. We also need to be careful when extrapolating past results over a wide geographic region to the viruses of today. Moving forward there are still many questions. Will virus based warnings even work? Can wild birds be sentinels? Ultimately we’re trying to develop an early warning system to predict risk and see how the virus is evolving, said Parmley, something she called “incredibly hard to do.” To better protect poultry farms, Parmley says this effort will take more resources – people, time and money. When is the best time of year to test? How early do we disseminate findings to react in a timely manner? Does wild bird monitoring detect the risk sooner than monitoring the poultry population itself? Can we verify the signals and the risk associated with those signals to avoid an unnecessary response? Is there adequate infrastructure and political will to design and implement a sustainable system? While wild birds are acknowledged as a reservoir for the AI virus, the relationship between hosts and virus remains diverse and complex. We need to further consider the epidemiological, climatological and agricultural differences across such a vast area, from the Arctic to the Caribbean, as well as at the interface between wild and farmed birds. So far we suspect that the virus can move through migratory birds, but it can also move through trade in poultry and poultry products as well as other human activities. Nationally, for 2015/16, the goal of testing 1500 dead wild birds has already been exceeded. In Ontario the plan is to test 1500 live wild birds. One live trap site has been set within the control zone of the central Ontario AI outbreak in the spring of 2015. Despite the challenges, so far Parmley reports a greatly improved understanding of the ecology and epidemiology of AI. We now have a better understanding of the role of waterfowl as a source and vector, the activity of the virus itself within the host, and a better grasp of how the virus is shed. Beyond 2015, Parmley suggests a thorough process review to identify gaps, identify locations and populations that may be more vulnerable to infection, to help target both resources and surveillance. A national strategy would clarify roles, responsibilities and performance expectations. “The virus keeps changing and so we need to keep learning,” said Parmley. The question that remains from the 2014/15 outbreaks in North America is how the virus got into poultry? “We can’t look at wild birds and domestic poultry separately – it is the points and places where these populations intersect where we need to focus our attention if we hope to prevent and prepare for the next outbreak.”
"The fact is that if we don’t learn how to recycle nutrients and water, we are doomed. We will start dying off from hunger. This is just one approach to prolong our existence on this planet.” That ominous warning comes from Nick Savidov, senior research scientist at the Bio-Industrial Opportunities Branch of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (AARD). By recycling nutrients and water, he means extracting the valuable nutrients from waste streams like poultry manure by using microorganisms in an oxygen-rich environment within a device called a bioreactor to mineralize and dissolve the nutrients in a liquid solution. The nutrients can then be re-used as plant food. Savidov describes this as a sustainable approach to agriculture that could help save humanity from starvation down the road. Tapping into this source of organic fertilizer from aerobic bioreaction is critical to continued human life on Earth, says Savidov, because current synthetic fertilizer sources are non-renewable. For example, he says that according to the most recent survey by the International Fertilizer Development Centre (IFDC), 85 per cent of all phosphorus rock reserves on the planet, which are used to produce phosphorus fertilizers are located in just one area - in Morocco and the Western Sahara. Also, current nitrogen synthetic fertilizers can only be produced using non-renewable fossil fuels. Sources of synthetic fertilizers now in widespread use are a finite resource that will eventually run out. Nutrient and water recycling to capture these same nutrients from animal waste streams offers hope to feeding humanity in future. He is working with an AARD research team, which includes engineer and system designer, Marc Legault, to demonstrate the use of an aerobic bioreactor to mineralize nutrients from raw poultry manure. They used the dissolved organic fertilizer, called “digestate” to grow market garden vegetables and tree seedlings in a soil-less growing environment. So far, the results have been highly successful. For example, seedlings of lodgepole pine and white spruce fed with this mineralized organic nutrient stream, “doubled in height after two months. The results exceeded all our expectations,” says Savidov. The organic fertilizer was also used to grow greenhouse tomatoes, and a 15 per cent higher yield was achieved versus use of synthetic fertilizer because of enhanced nutrient uptake by the plants. “We demonstrated that we can produce vigorous growth of major nursery crops grown in Alberta and B.C., using poultry manure digestate,” says Savidov. It is common practice right now to grow market garden vegetables and tree seedlings in greenhouses that use no soil, where the plant roots are immersed in liquid environments and fed computer-controlled, metered amounts of synthetic fertilizers to promote growth. But these Alberta researchers want growers to consider using mineralized organic fertilizers extracted from animal waste instead of synthetic fertilizers because it is a more sustainable form of agriculture. What’s different and proving more beneficial by using recycled organic fertilizers instead of synthetics is that they are biologically active with beneficial microorganisms. In addition to exceptional growth over a short period of time, the tree seedlings also experienced enhanced root biomass development, robust health such as better resistance to root pathogens, and improved nutrient uptake, meaning that they experienced exceptional growth in low nutrient solutions. In other words, growers can use small amounts to achieve big results, which could be a huge economic benefit. Furthermore, the water used in these soil-less growing systems is recycled so that there is less pollution released to the environment, and the grower achieves greater water use and nutrient uptake efficiencies. Researchers chose to work with poultry manure as their raw material because it was readily available, rich in nitrogen, and less fibrous than cattle manure, which because of its fibre content, takes longer to ferment. The processed poultry manure resulted in organic fertilizer with low sodium content, which can be toxic to plants in higher concentrations, and pH within the tolerable range for plants. Savidov emphasizes that whether it is synthetic fertilizers or this type of organic fertilizer, the nutrients have to be mineralized so they can be used as plant food. He adds that what’s new about this process versus the common practice of creating organic fertilizer by composting manure is that this aerobic bioreaction conversion process is much faster -- taking two to three weeks versus three months to a year with composting. Also, this method results in 100 per cent conversion of the raw manure to valuable, liquid plant food versus composting or the other commonly known method of converting animal manure to organic fertilizer — anaerobic digestion. This is the process of converting manure to organic fertilizer and biogas in an oxygen-free environment. The researchers’ goals were to prove that it is possible to create a liquid, biologically-active, organic fertilizer from raw animal manure using their aerobic fermentation method and that plant response from this organic fertilizer in a soil-less growing environment is as good as or better than the use of synthetic fertilizers. Savidov says it is possible to extract valuable nutrients using their bioreactor system from all forms of animal manure or other food and agriculture by-products but they started with poultry manure. Ultimately, converting manure to a liquid nutrient stream using their bioreactor technology could represent a new income stream for farmers like poultry producers, as well as a non-synthetic, biologically active, fertilizer source for growers. The conversion process also produces heat, which can be used to heat poultry barns. An aerobic bioreactor is not expensive, space-age technology. It is easily achievable, relatively inexpensive technology. The bioreactor is simply a septic tank with a built-in agitator. Oxygen and water is added to the tank along with the manure to create a slurry. Intense mixing within the tank is critical to maintain consistent fermentation. Savidov says there is no odor during the reaction process, except when the raw manure is added because oxygen reacts with common odor-causing compounds like hydrogen sulfide. Because all components within the raw manure will completely mineralize over different time intervals, there will be some solid material left in the liquid outfeed stream after three weeks. After about three weeks, the bioreactor is stopped and the processed liquid is removed to a filtration tank. The solids are separated from the liquid and returned to the bioreactor for further fermentation, while the liquid stream is ready for use as organic fertilizer. “To be honest, it’s not really an absolutely new system,” says Savidov. “It’s using bits and pieces of what is already used in the agriculture industry for manure treatment.” He adds that greenhouses and nurseries would have to change very little to convert from synthetic fertilizer use to this type of organic fertilizer. The researchers hope that aerobic fermentation of animal manure into organic fertilizer will become a common practice, either on farms, by commercial organic fertilizer producers, or directly at greenhouses or tree nurseries. It is currently used in some parts of Europe to treat cattle manure.
August 31, 2015 – A sold-out crowd of 250 gathered at War Memorial Hall at the University of Guelph on August 27 to hear world-renowned animal behaviourist Dr. Temple Grandin give a keynote presentation. Dr. Grandin addressed the audience for an hour, talking on the subject of how different minds solve problems. She then met with attendees at a reception following her presentation. Dr. Grandin is an inspiration to people with autism for her work as an animal behaviorist. Dr. Grandin has developed humane livestock handling systems, and has worked as a consultant to the livestock handling industry on animal care standards. She has, in addition, designed processing facilities in which half the cattle in the United States are handled while working for Burger King, McDonalds, Swift and others. Dr. Grandin was in Ontario assisting with the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization training (PAACO). The organization’s mission is to promote the humane treatment of animals through education and certification of animal auditors. Dr. Grandin was named by Time Magazine as one of 2010’s “100 most influential People in the World”. HBO also produced the award-winning biographical film on her life entitled Temple Grandin. She currently speaks around the world on both autism and animal behaviour. The event was organized as a fundraiser for Farm & Food Care Canada. The charitable organization, based out of Guelph, cultivates appreciation for food and farming by connecting Canadian farm gates to our dinner plates. Farm & Food Care is a coalition of farmers and associated businesses proactively working together with a commitment to provide credible information and strengthen sustainable food and farming for the future. For more information on the initiatives of Farm & Food Care Canada, please visit www.farmcarefoundation.ca.
May 22, 2015 - A national training and certification program for those who handle and transport farm animals will be made available online thanks to $180,000 in government funds. The money comes from Growing Forward 2, a five-year provincial and federal initiative that supports a variety of projects in the agriculture and agri-food industries. The Canadian Livestock Transport (CLT) Certification program was developed in Alberta in 2007 and has enjoyed national and U.S. participation since the program was moved to the Canadian Animal Health Coalition in 2013. This has included growing international recognition of CLT as an innovative, pioneering program and a leading example of industry-driven leadership in livestock welfare. The overall goal is to help ensure that farm animals inCanada are transported in a safe and humane manner.The Canadian Animal Health Coalition is very pleased to receive this funding, said Coalition Chair, Jennifer MacTavish. "It will allow us to advance the highest animal welfare standards in the transport of farm animals," she said. The funding will be used to develop interactive multimedia online materials and delivery of the existing CLT program that is offered to transport drivers and handlers of livestock and poultry. The program is uniquely Canadian, reflecting Canada's standards and regulations and is available for those who transport or receive cattle, hogs, horses, sheep and poultry. Although voluntary, a growing number of companies that process meat now require drivers and handlers to have this certification, said Mark Beaven, executive director of the non-profit coalition. It is estimated that 5,000 to 10,000 people are involved in the transportation of animals in Canada. Currently, about 1,500 transport drivers and handlers who load and unload livestock and poultry are certified. Re-training is required every three years to maintain certification and the online program will not only make the recertification process more efficient and consistent but will allow more people across the country to participate, said Beavan. The training involves everything from knowing the regulations and proper techniques for the safe handling of animals, to loading capacities and avoiding overcrowding as well as biosecurity and other protocols that are necessary to protect agricultural industries. Program details can be found at www.livestocktransport.ca. "This funding allows us to take the program into the 21st century," he said. "It will be very interactive and intense, but it allows the current participants to be recertified and new ones to come on board and do it at their own pace." It will build Canada's reputation as "a world leader" in the safe and humane handling of farm animals, he added.
As consumers, retailers and the broader community continue to demand movement towards housing systems that place high value on offering improved behavioural opportunities for hens, it’s important to track measures related to their physical condition. Do the proposed solutions carry unintended consequences? What are the physiological and physical effects of more open housing systems? As a benchmarking tool, researchers Mike Petrik, Michele Guerin and Tina Widowski have just published a study that gives a snapshot of commercial Ontario brown laying hens in cage and non-cage systems using three welfare indicators: keel bone fracture prevalence, feather scores and cumulative mortality. These three parameters are typically used to reflect some of the physical aspects of the welfare status of the hens. Benchmarking welfare indicators from alternative housing systems is important to ensure that progress is made in improving their well-being. This is the first study in North America to compare housing systems on multiple farms as well as providing a more detailed assessment of keel fractures during the life of a flock. There are 64 farms in Ontario housing brown hens in cages with an average flock size of 9,965, while 27 farms average 9,410 hens per flock in floor-housed systems. For their study, Petrik et al. recruited nine commercial farms that housed brown hens in cages and eight farms using floor systems. Only brown hens were included because there are no white hen flocks housed using floor systems in Ontario at present. All hens were beak trimmed; caged pullets were grown in caged housing and floor flocks were grown in single-tier floor pullet houses. All birds were fed a commercial diet that was adjusted to individual flock requirements. Hens were sampled four times over the course of lay, at 20, 35, 50 and 65 weeks of age. At each visit, 50 hens were weighed and palpated for evidence of healed keel bone fractures. Feather scores were assigned based on evaluation of the neck, back, breast and vent. The daily records maintained by the farmer provided mortality data. Keel fracture prevalence was significantly higher for the floor housing compared to conventional housing. As birds neared the end of lay at 65 weeks, the fracture rate was 54.7% compared to 40% for caged flocks. These floor-flock figures were comparable to those for floor birds in Europe (45 to 86%) but the conventional numbers were greater than those reported in conventional cages in the UK (26 to 30%). This might be due to the difference in cage size (483 cm2 in North America vs. 550 cm2 in Europe) that may result in more piling behaviour, or possibly cage design or nutritional factors. ResultsKeel fractures are often attributed to traumatic injury. Five of the eight floor barns in this study had no perches; the researchers suggested that fixed perches were not a contributing factor to the incidence of keel bone fractures in these flocks. While most studies evaluate keel fractures at the end of lay, this study points to fractures occurring much earlier in production. In this study, the fracture prevalence increased substantially from 20 to 50 weeks in both floor and cage systems, after which the incidence stabilized. This is a serious concern because fractures occuring early in lay results in a higher potential for chronic pain over the course of production. Flock-level mean feather score was not significantly affected by the housing system, possibly due to the hens having been beak trimmed. Cumulative mortality tended to be lower (1.29%) for cage housing than floor housing (2.13%), but the figure for floor housing was much lower than in other studies, which have indicated that non-cage systems put hens at a much higher risk for feather pecking, cannibalism and mortality for various reasons. These feather condition and mortality results showed that these Ontario flocks performed really well. Mean body weight was lower but more uniform in floor housed flocks compared to cage housed flocks, possibly due to a higher activity level and the need to search for feed. Heavier birds had more fractures, so in a chicken or egg type of question, did heavier birds have more keel fractures because of their weight, or were they heavier because of less activity due to the fracture? Production parameters and behaviour were not evaluated in this study. More work is indicated to identify specific risk factors and etiology of keel fractures, especially if non-cage housing becomes more common in North America. These findings indicate that younger hens, between 20 and 35 weeks of age, showed the highest incidence of keel bone fractures and should be the focus of future studies. As the layer industry continues to evolve, the benchmarking of welfare indicators from alternative housing systems from this study will help to ensure that progress is being made to improve the well-being of the hens. This research was funded by Egg Farmers of Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food. The researchers would like to thank participating egg farmers in Ontario for allowing access to their flocks and records.
Bas Rodenburg’s focus is to optimize breeding, rearing and management strategies in laying hens to prepare them for life in a complex large flock, non-cage environment. His research is coupled with dialogue with the industry to see what actually works With the ban on conventional cage systems in Europe in 2012, the same birds that once lived in cages of four are now living in groups of 30 to 100 birds in furnished cages or up to 6,000 birds in open systems. A further ban on beak trimming, already in place in Scandinavia, Switzerland and Austria, will come into force in 2018 in the Netherlands. For Bas Rodenburg, assistant professor at the Behavioural Ecology Group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, these restrictions have created a sense of urgency to mitigate specific welfare issues with all systems: feather pecking, cannibalism, keel bone fractures and smothering. Rodenburg’s focus is to optimize breeding, rearing and management strategies in laying hens to prepare them for life in a complex large flock, non-cage environment. His research is coupled with dialogue with the industry to see what actually works. The transition from caged housing systems has been both positive and negative, Rodenburg told the audience at a lecture hosted by the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare at the University of Guelph. Birds now have more space, access to a nest and perch, and some litter for scratching and dust bathing. The negative? The birds are more challenging to manage, with the possibility of problems and panic reactions spreading through the entire house. Severe feather pecking is a common issue related to normal foraging behaviour that is then re-directed to other birds, said Rodenburg. It is more likely to occur with more sensitive birds, especially if there are external stresses: the birds don’t sleep, become agitated and the result is feather pecking. This behaviour has a strong genetic component. Rodenburg pointed to a PhD thesis done by Elske De Haas at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, investigating if there could be less feather damage by selecting birds that were less easily stressed? Of the two genotypes studied, Dekalb White birds were more sensitive to stress, while ISA Brown cross birds were more sensitive to the environment, said Rodenburg. Basically, there was more to be gained in white hens from selection for decreased stress sensitivity and more to be gained in brown hens from changes to the environment. What about feather pecking during rearing? Rodenburg says this behaviour appears at five weeks of age, both gentle feather pecking, where the victim doesn’t move away, and severe feather pecking, which usually develops as an adult. Coincidentally, five weeks of age is when birds are usually set free in rearing systems. Since feather pecking is re-directed foraging behaviour, Rodenburg said litter is of key importance: giving them forages or litter can help re-direct their pecking. De Haas’ research has shown that if litter is disrupted or limited before five weeks of age, an increase in feather pecking will result at 40 weeks of age. Rearing systems where the chicks hatch, drop down into litter and have immediate access to feed and water – as Rodenburg says, “get on with life” – may be favourable for their early development. At 40 weeks of age, four feather-pecking factors remained significant. During rearing, those that displayed high feather pecking at five weeks continued to do so at 40 weeks; birds showing a high fear of humans were also more inclined to feather peck. During the lay, there was more feather pecking damage in floor houses – older systems – than in aviaries; larger groups also had more damaged feathers. Where birds were considered high fear, Rodenburg suggested habituating the birds to different people or different colour clothing to reduce stress. He also noticed that feather pecking was more of an issue where farmers had not modified their management – those that fed alfalfa hay, turned on the radio or supplied pecking blocks had fewer feather-damaged birds. Rodenburg offered four solutions to reduce feather pecking, beginning with further exploring novel methods of group selection such as the white/brown difference. Reducing the fear and stress to the parent stock can be accomplished by exposing the birds to more people. During rearing, continuous access to litter, especially at five weeks of age, should reduce feather pecking; and for laying hens, continuous access to litter remains important. He also suggests that assessing the fear level of the birds at five weeks can be used as a predictor of later behaviour. At all links of the chain, Rodenburg points to management factors such as feed composition and quality, litter quality, and limiting fear and stress to reduce the incidence of feather pecking. What about keel bone fractures? It’s a new problem, said Rodenburg, but the major causes remain unclear. One Swiss study has shown moderate to severe deformities in six to 48 per cent of birds, and including slight deformities increases the incidence of fractures to 83 per cent. Do they physically just have a lot of accidents, hitting the cage system with their keel bone? Is it about bone health? Layers deposit a lot of calcium into their eggshells that may lead to weaker bones. Both hypotheses could be right, said Rodenburg. In his study from 2008, Rodenburg found that 62 percent of birds had minor fractures in furnished cages compared to 87 per cent in non-cage systems. How do minor fractures affect welfare? That’s another area to explore, said Rodenburg. Housing system characteristics may be a factor as well. Using wire floors increased the incidence of fractures versus plastic floors, in the work of PhD student Jasper Heerkens at the ILVO in Ghent, Belgium. Was plastic a better landing surface? Yet another area where more research is needed, said Rodenburg. Work done by Ari Stratmann in Bern, Switzerland, suggested that extra ramps in aviary systems resulted in less fractures, as did soft perches. Her genotype selection work proposed that selection for stronger bones resulted in fewer fractures but poorer egg quality. Can we find a balance, asked Rodenburg, or use nutrition to accommodate the difference? Research is also now studying training the birds to use new, complex, three-level systems to reduce fracture rates. Smothering is another welfare issue that is seen in non-cage or free range systems. The birds at the bottom can die. “It’s difficult to tackle because it’s difficult to predict,” said Rodenburg. Smothering is not as big an issue with white hens that tend to be more agile and keep a larger personal space, as opposed to brown hens that are more likely to aggregate. As a possible solution, Rodenburg described the “Eyenamic” monitoring system, developed for broilers, that measures normal aggregation activity for the flock. An alarm will sound if the flock deviates from normal, providing a practical way of knowing when something is wrong. Do individual birds affect the social dynamic of the whole flock? De Haas found that having a fearful, highly active bird in a group affected stress-sensitivity of the group members. Chicks brooded with a foster mother are less fearful, perform more ground pecking, and perform less feather pecking; but how can this be applied commercially? Do changes in rearing affect brain morphology, encouraging lasting changes, similar to the changes found in birds reared by a mother? Light exposure during incubation may be a factor in producing less-stressed chicks. Does light at specific stages result in more gentle feather pecking? A recent study by Archer and Mench (2013) suggests that 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark during incubation created favourable effects in broilers, possibly through increased brain lateralization. Commercial incubation may also involve high noise levels. When chicks hatch they communicate with each other but in a commercial setting they can’t hear each other. Rodenburg suggests that the hatch window could possibly be reduced if the chicks could communicate, reducing the time they need to spend in the incubator. In a study where chicks from one to 17 days old were monitored, quiet chicks were more synchronized, emitting lots of social vocalizations. He can only speculate about how this affects their later behaviour. This is currently being studied in Wageningen. There are still many questions. For all welfare issues we want to better understand the group social dynamics and how to manipulate them, said Rodenburg. The ultimate goal is to rear laying hens that perform well in non-cage systems.
August 20, 2014 - Burnbrae Farms has gifted $500,000 to the University of Guelph to establish the Burnbrae Farms Professorship in Poultry Welfare, a tenure track position in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science. Dr. Alexandra Harlander will assume this position and will serve the poultry industry with her insights on animal welfare and behavior in all poultry species. The professorship will support egg farmers and increase the capacity for the ongoing research of laying hen behaviour and housing. The main objective of the research is to solve problems associated with alternative non-cage systems and to better understand the behaviour and biology of the laying hen. This research will support the adoption of new practices, the design of systems that are best suited for the hens’ welfare and the implementation of new technology to improve the quality of life of laying hens on the farm. Margaret Hudson, President of Burnbrae Farms, said in a release "the University of Guelph has played a significant role in the support of animal welfare and behavior, and the research they conduct is unmatched. This professorship will help increase its capacity and will be unique in its outreach efforts to farmers, the general public and retailers.” The professorship, also partially funded by the Poultry Industry Council and the Canadian Poultry Research Council, will focus on research, teaching, industry service and educating farmers, retailers and consumers. Consumers’ preferences continue to drive the demands of retailers and the specialty egg market in Canada. Professor Harlander is an associated faculty member of the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare, an internationally recognized centre of excellence, and will work to balance on-farm productivity and poultry welfare, with the needs of the general public. “Burnbrae Farms’ commitment to the industry, animal welfare and consumers is evident in its support of this innovative position,” said Rob Gordon, Dean of the Ontario Agricultural College of the University of Guelph in a news release. “We need champions to communicate with farmers, retailers and consumers. This position will focus on working with the entire value chain to enhance production systems and approaches, and educate on the issue of poultry welfare and behaviour.” “This professorship is exceptionally timely. With pressing demands from the public and food industry professionals, Canada, like many countries, needs research to help establish new, high-care standards based on sound data”, said Alexandra Harlander, Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science, who is accepting the professorship. “Canadians consume about 204 eggs per person, annually and vast quantities are produced in modern production systems. For the improvement of poultry welfare it is important that we continue to explore the core aspects of their health and strive to determine what they want from their environments.” Burnbrae Farms said the release that researching and developing systems that focus on the overall welfare of the hens is part of the company’s mandate. The company has worked closely with researchers at the Poultry Welfare Research Centre at the University of Guelph to examine poultry housing systems and related hen behaviours for many years. Burnbrae Farms said its goal is to implement the best possible technologies for good poultry care, and that it continues to evolve and change its housing systems based on new research findings. The company’s support of the professorship only further solidifies its ongoing commitment to poultry welfare in Canada. “Burnbrae Farms is dedicated to animal welfare and the promotion of sustainable agriculture systems that provide consumers with safe, affordable food and a good quality of life for the laying hens,” said Hudson. “We’re committed to putting in place systems that have been proven through research to provide the best welfare for our birds.”
Increasing consumer awareness of animal welfare issues is impacting how eggs are produced and marketed. Some jurisdictions have passed legislation prohibiting the use of conventional cages and requiring that hens be housed in alternative systems, while a growing number of food retailers and manufacturers require eggs they sell/use to come from alternative housing systems. While the vast majority of eggs sold in Canada are still produced in conventional cages it is expected that demand for eggs from enhanced animal welfare production systems will grow in Canada. The relative immaturity of this “specialty egg” market means that consumer acceptance and willingness to pay for eggs from enhanced animal welfare production systems is still poorly understood in Canada. For this reason, Yiqing Lu, former MSc. student in the Department of Food, Agricultural & Resource Economics and advisors Dr. John Cranfield and Tina Widowski developed a project seeking to generate new economic knowledge that helps to inform industry stakeholders regarding consumer acceptance and valuation of eggs from enhanced animal welfare production systems, and the potential size of the market for such eggs. The specific objectives were to understand the socio-demographic and psychographic factors associated with consumer acceptance of eggs from animal welfare enhanced production systems, including enriched and cage-free systems; To identify and measure the size of consumer segments with a high degree of acceptance of eggs from these different systems; To measure consumer’s stated willingness-to-pay (WTP) for eggs from these different systems; And to explore how stated willingness to pay varies across segments of consumers, as well as segments of consumers with differing actual purchase behaviours of eggs from these systems. Two choice experiments (CE) were designed. In each choice experiment, respondents were presented with a set of choice tasks. In each choice task, the respondent was presented with eggs embodying different attributes, and they had to indicate which, if any, they would purchase. The attributes of eggs in the first choice experiment were: price; housing systems; organization that verifies the housing systems; Omega-3; and shell colour. The attributes of eggs in the second choice experiment were: price; whether hens had access to the outdoors; whether cages were used in the housing system; and the availability of nest boxes, perches for roosting and scratch pads for dust bathing. The effect of information on consumers’ purchase behaviour towards eggs from enhanced animal welfare production systems was also investigated by including two information treatments in each choice experiment. In treatment 1, a description of the housing systems from whence the eggs came was provided. In treatment 2, the same information was provided, plus additional, scientifically based information regarding the consequences of each housing system on: hens’ health, hens’ ability to exhibit natural behaviours, affective states; and the impact of housing systems on environment. Structured this way, the two information treatments will reveal whether scientifically valid information affects consumer WTP, and if so, how. Note that WTP is not the price for the product, but rather the premium associated with that attribute. An on-line survey was undertaken, using Ipsos’ i-Say on-line panel. The sample was representative of the Canadian population in terms of demographic characteristics. Respondents were generally concerned about animal welfare, but did not consider animal welfare among the top issues when purchasing food. Of the three aspects of animal welfare, namely basic health and functioning, natural behaviour, and affective states, “basic health and functioning” was viewed as most important. Respondents’ knowledge of animal production was limited, and they believed that scientific evidence, rather than ethical or moral considerations, should be used to determine how farm animals are treated. The results from the choice experiment were informative. In choice experiment 1 treatment 1, respondents were willing to pay a premium of $1.15 ($0.86 in treatment 2) per dozen for free-range and $0.55 ($0.28 in treatment two) per dozen for free-run systems. The premiums for these two housing systems were higher than the premiums for Omega-3 fatty acid enhanced eggs, or white/brown colour attribute. However, eggs from an enriched cage system did not induce a positive premium; in fact eggs from a system labeled as “enriched cage system” had a discount of $0.31 per dozen in treatment 1 and $0.33 per dozen in treatment 2. For verification attributes, respondents were willing to pay a premium of $0.69 in treatment 1 (or $0.60 in treatment 2) if government verifies the housing systems, $0.16 (or $0.18 in treatment 2) for a third party certifier verification and $0.22 (or $0.11 in treatment 2) for industry certifier. In choice experiment 2, eggs from systems where hens had access to the outdoors yielded the highest WTP ($0.63 in treatment 1 and $0.57 in treatment 2) followed by “the presence of nest boxes, perches for roosting and scratch pads for dust bathing” ($0.45 in treatment 1 and $0.44 in treatment 2), and the cage-free attribute ($0.19 in treatment 1 and $0.08 in treatment 2). The latter result suggests a premium for the absence of cages in the housing systems; viewed another way, the presence of cages in the housing system would result in a discount. This is an important result and it aligns with the results from experiment 1; it suggests that consumers value the absence of cages in hen housing. Respondents were willing to pay $0.01 in treatment 1 ($0.004 in treatment 2) for every square inch increase in a housing system. Comparing the WTP results from two information treatments in each choice experiment allows one to assess the effect of information. In choice experiment 1, the provision of additional information in treatment 2 resulted in lower premiums for eggs from free-run and free-range housing systems (compared to treatment one). Across the two treatments, there were no other significant differences in WTP for the other attributes in choice experiment 1. In choice experiment 2, the WTP for the cage-free attribute decreased in treatment two, but not for the other attributes. As there were no differences in sample characteristics across treatments, we may attribute the disparity in WTPs across the treatments to differences in the information that was provided. Consequently, it is concluded that information on the consequences of each housing systems on hen health and welfare reduces consumer valuation of eggs from free-run and free-range systems (and their valuation of the absence of cages generally). Although consumers have limited knowledge about animal production system and animal welfare, they are sensitive to information about housing systems. It is important for egg producers to communicate well with consumers. Providing detailed information about the consequences of the housing systems on hen health and welfare reduces consumer valuation of eggs from free-run and free-range. And while respondents value the absence of cages (or discount eggs from systems that use cages), this value is also reduced when information on the consequences of the system on hen health and welfare is presented to subjects. An important lesson from this is that use of the word cage (e.g. enriched cages) should be avoided lest the price consumers would pay will be reduced.
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 27, 2015 - Aviagen has announced it will continue its contribution to the Canadian Poultry Research Council (CPRC) through the CPRC’s Research Sponsorship Program. Aviagen has presented the CPRC with a check for $25,000 in support of the program. This check represents the fourth in a series of annual sponsorships contributed to the CPRC since 2012, qualifying Aviagen as a Platinum sponsor of the program. Established in 2001, the CPRC creates and implements programs for poultry research throughout Canada. The goal of the CPRC’s research is to effect discoveries that lead to improved food safety through enhanced poultry nutrition. The programs also focus on heightened environmental safety measures. “The CPRC has made invaluable contributions to the success of Canada’s poultry industry. Vast components of the poultry value chain stand to benefit from the research conducted by the CPRC, including producers, feed suppliers, animal health care companies, processors, distributors and ultimately, consumers,” explains Scott Gillingham, Canadian Regional Business Consultant for Aviagen. “Aviagen is proud to support the organization’s research efforts and we look forward to continued collaboration in the future.” CPRC Executive Director Bruce Roberts, Ph.D., says he values Aviagen’s support of the council. “Aviagen has helped fund 29 projects, enabling us to address critical issues such as poultry welfare, alternatives to the use of antimicrobials in poultry production, poultry health food safety and the environment,” adds Roberts. “As a premier sponsor of the program, Aviagen assists the CPRC not only financially, but also through cooperation and sharing of ideas and expertise. In addition to its value add to the CPRC, Aviagen supports Canadian university research activities outside of the CPRC. For these reasons, Aviagen should be commended for its strong commitment to advancing the poultry industry on a global basis.” Roberts concludes that efforts are currently underway for considerable future marketing and expansion of the CPRC’s Research Sponsorship Program.
July 17, 2015 - More than 100 delegates including 75 hatchery managers from across the United States and Canada took part in the first national hatchery conference hosted by Cobb in Memphis, Tennessee. During the two day event there were presentations on 20 different aspects of hatchery management with speakers from 16 organizations, enabling delegates to learn and share with each other in the unique, cross-industry event. Ben Green, hatchery specialist in the Cobb World Technical Support Team said in a release that the classroom setting allowed attendees to share experiences and put questions to Cobb personnel, industry vendors and other hatchery managers. In addition to hearing presentations covering topics from sanitation, maintenance and importance of vaccination to industry trends and animal welfare, delegates were able to visit the booths of 11 different vendors, which included: Jamesway, Merial, Smithway, Zoetis, Clearview, KL Automation, Ivesco, Incubation Systems, Chickmaster, Hatchery Planning and CID Lines. Scott Martin, hatchery specialist in the Cobb World Technical Support Team said that Cobb set out to have the conference cover areas that everyone is interested in and curious about. He said audience engagement was high, witnessed by the number and type of questions attendees asked and the interesting discussions held after each presentation.
July 1, 2015 - Hendrix Genetics and NPM Capital, a subsidiary of family-owned, SHV Holdings, have completed an agreement that will advance the animal breeding sector. Through the issue of new shares, NPM has become a 25 per cent minority shareholder in Hendrix Genetics, alongside existing shareholders. The Hendrix Family remains the majority and controlling shareholder. Hendrix Genetics will continue to conduct its business under its current corporate governance and with its existing management team, strategy and structure. Its Vision 2020 plan, created last year, identified many opportunities to invest in R&D, capacity expansion and acquisitions to continue the company’s growth of the last decade. The equity of NPM/SHV will enable Hendrix Genetics to accelerate the execution of its ambitious plan. Antoon van den Berg, CEO, Co-Shareholder and Co-Founder of Hendrix Genetics commented: “We are privileged as the Management Team of Hendrix Genetics, to have shareholders that fully support the accelerated execution of our ambitions. The fact that we continue to be family-controlled ensures passion and quick decision-making, which is essential to our company’s future.” Jeroen Drost, CEO of NPM Capital, stated: “We discovered in Hendrix Genetics an ambitious company with dedicated shareholders, capable management and an excellent track-record in building a sound platform for industry consolidation. Their mission to help the world meet the growing demand for food, making animal protein production more efficient, affordable and sustainable perfectly fits our company ethos.” International Advisory Board Michel Boucly, member of the International Advisory Board since 2008, will step down per July 1, 2015 and will be succeeded by Cyril Melin, Investment Director of Sofiprotéol. New member of the International Advisory Board, Investment Director of NPM Capital, Johan Terpstra sees clear benefits: “The strategic and cultural fit of Hendrix Genetics with NPM/SHV was clear from the onset and we look forward to partnering with existing shareholders and management to assist the growth of Hendrix Genetics in the years to come.”
April 6, 2015 - Two senior appointments have been made by Cobb-Vantress to strengthen its research and development team. Dr. Anu Frank-Lawale, who has wide experience across a range of species, joins the team as pedigree geneticist, while Dr. Frank Siewerdt moves from this role to become director of genetics responsible for the Cobb genetic program. Dr. Anu Frank-Lawale is based at the Three Springs pedigree farm in Oklahoma, where he will be responsible for the selection program in several commercial and experimental lines. He studied animal breeding at the universities of Nottingham and Edinburgh in the UK, and went on to gain a PhD for work on aquaculture genetics at Stirling University. He worked as a biometrician at the Roslin Institute, Edinburgh, and then in 2007 moved to the United States as breeding research manager for the Aquaculture Genetics and Breeding Technology Center at Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Dr. Frank Siewerdt now has a team of seven PhD geneticists and a business engineer working with other areas of R&D and the business units to continue genetic progress on existing Cobb products and developing new ones to meet market needs. He joined Cobb three years ago as the inaugural geneticist at the new Dry Creek complex in Deer Lodge, Tennessee, and became responsible for the genetic program in two of the pedigree farms. Originally qualifying from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, Dr Siewerdt obtained his PhD from North Carolina State University in the USA and has worked for more than 20 years in academic and industry positions including four years with Heritage Breeders / Perdue Farms.
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 15, 2016 - The Government of Canada has announced an investment of $10 million over seven years to bring one of the world's most respected experts in food security to Canada. A recognized leader in crop adaptation to marginal soil environments, Leon Kochian will become the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Food Systems and Security at the University of Saskatchewan. The United Nations estimates the world's population will reach 9.7 billion by 2050. Ensuring sufficient nutritious food will therefore be one of the greatest challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. Working out of the university's Global Institute for Food Security, Kochian will lead a multidisciplinary team to unlock the secrets of a plant's "hidden half"-the root system-an unexplored aspect of plant breeding. His research will develop new root-based approaches to crop improvement that will enable breeding for improved root system structure and function, producing new varieties with higher yields and greater capacity to thrive in difficult conditions. Kochian will identify and map the genes linked to root system traits that are specifically responsible for nutrient and water uptake under drought conditions. He anticipates this research will enable increased crop production in less fertile areas. Leon Kochian is the University of Saskatchewan's second CERC after Howard Wheater, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Water Security. He becomes the country's 27th CERC. In total, Leon Kochian's research will receive support worth almost $21 million. The Government of Canada is also providing $800,000 through the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The balance will be invested by the Global Institute for Food Security ($7 million) and the University of Saskatchewan ($3 million).
Fifty years of sustainability analysis and insight – that is what Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) recently commissioned Canadian consulting firm Global Ecologic to produce. The report is entitled: “Environmental Footprint of Canadian Eggs: 1962 versus 2012.” EFC CEO Tim Lambert says the study results demonstrate the way Canadian egg farmers have been, and still are, constantly looking for new ways to make egg production more efficient and environmentally sound. “While egg production increased by more than 50 per cent between 1962 and 2012 [from about 43 million dozen to 66 million dozen eggs per year],” he notes, “the industry’s overall environmental footprint decreased across all emissions and resource use domains.” Indeed, Nathan Pelletier (president of Global Ecologic) found the average environmental impact for eggs produced in conventional housing systems in 2012 was roughly one-third of what it was in 1962. To begin the study, Pelletier identified the average conditions that existed in the egg production supply chains of 2012 and 1962, and measured supply chain water, land and energy use, as well as greenhouse gas, acidifying and eutrophying emissions. For this, he relied on recent environmental life cycle analysis done for EFC that outlined the state of the industry in 2012, and also drew from various sources to gain insights into the realities of 1962. Taking these conditions, uses and emissions, he then evaluated the resource and environmental performance gains linked to specific advancements over the past five decades, differentiating between changes attributed to supply chain versus farm-level activities. However, any study that involves gathering and analyzing data from decades ago has potential challenges. “Important to conducting an analysis such as this is to know in advance which variables really matter, and to focus data collection activities accordingly,” Pelletier explains. “For example, having previously evaluated contemporary egg production systems in both the US and Canada, as well as a variety of other livestock production systems, I knew that gathering representative data for variables such as feed composition, feed conversion efficiency, rate of lay, and mortality rates in the early 1960s would be quite important for the overall results. Fortunately, 1960s data for these variables are available in peer-reviewed literature, Canadian random sample egg production test data and from Statistics Canada.” Pelletier also found good information on such factors as fertilizer production, and inputs and yields for feed production. Pelletier found that compared to 1962, Canadian egg industry acidifying emissions (those that cause acidification of freshwater systems, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides) of 2012 were a whopping 61 per cent lower. Eutrophying emissions (those that lead to excessive nutrients in waterways, resultant explosive plant growth such as algal blooms and death of animal life due to lack of oxygen; sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ammonia) were even lower (68 per cent). Greenhouse gas emissions were 72 per cent lower. The energy, land and water use in the entire supply chain decreased by 41, 81 and 69 per cent respectively. Pelletier notes the Canadian egg industry was in transition to cage-based production during the 1960s, and explains that the specific mix of housing systems does not really matter for an analysis such as this. “What is important are hen performance data (e.g. rate of lay, mortality, etc.), whatever the housing system employed. Quite good data are available for these variables.” Reasons for improved performanceAs you can imagine, the Canadian egg industry’s much-diminished environmental footprint compared to fifty years ago is due to several factors. The most important of these is changes, for both layer and pullet feeds, in feed composition, feed conversion efficiency, and the environmental footprints of specific feed inputs. Layer feeds in 2012 had, on average, just 38 per cent of the overall environmental impact of those of 1962, and pullet feeds 69%. This is because the average impact per tonne of production of feed ingredients improved, such as a 43 per cent decrease for corn in 2012 compared to 1962. It’s also because general inputs for field crops also dropped. Pelletier found, for example, that the energy required for ammonia synthesis (used to make nitrogen fertilizer) was cut by half over the study period. Improved crop yields and higher fuel efficiencies in freight transport also contributed. In addition, the amount of meat/bone/feather meals and fats in feed has dropped over the last 50 years, and these inputs have a much higher environmental impact compared to ingredients whose use has risen over the decades, such as soy meal. Other important industry improv-ements include improved animal health and higher productivity in pullet and egg production. Production per hen has improved by almost 50 per cent and feed conversion efficiency by 35 per cent, while the combined mortality rate for pullets and layers declined by 63 per cent. Energy use, however, was the least improved factor, and Pelletier says this is because current energy production involving fossil fuels requires more input energy (for extraction and processing, etc.) than it did 50 years ago. “Without the changes we’ve seen in feed composition and efficiencies at the level of pullet and egg production,” he notes, “contemporary egg production would be considerably more energy intensive, simply due to the declining efficiency of fossil energy provision over time.” U.S. resultsSeveral years ago, Pelletier and colleagues from other organizations conducted a similar 50-year comparison of life cycle environmental impacts for egg production in the U.S. (1960 compared to 2010). Feed efficiency was the biggest factor. “The feed conversion ratio for egg production improved from 3.44 kg/kg in 1960 to 1.98 kg/kg — a gain of 42 per cent,” he notes. “Nonetheless, achieving feed use efficiencies comparable to the best performing contemporary facilities [the range reported by survey respondents was 1.76-2.32 kg/kg] industry-wide would do much to further reduce overall impact.” As it has in Canada, differing feed composition has also played an important role in reducing impacts — in particular, both reduction in the total amount of animal-derived materials used, as well as increased use of porcine and poultry materials in place of ruminant materials. Overall use of studyPelletier sees several uses to which the study results can be put. “First, they help us to understand the relative importance of specific variables in changing the environmental footprint of Canadian egg production,” he notes. “This knowledge will inform future efforts to continue to improve the sustainability of Canadian eggs in terms of priority areas for targeted management initiatives.” The results, in Pelletier’s view, also provide valuable benchmarks. He says looking forward individual producers as well as the industry as a whole will be able to measure their sustainability performance and track their progress relative to these benchmarks. Finally, the study results provide solid evidence of the progress that the Canadian industry has achieved. “The results are also a source of inspiration for the future,” Pelletier says. “When I think about what has been accomplished over the past 50 years, I’m excited to imagine what will be possible over the next 50! The next steps, I believe, are for the industry to collaborate in defining a sustainability agenda, along with metrics, targets and milestones for sustainability initiatives looking forward.” Lambert agrees. “Egg Farmers of Canada is becoming recognized as a global leader in agriculture for its commitment to society through its sustainability initiatives and dedication to social responsibility,” he says. “This 50-year study provides a firm foundation for the industry’s sustainability initiatives going forward, setting out benchmarks by which we can continue to measure progress. Understanding the components of the industry’s environmental footprint ensures that we can work with our producers and stakeholders to make sound, sustainable choices for the future.” Percentage change in Canadian egg production from 1962 to 2012, per tonne of eggs produced Acidifying emissions 61% lower Eutrophying emissions 68% lower GHG emissions 72% lower Energy use 41% lower Land use 81% lower Water use 69% lower Feed conversion rate 35% increase Production per hen housed 50% increase Mortality rate (pullets) 21% lower Mortality rate (layers) 75% lower Percentage change between 1962 and 2012, industry-wide Acidifying emissions 41% lower Eutrophying emissions 51% lower GHG emissions 57% lower Energy use 10% lower Land use 71% lower Water use 53% lower Egg production 51% higher
The poultry industry has a long and complicated supply chain, incorporating a wide spectrum of costs and benefits. When you think about sustainability in that chain, it doesn’t make sense to improve one part of the system if that change may unintentionally burden another part of the process and outweigh the advantages achieved. Nathan Pelletier is the president of Global Ecologic, an independent sustainability consulting firm that measures and manages strategy in food and other industrial systems. Speaking at the 2015 Canadian Poultry Sustainability Conference in London, Ont., he explained how life cycle thinking could be used to help analyze the past, present and future of the poultry industry in the quest for sustainability. Life cycle thinking – changing from a management perspective to a systems perspective – is an analytical process that helps to examine the relevant interactions associated with the production of goods and services, allowing us to pinpoint which aspects of the supply chain have the biggest impact. The results of life cycle thinking can often be counterintuitive, flying in the face of our current thoughts. For example, is local food more sustainable? With life cycle analysis, this argument is no longer credible if you factor in the efficiencies of transport over long distances by rail, truck or boat. “There will always be trade-offs,” said Pelletier. “We need to be conscious of these to make decisions regarding our own priorities.” For the poultry industry, he sees no alternative but to embrace this management philosophy throughout the supply chain, but Pelletier says it won’t be a straightforward journey. Complexity will surround everything from agreeing on definitions of sustainability to operationalizing the information, but he predicts that life cycle thinking will become a requirement in the new marketplace, coming to the forefront of regulatory guidelines within 10 years. Looking back over 50 years, in an in-depth historical life cycle analysis published in the Poultry Journal in 2014, Pelletier compared the environmental footprint of the poultry industry in the U.S. in 1960 versus 2010, putting some hard numbers around poultry production. The modern poultry industry is not the same as it was 50 years ago, and that’s an interesting story itself. His results show astonishing changes. While egg production in the U.S. has risen 30 per cent in 50 years, the environmental footprint per kilogram of eggs produced in 2010 is 65 per cent lower in acidifying emissions, 71 per cent lower in eutrophying emissions, 71 per cent lower in greenhouse gas emissions and 31 per cent lower in cumulative energy demand during that same time. According to Pelletier, the reduction could be attributed to factors such as feed and manure management. Up to 30 per cent of the improvement is based in improved efficiencies of background systems, for example supply chain efficiencies in transportation and energy use. Thirty to 44 per cent was from changes in feed composition, reflecting efficiencies realized in crop production with less inputs for increased yields. Another 28 to 43 per cent was due to improvements in genetics, feed conversion and bird health. Productivity has increased 50 per cent, from 195 eggs to 297 eggs annually. In 1960, 3.1 kg of feed equaled one kg of eggs; now only two kg of feed is needed per kg of eggs. Not only that but the birds are healthier, with 63 per cent lower mortality. This is a good news story, but how does poultry stack up against other protein sources? It’s hard to compare unless studies have been done with the same protocols, said Pelletier, but in general, monogastrics are more efficient. The most efficient protein source is pork, followed by eggs, both better than beef. This matters because sustainability is becoming such a differentiating factor in the marketplace, for social license, regulatory compliance and market access. In this respect, poultry is well positioned for the future. Looking forward, Pelletier suggested that proactive engagement in sustainability is essential, making four suggestions. First, develop a Canadian life cycle inventory of consistent data to support production. Defending any kind of comparison requires such data. The poultry industry also needs to develop and implement a transparent, multi-criteria sustainability benchmarking program for producers, to support sustainability initiatives and provide benchmarking and goal setting targets. He sees a third opportunity in acting as a leader in pushing new frontiers. “Don’t be too attached to the status quo,” said Pelletier. “Just think about the changes in your industry over the past 50 years, and imagine where you could be 50 years from now?” Support and participate in the research that will be necessary to define the sustainable poultry production systems of the future. Finally, formalize a commitment industry wide by engaging all stakeholders in a round-table discussion on sustainability, defining a common vision and a strategy to achieve it. As Pelletier says, “use it as an opportunity to see sustainability not as a challenge or as a hoop to jump through, but as a source of competitive advantage, as an exciting and necessary collaborative journey toward that shared vision of the future.”
April 1, 201`6 - The Government of Canada is investing $27 million to help producers find ways to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from their farming operations, Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister, Lawrence MacAulay announced March 30. The investment is part of the Government of Canada’s ongoing efforts to help the sector be innovative, competitive and sustainable. The Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP) supports research into greenhouse gas mitigation practices and technologies that can be adopted on the farm. This new five-year investment (2016-2021) extends Canada’s existing commitment to support the objectives of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases. The initial AGGP investment (2011-16) provided $21 million for 18 projects undertaken by universities, provincial governments, research institutions and conservation groups. These projects have resulted in innovative technologies and Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) in four priority areas for farmers: livestock systems, cropping systems, agricultural water use efficiency, and agro-forestry.
February 17, 2016 – New research has shown that tackling antibiotic resistance on only one front is a waste of time because resistant genes are freely crossing environmental. Analysis of historic soil archives dating back to 1923 has revealed a clear parallel between the appearance of antibiotic resistance in medicine and similar antibiotic resistant genes detected over time in agricultural soils treated with animal manure. Collected in Denmark – where antibiotics were banned in agriculture from the 1990s for non-therapeutic use – the soil archives provide an 'antibiotic resistance timeline' that reflects resistant genes found in the environment and the evolution of the same types of antibiotic resistance in medicine. Led by Newcastle University, UK, the study also showed that the repeated use of animal manure and antibiotic substitutes can increase the capacity of soil bacteria to mobilize, or ready themselves, and acquire resistance genes to new antibiotics. Publishing their findings in the academic journal Scientific Reports, the study's authors say the data highlights the importance of reducing antibiotic use across all sectors if we are to reduce global antibiotic resistance. "The observed bridge between clinical and agricultural antibiotic resistance means we are not going to solve the resistance problem just by reducing the number of antibiotics we prescribe in our GP clinics,” said lead author David Graham, professor of ecosystems engineering at Newcastle University. "To reduce the global rise in resistance, we need to reduce use and improve antibiotic stewardship across all sectors. If this is not done, antibiotic resistance from imprudent sectors will cross-contaminate the whole system and we will quickly find ourselves in a situation where our antibiotics are no longer effective." Antibiotics have been used in medicine since the 1930s, saving millions of lives. Two decades later, they were introduced into agricultural practices and Denmark was among the leaders in employing antibiotics to increase agricultural productivity and animal production. However, a growing awareness of the antibiotic resistance crisis and continued debate over who and which activities are most responsible led to the EU calling for the use of antibiotics in non-therapeutic settings to be phased out and Denmark led the way. The Askov Long-Term Experiment station in Denmark was originally set up in 1894 to study the role of animal manure versus inorganic fertilizers on soil fertility. Analyzing the samples, the team – involving experts from Newcastle University, the University of Strathclyde and Aarhus University – were able to measure the relative abundance of specific β-lactam antibiotic resistant genes, which can confer resistance to a class of antibiotics that are of considerable medical importance. Prior to 1960, the team found low levels of the genes in both the manured soil and that treated with inorganic fertilizer. However, by the mid 1970s, levels of selected β-lactam genes started to increase in the manured soils, with levels peaking in the mid 1980's. No increase or change was detected in the soil treated with inorganic fertilizer. "We chose these resistant genes because their appearance and rapid increase in hospitals from 1963 to 1989 is well-documented," explains Professor Graham. "By comparing the two timelines, we saw the appearance of each specific gene in the soil samples was consistent with the evolution of similar types of resistance in medicine. So the question now is not which came first, clinical or environmental resistance, but what do we do about it?" Following the ban on non-therapeutic antibiotic use in Danish agriculture, farmers substituted metals for antibiotics, such as copper, and levels of the key β-lactam genes in the manured soils declined rapidly, reaching pre-industrialization levels by 2010. However, at the same time the team measured a 10-fold rise in Class 1 Integrons. These are gene carrier and exchange molecules – transporters that allow bacteria to readily share genes, including resistance genes. These findings suggest the application of manure and antibiotic substitutes, such as copper, may be 'priming' the soils, readying them for increased resistance transmission in the future. "Once antibiotics were banned, operators substituted them with copper which has natural antibiotic properties," explains Professor Graham. "More research is needed but our findings suggest that by substituting antibiotics for metals such as copper we may have increased the potential for resistance transmission. "Unless we reduce use and improve stewardship across all sectors – environmental, clinical and agricultural – we don't stand a chance of reducing antibiotic resistance in the future."
The University of Guelph has received $76.6 million from the federal government to start a “digital revolution” in food and agriculture. The government is investing in U of G’s Food From Thought research project, which will use high-tech information systems to help produce enough food for a growing human population while sustaining the Earth’s ecosystems. The funding, announced by Lloyd Longfield, MP for Guelph, on behalf of Kirsty Duncan, minister of science, will come from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), which supports world-leading research at universities and colleges. It’s the largest single federal research investment in U of G history. “This will position Canada as a leader in sustainable food production,” said U of G president Franco Vaccarino, adding the project will help farmers produce more food on less land using fewer inputs. “Our faculty, staff and students will have opportunities to participate in innovative discovery and to play a role in tackling one of the world’s greatest challenges: how to sustainably feed our growing population.” Longfield added: “The University of Guelph has a long history of collaborating across Canada and globally to contribute to understanding complex challenges. The global food supply will require the University’s unique leadership skills that bring together agricultural expertise, big data, environmental science, business and civil society. Today’s funding announcement will give Canada a huge step forward to become a global leader in food.” Food From Thought will create novel tools for producing more and safer food while also protecting the environment. “It is not just how much food we produce but also the way we produce it that will be key in the next century,” said Prof. Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research), who is the institutional lead for Food From Thought and a plant genomicist in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. New technology and agricultural practices must enhance biodiversity, produce safe, nutritious food, and improve animal welfare and human health, he said. U of G is well-placed to lead this project, Campbell said. “We are Canada’s food university, with a 150-year legacy in agri-food and a reputation for innovation and commitment. We also have the capacity, with world-class researchers and facilities, and strong partnerships with government and industry.” Geography professor Evan Fraser, scientific director of Food From Thought and director of U of G’s Food Institute, said launching a digital revolution will require improved understanding of the complex interplay between farming practices, the genetic potential of our crops and livestock, and the environment. “This is essential if we are to realize the potential offered by our emerging ability to collect vast amounts of data and to develop information management systems,” he said. Food From Thought will bring together experts to generate and commercialize knowledge, and to inform agri-food policy-makers and practices from farm management to global conservation planning. The initiative will offer new teaching and research opportunities, and will focus on training the next generation of agri-food leaders through fellowships and graduate student positions. More than $1 million will be available for annual research awards and competitions intended to develop innovations for sustainable food systems. Within Food From Thought, researchers will work on key scientific missions including: Expanding use of DNA barcoding technology developed at U of G to identify food fraud, food-borne ailments and invasive pests, and to improve environmental impact assessments; Using “big data” on farms to reduce pesticide use, monitor watershed health and identify crops suited to the effects of climate change; and Using information management systems to help track emerging infectious disease threats to livestock and control pathogens in the food supply. Food From Thought includes partnerships with academic institutions around the globe, numerous government agencies, and industry and innovation centres. One key partner is IBM Canada, which will be involved in everything from research collaborations to cognitive and data analytics tools and training to secure cloud-based storage. “IBM shares the scientific vision of Food From Thought: ensuring that we sustainably, resiliently and safely increase production while enhancing ecosystem services and livestock health and welfare using data-driven approaches,” said Sanjeev Gill, research executive at IBM Canada. Food From Thought will be one of U of G’s largest and most inclusive research projects, spanning all seven colleges. It will be led by 10 principal investigators from across campus.This funding announcement was part of a $900-million competition lasting several months and involving a review panel of Canadian and international scientific experts. This is the second CFREF competition since 2014.
The revelation that a bacteria resistant to antibiotics of last resort was found in a Pennsylvania woman prompted a flurry of media activity in late May. Increased consumer concern on an already-sensitive topic is understandable in light of such headlines as, “Nightmare Superbug Shows Up in the United States” and “Infection Raises Specter of Superbugs Resistant to All Antibiotics.” The Washington Post conducted a Q&A with an infectious disease doctor at the University of Pittsburgh who tried to put the development into perspective. He said, “While certainly concerning and something to keep a close eye on from a public health point of view, there is no evidence that this is a widespread problem at this time. Even in the rare event that you get sick from this bacteria, there are treatment options available.” Since the bacteria has also been detected in pigs, the Post asked about food safety concerns. The doctor stated there is no risk as long as meat is properly handled and cooked to the recommended temperature. There’s growing consumer concern and rising pressure on the food system about the use of antibiotics in food animals. Antibiotic resistance is a serious issue and one farms and food companies are taking seriously, but the connection between antibiotics used in animals raised for food and the risk of human antibiotic failure is a complex issue not easily distilled for widespread understanding. Several things must happen before resistant bacteria from a farm can affect people: Antibiotic-resistant bacteria must be present in an animal when it leaves a farm The bacteria must survive sanitation steps during the packaging process The meat must be undercooked, enabling bacteria to survive The bacteria must cause human illness The ill person must receive medical attention and the antibiotic therapy must involve the same class of antibiotic used on the farm The patient must get worse or fail to recover due to the resistant infection There’s also the perception that antibiotic resistance results from eating meat containing antibiotic residue, but there are strict federal laws in place to prevent unsafe residues in meat. By law, since the 1950’s, the FDA strictly audits and enforces that unsafe levels of antibiotics may not be present in meat before it enters the food supply. Leading drug companies have recognized the concern about the resistance issue and are making antibiotics available only for treatment and prevention of disease — not growth promotion. Beginning next year in the U.S., antibiotics important to human medicine will only be available under a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), which is essentially a prescription from a veterinarian. There are unanswered questions on the link between animal antibiotic use and human resistance and the issue is still being studied. Until those questions are conclusively answered, the best source of information is sound science in the form of peer-reviewed and published studies. Dr. Peter Davies, BVSC, PhD, professor of Animal Science at the University of Minnesota, says, “There are almost no documented clinical cases where antibiotic resistance was unequivocally tied to animal antibiotic use. So while the risk is not zero, in my opinion, it is extremely low.” Animal antibiotics must be used responsibly to minimize agriculture’s contribution to antibiotic resistance. But much of the current discussion about antibiotic use is highly polarized, pitting commercial interests against public health interests. It’s important to remember that preventing disease and treating sick animals through the responsible use of antibiotics is the ethical thing to do. Reprinted with permission from the Center for Food Integrity (CFI). CFI’s vision is to lead the public discussion to build trust in today’s food system and facilitate dialog with the food system to create better alignment with consumer expectations. For more information, visit: www.foodintegrity.org
Sustainability – making sure that food is produced in such a way that it can be produced at the same quality for generations to come – is something increasing numbers of consumers are looking for. In particular, seafood, poultry, egg and meat products seem to be of strong interest to many members of the general public, and therefore also of significant interest to the grocery distribution industry. “Retailers believe that animal products that they sell must be safe and of high quality, as well as produced in a sustainable and humane manner,” says Nathalie St-Pierre, vice-president (Sustainability) and vice-president Québec at the Retail Council of Canada (RCC). She notes that there are significant implications and complexities in making changes to how animals are raised – including animal well-being, socio-economic and environmental considerations – and this is why the Council continues to work with many parties through constructive dialogue and shared objectives to bring about the best outcomes. Some examples of food sustainability issues that RCC is working on include the neonicotinoid insecticide concerns (involving CropLife Canada, Flowers Canada Growers and beekeeper associations) as well as seafood sourcing and related labour issues (involving Greenpeace and other parties). A COMBINATIONTo get a sense of the big picture of how food retailers are currently approaching companies with regard to sustainability, we asked St-Pierre if they’re mostly dealing with companies on an individual basis or if they’re creating collective sustainability criteria together. It seems to be a combination of both. “Retailers often work on these issues in a pre-competitive fashion,” she explains. “However, when it comes to actual sourcing, this is part of the retailers’ individual strategies and we do not comment on such matters.” SUSTAINABILITY AT LOBLAWLet’s look at one retailer’s individual strategy – in this case the largest food retailer in Canada. Loblaw owns more than 20 different store chains across the country, and with the recent acquisition of Shoppers Drug Mart, now operates over 2,300 individual stores. The firm’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) approach includes five pillars that govern the way it does business in achieving its overall purpose of “Helping Canadians Live Life Well.” These pillars, which all relate to sustainability, are respect for the environment, waste reduction, energy reduction, packaging improvement and sourcing product ingredients with integrity. The Loblaw “pillars of sustainability” have stemmed from the recognition that customers are not only looking to understand where their food comes from, but to understand the health and sourcing implications of the ingredients in their food. “On any given day,” says Melanie Agopian, Loblaw Senior Director of Sustainability, “we may encounter questions as diverse as the degree of sustainability of a fishery that a seafood ingredient is sourced from, to whether our pork products are sourced from a loose housing environment, to the right approach to sodium in our diets. As a retailer, we need to have the answers to these various questions ready, and also ensure we advocate for consumers. That means we need to be very familiar with the issues customers care about, and our supply chain.” To ensure Loblaw understands their customers’ perspectives, the company does things like conduct an annual survey. Recent survey results show that in general, half of the respondents chose environmental, sustainability and animal welfare aspects of their food as high in importance, followed by worker’s rights, food choices, waste reduction and local sourcing. However, with regard specifically to groceries, survey participants placed priority on local sourcing, healthier food choices, packaging reduction and animal welfare. To drive change in response to these concerns, Loblaw puts its corporate policy in action through collaborations with the Retail Council of Canada. In addition, a key driver for change at Loblaw is the firm’s leadership with their private label products (‘President’s Choice’ and ‘No Name’ are Canada’s #1 and #2 food brands respectively). “Our customers expect higher standards with our private label brands and these high standards are a mechanism to drive loyalty and trust,” Agopian explains. “We often look to lead and differentiate by innovating with our brands, and sustainability work is included in that.” Through these labels, Loblaw has a close relationship with their vendors, relationships in which the firm can partner and collaborate to find creative solutions on important sustainability issues. Agopian adds that in their effort to be as credible and science-based as possible, they use globally-recognized 3rd party certifications when appropriate. “We’ve seen from our own data that customers significantly prefer sustainability supported by [these] certifications,” she explains, “and we also partner with academic and scientific advisors on key files.” SOURCINGIn making their private label brands more sustainable, Loblaw is beginning with a close examination of the raw ingredient sourcing of seafood, palm oil, cocoa, coffee and beef. They are also working to continuously improve packaging with guidelines for weight reduction, using renewable or recycled content, and working on overall package recyclability/reusability. In terms of egg and poultry products, Agopian says animal welfare is a key sustainability focus. Loblaw is committed to expanding the President’s Choice (PC) Blue Menu Omega Free-Run Eggs offering in order to provide further choice to customers. The company is also expanding the full PC “Free From” range of products, which is meat and poultry raised without the use of antibiotics and hormones (noting that in Canada, all poultry and pork is raised without the use of hormones). Additionally, the company is an associate member of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) and supports the implementation of the NFACC Codes as they become available. SUSTAINABILITY OUTLOOKJust where sustainability issues are headed in the future for retailers is hard to say. Will it become mandatory for most (or even all) companies to satisfy retailers that their products are produced in a sustainable way? Which products will receive the most attention going forward in terms of sustainability concerns? While it’s impossible for anyone to predict the future, St-Pierre believes the public will lead the way. “The retailers’ first priority is to give consumers the products they want,” she notes. “Thus, consumers will define the next trends in sustainability. If we look at the current consumers’ demands, it is difficult to judge if, going forward, sustainability and animal welfare will become a standard for products, or if they will only serve a certain type of consumer.” St-Pierre adds that while ‘green’ factors do influence many consumers’ purchase decisions, they trail price and quality by a significant margin. “Still, analysts feel that awareness of ‘green’ products has been growing and will continue to grow, though they note that awareness does not necessarily translate to interest, especially if prices remain high,” she says. “On the other hand, retailers often announce commitments of their own to ‘green’ initiatives: buying locally- grown/produced products, sustainable fishing and sourcing, fair trade and safety of workers, commitments for the health and wellness of animals.” She points out that retailers have had an important role in the reduction of plastic bags use, as well as a significant impact in the development and implementation of many types of recycling programs across Canada. Food RetailersHere is some of the sustainability work being done by food retailers who operate in Canada: Metro’s (Ontario and Quebec) sustainable fisheries policy, for example, aims at providing fresh or frozen, wild and farmed seafood to customers. Sobeys also targets seafood in its sustainability efforts, fully supporting and embracing sustainable seafood certification programs and making a commitment to “fix the worst [fishery concerns] first.” Walmart Canada is also committed to selling sustainably-managed seafood products. IKEA cooperates with World Wildlife Fund, Save the Children, UNICEF and many others on sustainability projects. All coffee sold at IKEA is third-party certified to meet social and environmental standards. IKEA’s food suppliers must agree to work to reduce waste and emissions to air, ground and water, handle, store and dispose of hazardous waste in an environmentally safe manner, contribute to the recycling and reuse of materials and products, and more.
February 19, 2015 - The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) – an panel of experts tasked with developing recommendations about what Americans should eat – has submitted its report to the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA), which will publish the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans later this year. One of the key recommendations is that consumers should take sustainability into account, eating less meat and more plant-based foods. Foodnavigator-usa.com reports.
Canadian chicken farmers are trustworthy, responsible and they really care about their flocks, the environment and producing quality products. That’s the message of a new branding campaign just launched by the Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC). The campaign is called “Raised by a Canadian Farmer,” and CFC says it will “showcase the commitment of Canada’s chicken farmers to providing families with nutritious chicken raised to the highest standards of care, quality, and freshness.” One push for the initiative comes from the fact that there are already many store and processor brands in the marketplace that are attempting to identify products as Canadian, but consumers don’t know which of them they should rely on. CFC research has shown that the majority of Canadians would trust a national brand if it came from a farmer group as opposed to a retailer or processor. Therefore, CFC believes that because it both represents Canada’s 2700 chicken farmers and administers the On-Farm Food Safety and Animal Care programs to which they must adhere, it made sense for CFC to spearhead a national branding campaign. “Raised by a Canadian Farmer” got off the ground in 2011, when CFC Directors approved its creation as part of the organization’s annual strategic planning process. “This kind of program takes a long time – particularly since it’s integral that as many partners are consulted as possible,” notes CFC’s Manager of Communications Lisa Bishop-Spencer. In 2012, CFC engaged a firm called “Brand Matters” to develop the campaign. This involved conducting many extensive and in-depth interviews among CFC member organizations, which represent an extensive portion of the chicken value chain. The firm also conducted many extensive interviews with representatives from major Canadian grocery retailers and primary processors. Meanwhile, CFC also did research through its “Usage & Attitude” surveys. These questionnaires are used on an ongoing basis to track Canadian consumer trends and concerns like food safety and animal care. The survey work found that it’s increasingly important to shoppers that the products they buy come from Canada. More specifically, over 85 per cent of respondents felt that it’s important that the chicken they buy be Canadian and not imported. They were also inclined to feel that their expectations for food safety and animal care are met when the chicken is raised in Canada. Throughout 2012, all of these elements were integrated in a cohesive branding strategy. “Effectively,” says Bishop-Spencer, “it cleared the path to capitalize on Canadians’ already positive view of Canadian chicken, Canadian chicken farmers, as well as on the importance of a Canadian identity.” GROCERY STORESDuring 2013, CFC approached several major grocery retailers to determine their willingness to participate in the campaign, and find out what would be needed to ensure the successful launch of branded fresh Canadian chicken in stores. CFC is currently negotiating with a variety of retailers and restaurant chains, big and small, to try to make the brand as widely available as possible. “At this time, we are not working with foodservice, as this is a program meant predominantly for fresh chicken at retail, although we do have a couple of frozen products that will be ‘on-brand’ soon,” says Bishop-Spencer. “So, the program is launching at retail right now, but we’re receiving a big influx of interest from restaurants across the country — which points to the possibility that this will be a next step in the brand’s evolution.” Bishop-Spencer says that the processors and retailers coming into the program are very enthusiastic and are making longer-term plans to incorporate it. “We currently have two retailers and one processor ‘on brand’ and other contracts are currently in negotiation,” she notes. “What’s really interesting is that we’re seeing a greater level of attention being paid to the matter of demonstrating when chicken is Canadian. We’ve brought a great deal of awareness throughout the industry to the importance of this issue…It looks like people are listening when we tell them that the vast majority of Canadians would be likely to buy chicken if it has a label showing it is from Canada.” While Bishop-Spencer says a uniform approach in marketing to the public — one that allows individual retailers or processors to market their products, but also include the message that their product has been raised to a strict set of national standards endorsed by farmers — is one she believes consumers will feel is stronger than any alternative. Every retailer or restaurant will likely reach shoppers or diners with package labelling and menu highlighting, but signage and other avenues could also be used. “We do see it as being on package, that’s for sure, but we’re hearing more and more interest in placing the brand within flyers, at point of sale,” Bishop-Spenser says. “Most interestingly, there’s interest in incorporating the use of our mark within CFC’s expansive digital strategy, which is an established means of getting directly to those people who actually buy our chicken.” CFC’s digital strategy includes things like Twitter, Facebook, mobile apps and Pinterest. Once a retailer or processor comes “on brand,” discussions are initiated about how they can work with CFC to share these avenues. “There may be later opportunities for them to partner with us in traditional print and television marketing as well,” says Bishop-Spencer. The answer to whether some of the rationale for the branding program is a firmer establishment of Canadian chicken sales (in case, for example, more chicken imports occur in future) is yes. “Certainly, there are elements of this program that, no doubt, are about keeping and growing the market for Canadian chicken,” says Bishop-Spencer. “Imports are always an issue — and so is spent fowl. As importantly, though, the program is about delivering on consumer expectations. As an industry, we have a responsibility to be straightforward with consumers and let them know what they’re buying and where it’s from and to not just let them make assumptions. That’s a risk we can’t afford. We spend a great deal of time, as a part of our ongoing strategic planning, surveying and learning about what our consumers want – and Canadians want Canadian chicken.”
As part of its commitment toward building a sustainable egg industry, Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) puts a lot of weight behind research and development. By investing in research conducted at universities across the country, EFC, on behalf of egg farmers, address issues of great importance to the industry and consumers alike. With a focus on egg production, poultry science, animal and human nutrition, and environmental technologies and techniques, Egg Farmers of Canada funds research in areas that will shape the future of egg farming in Canada. To this end, we have launched a research chair program focused on the egg industry. “Supporting proactive discovery is such an important part of our research efforts and working with Maurice and Tina makes it possible for us to shape the future of egg farming,” explains Peter Clarke, Chairman of Egg Farmers of Canada. “Our chairholders are thought leaders in their fields, who were selected for their commitment to research excellence. We are very proud to be working with them.” Investing in TomorrowEFC is dedicated to looking forward and nurturing the next generation of researchers and industry experts. “Our philosophy towards research is simple: in order to be at the forefront of social change we must drive innovation by investing in tomorrow’s industry experts,” adds Peter Clarke. Current chairholdersDr. Maurice Doyon, Egg Industry Economic Research Chair at Université Laval in Quebec CityDr. Doyon’s research focuses on the economic implications of the Canadian egg industry and supply management. Dr. Doyon and his team are developing a variety of projects on the economics of egg production that promote growth and innovation in the sector. Their projects include the development of a quota trading system between farmers, an examination of the implications of international trade on the system of supply management, an evaluation of consumers’ willingness to pay for specialty eggs and the development of a model of egg producers’ behaviour in situations of economic risk. Dr. Tina Widowski, Poultry Welfare Research Chair at the University of GuelphDr. Widowski’s work focuses on hen welfare and health, and best practices for the management of housing systems. The first project she will complete in this area examines the ways in which different pullet rearing systems affect hens’ behaviour, bone health and egg production. Dr. Widowski’s research team is developing projects on the development of flight and locomotion in different breeds of laying hens in aviary systems, the causes and prevention of feather pecking and the effects of ammonia outputs from manure in alternative housing systems. Looking aheadEgg Farmers of Canada are dedicated to making sure we invest in innovative technology and practices for years to come, assuring the sustainability of the Canadian egg industry. “We look forward to continuing our work with our research chairs, as well as our broader network of researchers across the country,” says Clarke. “It is important to work together to mobilizing this new knowledge for the benefit of our farms, farmers and stakeholders in Canada and with partners around the world.” For more information about our research programs, please visit eggfarmers.ca.
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Poultry Service Industry WorkshopTue Oct 04, 2016 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM