Two poultry barns in Alberta, for example, have installed heat recovery systems that capture heat from air being exhausted from broiler and layer barns and use it to warm cold fresh air that’s being vented into the barn.
The heat recovery ventilators (HRV), used primarily in winter months, take some of the cold edge off the fresh incoming air, helping to reduce heating costs inside the barn. It’s not so dramatic as being able to feel hot air going out, and then being replaced inside the heat exchanger with hot fresh air coming in, but the system can warm up cold winter air by 15 to 20 degrees. | For the full story, CLICK HERE
The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lawrence MacAulay—on behalf of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna—and Prince Edward Island’s Minister of Communities, Land and Environment, Richard Brown, recently announced a federal investment of $23.8 million to help the people of Prince Edward Island improve energy efficiency in their homes, businesses, industries, and farm operations across the province, as well as reduce carbon pollution in the forestry sector. This joint investment totals $47.8 million.
The Government of Canada’s Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund will support three of the province’s programs that take climate action.
The first program—Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Built Environment Through Energy Efficiency and Fuel Switching—will provide assistance with building retrofits, and it introduces new residential, commercial, and industrial programs with instant rebates on the purchase of energy-efficient products and their installation.
The program will also target fuel switching and process changes in the industrial sector and support carbon-pollution reduction in the agricultural sector.
The second program—Exploring Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Opportunities with Agriculture Producers—will support efforts to reduce carbon pollution in the agricultural sector.
The program will accomplish this goal by partnering program and policy experts with the agricultural community, who, together, will explore best practices and will design action plans for growers, leading to more innovation and efficient farming systems.
Finally, the Expanding and Managing Forests for Carbon Sequestration program will also receive funding. This program will enhance the capacity of carbon storage through the conversion and development of new forests on idle and less productive agricultural land.
Prince Edward Island is investing $24 million to support a wide range of projects to help families, businesses, industries, farmers, and landowners make environmentally friendly changes that benefit the economy and the environment. With this investment, Islanders will continue to benefit from a clean environment and make the province a leader in the global fight against climate change.
The Government of Canada’s Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund provides $1.4 billion to provinces and territories that have adopted Canada’s clean growth and climate action plan, the Pan-Canadian Framework, to deliver on commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“The environment and the economy go hand in hand. By investing in PEI to make homes and buildings more energy efficient and by reducing emissions in the agriculture and forestry sectors, we are supporting PEI’s economy, creating good middle-class jobs, and tackling climate change while providing savings for Islanders," said MacAulay.
The announcement was made by Michael McLeod, Member of Parliament (Northwest Territories) on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for CanNor.
Choice North Farms is a private egg producing company in Hay River. Their pilot project will integrate vertical hydroponic units and poultry production in a small geodesic dome. This combination will reduce the amount of nutrients and energy required for production, while providing a good supply of quality local fresh produce and meat substitutes.
If the pilot project is successful, this innovative clean technology could be scaled and adapted in other Northern communities, promoting economic diversification, reducing the cost of living, and enhancing the quality of life in remote communities.
"The Government of Canada has long supported the development of the agriculture sector in the North. We are pleased to support innovative technologies that not only grow the economy of Hay River, but also have the potential to provide affordable food to Northern communities," McLeod said.
CanNor has invested $80,497 in the project through its Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development (SINED) program, with Choice North Farms contributing $67,910, the Government of the Northwest Territories injecting $6,586 and the Aurora Research Institute providing an additional $6,000. Total funding for the project is $160,993.
"We are thrilled at North Choice Farms to be able to pilot this green technology, thanks to the support of CanNor. We are confident it will allow us to produce more food locally while reducing our carbon footprint and production cost. This is great for our business, for the agricultural sector in the NWT and for Northern consumers, " said Kevin Wallington, business development manager, Choice North Farms.
READ CP's related feature article: Chickens in the greenhouse
The program is ideal for all farming applications, including livestock, greenhouse and vineyards. Upgrading to a high-efficiency pump will improve performance and could save customers up to 40 per cent of their system's energy costs.
"This energy conservation program is focused on helping our agricultural customers manage their electricity and water usage all while saving money," said Cindy-Lynn Steele, vice president, Market Solutions, Hydro One. "As Ontario's largest electricity provider to farming customers, we are committed to offering a variety of energy solutions to help them save on electricity and invest in programs that will meet their important needs while delivering a positive return to their bottom line."
"This collaborative approach with IESO and Hydro One allowed us to be very innovative with this new program," says Niagara Peninsula Energy Inc. CEO and president Brian Wilkie. "We're happy to be able to cater to the agricultural sector and provide this instant rebate program on high efficiency pump sets with advanced control technology."
"Water conservation and high energy costs are a big concern for farmers in the Niagara region and across the province," said Drew Spoelstra, director for Halton, Hamilton-Wentworth, Niagara North and Niagara South, Ontario Federation of Agriculture. "The Save on Energy Conservation Program and this type of cross-utility initiative to launch the AgriPump Rebate Program is great for agriculture."
To be eligible for a rebate under the program, each kit must be between 0.5 hp and 10 hp and must comprise of a pump, motor, variable frequency drive and accessories. Customers can receive up to $610 per constant pressure pump kit. The pumps are quick and easy to install and guard against wear and tear.
The AgriPump Rebate Program is only available to agriculture customers in Hydro One and Niagara Peninsula Energy Inc. (NPEI) service territories. The instant rebate is fulfilled at the point of purchase.
To learn more and participate in the AgriPump Rebate program, visit: www.agripump.ca
The Government of Canada is committed to supporting the research, development, demonstration and adoption of clean technologies, because they create good jobs for Canadians and help meet Canada's climate change goals.
The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay, recently visited an innovative farm in St-Eugene, Ont., to announce the Agricultural Clean Technology Program. This $25 million, three-year investment will help the agricultural sector reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the development and adoption of clean technologies.
Provinces and territories are eligible to apply for federal funding through this program, and are encouraged to work with industry on projects that focus on precision agriculture and/or bioproducts.
"This investment will help Canadian farmers stay on the cutting edge of clean technology by targeting developments in bioproducts and precision agriculture. Our government has made both agriculture and clean technology a priority for growth in our economy. This new program will contribute to Canada's place as a world leader in agricultural clean technology, helping farmers to develop new and efficient uses of energy, while also protecting our environmental resources and mitigating climate change," said Minister MacAulay.
The Agricultural Clean Technology Program is part of the Government of Canada's suite of clean technology programs and initiatives announced in Budget 2017.
The program will launch on April 1, 2018, and a program guide will be available in the coming weeks.
Chris Ballard, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, was recently joined by Parminder Sandhu, Green Ontario Fund board chair and interim CEO, and Dr. Helena Jaczek, MPP for Oak Ridges-Markham, to announce the launch of the GreenON Agriculture and GreenON Food Manufacturing programs.
GreenON Agriculture will provide funding to help improve energy efficiency in climate-controlled production facilities such as swine or poultry barns, greenhouses and grain dryers.
Improvements include new or upgraded energy curtains and cover materials in greenhouses and building insulation in walls and ceilings of livestock facilities.
GreenON Food Manufacturing will help encourage food and beverage processing facilities to adopt innovative, cleaner technologies, with opportunities for low-carbon fuel use, waste heat recovery, improved air balance and upgraded refrigeration systems.
Supporting farmers and agri-food businesses in the transition to a low carbon economy is part of Ontario's plan to create fairness and opportunity during this period of rapid economic change. The plan includes a higher minimum wage and better working conditions, free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students, easier access to affordable child care, and free prescription drugs for everyone under 25 through the biggest expansion of medicare in a generation.
“A competitive and sustainable agri-food sector is vital to Ontario’s economy. Helping our province’s covered agriculture and food and beverage processing sectors transition to a low-carbon economy will help ensure their long-term sustainability while supporting Ontario’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
“This year’s exhibit floor and attendee and exhibitor numbers are a compliment to IPPE’s extensive education sessions, invaluable networking opportunities and diverse exhibits showcasing innovative technology, equipment and services. The excitement and energy displayed by this year’s attendees and exhibitors will continue to ensure the success and growth of future IPPEs,” remarked IPPE show organizers.
The central attraction is the large exhibit floor. Exhibitors displayed the most current technology in equipment, supplies and services used by industry companies in the production and processing of meat, poultry, eggs and feed products. Numerous companies highlighted their new products at the trade show, with all phases of the feed, meat and poultry industry represented, from live production and processing to further processing and packaging.
The wide variety of educational programs complemented the exhibits by keeping industry management informed about the latest issues and events. This year’s educational line-up featured more than 140 hours of education sessions, ranging from packaging trends and technologies, to feed production education, to researchers presenting findings on poultry disease, quality and behavior.
Other featured events included the International Poultry Scientific Forum, Beef 101 and Pork 101 Workshops, Pet Food Conference, TECHTalks program, Event Zone activities and publisher-sponsored programs, all of which have made the 2018 IPPE the foremost annual protein and feed event in the world.
Also, remember to save the date for the 2019 IPPE. With the Super Bowl coming to Atlanta in 2019, the IPPE show dates have been moved to Feb. 12 – 14, 2019.
Incubadora Regional in the municipality of Escuintla opened its new hatchery last month.
The facility will have an output of 362,880 eggs per week and, most notably, will be totally solar powered.
Roberto Ordonez, owner of the family operated business, welcomed guests to the hatchery’s grand opening and proudly displayed the solar panels and Jamesway machines.
In a press release, Jesus Campa, sales manager for Jamesway’s Latin American region, said, “This is a special project and we are really happy to be involved with it.”
The facility includes 2,000 m2 of solar cells, which are anticipated to produce 100% of the hatchery’s electrical needs.
In affiliation with Toyota Bushoko and YANMAR Micro Combined Heat and Power Systems of Adairsville Georgia, Faromor Ltd and Faromor CNG Corporation have completed the new facility for Steeple High Farms of Tavistock, Ontario Canada.
“This is a timely and welcomed development, distributed generation micro CHP systems deliver high onsite efficiency. They are able to generate the correct amount of power at the right time, making them much more efficient than the electrical grid," said Nicholas Hendry, President of Faromor CNG Corporation.
YANMAR has been perfecting its products and business practices for over 100 years. With units in service in Europe for more than 15 years, YANMAR micro CHP systems have been recognized globally. By utilizing a highly efficient engine and capturing nearly all the remaining energy as heat, the YANMAR micro CHP system is up to 2.6 times as efficient as your current centralized power.
With ease of installation, high reliability and functionality, a reduction in C02 emissions and low operation noise, the YANMAR micro CHP system delivers an energy balance by constantly monitoring power demand and output.
As electrical prices continue to increase, you can gain significant utility bill cost savings by switching to propane or abundant natural gas micro CHP electrical generation for your farm.
Global Re-Fuel’s warm-air biomass furnace – now in use on a farm in Texas – converts raw poultry litter into energy, providing heat to broiler houses while creating a pathogen-free organic fertilizer.
“A ton of litter has the equivalent energy content of 67 gallons of propane. Extracting that heat and using the ash as fertilizer is a really good situation, which not only helps farmers, but is also beneficial to the environment,” says Glenn Rodes, a farmer who has used the technology on his Virginia poultry farm.
As the number of poultry operations in the U.S. increases, so do the attendant problems. Today, there are more than 110,000 broiler houses in the country, with that number expected to exceed 131,000 by 2024, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) growth projections of the industry.
More than 32 billion pounds of poultry litter were generated in 2015. That number is expected to grow to more than 37 billion pounds per year by 2024, which will exacerbate the soil nutrient overload that contributes to runoff pollution into US waterways.
In addition, poultry farms require a great deal of propane to heat broiler houses, with the average broiler house using about 6,000 gallons of propane each year.
In 2015, more than 8.5 million tons of CO2 were emitted from burning propane to heat broiler houses, and that number is projected to grow to almost 10 million tons by 2024, according to the USDA. Global Re-Fuel’s technology eliminates nearly 100 percent of propane usage, reducing CO2 emissions by more than 70,000 lbs/yr/house.
“The Global Re-Fuel PLF-500 increases farmers’ operating margins, decreases pollution, eliminates propane usage – which reduces CO2 emissions – and improves poultry living conditions,” says Rocky Irvin, a founding member of Global Re-Fuel and a poultry grower for more than 10 years. “It’s good for the family farm and the environment.”
“I grew up on a farm, with my grandfather starting with dairy and then cash crops and some pork and beef, and always wanted to get into farming,” Pryce says. “I worked towards this through starting up a few different businesses like road dust control, a rental business, vehicle undercoating, and then decided last summer to take the plunge to buy quota and build a barn.”
Construction started in September 2016 and finished in December 2016.
“Our sons, Russell and Clinton, are the reason Catherine and I did it, so that they can have a future in farming if they want it,” Pryce adds. “We’re starting with the goal of producing 2.2 kilogram birds, with four kilograms as the ultimate goal.”
Pryce chose a cross-ventilation barn design with a heating system that’s brand new to North America – one he’s seen working well in other barns he’s visited. Pryce also believes it will help save on heating bills and electricity, which is quite costly in Ontario, and provide excellent humidity control.
Weeden Environments was a main contractor for the project. Nathan Conley, the firm’s manager for Ontario and the northern United States, says the cross-ventilation design offers a lower building cost than longer and narrower tunnel barns. “Many of Brent’s neighbours and friends are very happy with their cross-ventilated buildings,” he says. “We recommended that two sides have modular side wall air inlets for consistent control over incoming air during minimum ventilation. The air from both sides travels up and along the ceiling [the warmest part of the barn] and therefore it’s conditioned before it reaches the birds and the litter. We then use stir fans to produce consistent temperatures throughout.”
Conley says when warmer weather arrives, a continuous double baffle inlet on one side of the barn will be employed; this set-up creates the same amount of wind chill over the birds as continuous baffle on both sides of the barn. Val-Co HyperMax exhaust fans were chosen for the barn, which Conley says are high-performing and very energy efficient.
A first in North America, the barn’s forced air propane heating and humidity control system is provided by Mabre. Mike Neutel, CEO of Neu Air Systems in Woodstock, Ont., says the systems are used all over the world. The set-up includes two 600,000 Btu Mabre propane furnaces with Reillo burners.
“In poultry barns, typical heating systems are tube heaters and box forced air heaters,” Neutel says. “Some growers have these heaters vented to the outdoors and some vent the products of combustion in the barn.”
He notes the contaminants contained in this air are very harmful to birds, and the exhaust also contains tons of moisture – 0.82 litres of water for every litre of liquid propane burned, and 0.65 litres of water for every litre of liquid natural gas.
Mabre heating systems exit exhaust through chimneys while maintaining a high efficiency of 92 per cent, Neutel notes, while the forced air blowers provide excellent air circulation, which is key in maintaining proper humidity levels. A very even temperature, often within a degree throughout the entire barn, is achieved, but no draft is created. Return air going back to the furnace incorporates fresh outside air through a louver, while heating and mixing this air through an exchanger.
All of this, Neutel says, was important to Pryce. “[He] also commented during his decision process that the low ammonia levels will make it a safe environment for his children to manage the barn when they get older without having to worry about farmer lung,” Neutel adds. Mabre systems maintain humidity between 50 and 60 per cent, even with outside humidity levels of 90 per cent, which Neutel says keeps ammonia levels very low.
Mabre is available with natural gas, propane, wood pellet and wood chip options. More than 200 wood pellet systems have been installed in Quebec poultry barns.
In terms of how popular the cross-ventilation systems will become, Conley notes that in Ontario, producers are moving away from two and three-story barns for easier cleaning and to incorporate modular loading systems. “In the U.S., longer tunnel-ventilated barns are the norm, because the barns are larger and the temperatures higher,” he explains. “With this design – used there and around the world – the barn operates the same as a cross-ventilated barn, where air is brought in via sidewall inlets and exhausted out the sidewalls, but when hotter weather arrives, we gradually transition into tunnel to generate air speed down the length of the barn to create wind chill over the birds to cool them. I think that you’ll begin to see a trend of tunnel-ventilated buildings popping up over the next few years as we continue to see hotter, longer summers and the need to control heat stress becomes greater.”
In late January, Pryce reported in on barn performance and his first flock, which had arrived three weeks prior. “So far, I’m really happy with the heat unit and the environment in there is great. Right now is when you see things start to slide a bit, but it’s the same as the first few days the chickens came in. Usually you don’t really take young kids in a barn, but I’m pretty comfortable with taking my young kids in. The carbon dioxide and humidity levels are bang on.”
The total estimated annual electricity and natural gas needs of the facility are between 80,000 to 120,000 kWh (with one GJ of natural gas consumption equivalent to 278 kWh). The existing solar panels generate about 29,000 kWh, so at this point, only about a third of the facility’s power needs are taken care of on-farm – but it’s a facility which holds many keys to how a layer facility might be designed and operated so that it produces as much energy as it consumes, known as “net zero.” Egg Farmers of Alberta describes the site as “establishing precedent for what additional solar (or other energy generation) would be required to get to net zero energy consumption,” and that it will “eventually provide all of the information we need to in order to communicate what a net zero layer barn looks like, and what it costs.”
The free-run aviary barn is owned by the Brant Hutterite Colony (population 105) in Brant, Alberta (near Lethbridge) and houses 13,000 laying hens. To help offset some of the construction costs, the colony received a $250,000 grant from the Alberta government. Its partners, Egg Farmers of Alberta (EFA) and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AAF), also secured some funding from Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (through Growing Forward 2) to help make the project a reality.
The idea for a net zero egg facility came about in 2014 after EFA had completed a “life cycle analysis”(an examination of resource use and other factors) of the province’s egg farms. It showed that on-farm energy use represents nearly 15 per cent of the climate change impact of egg production in Alberta. “EFA was and is in the process of building plans and strategies to improve the carbon footprint of egg production and this [project] was a natural fit,” notes EFA Industry Development Officer Jenna Griffin. “Similar projects were initiated with Pork and Milk, but each organization took it in a different direction and I believe we were the only ones that went down the path of building a commercial facility.”
To find an egg farmer partner, EFA sent information to all those in the province known to be building a new facility and narrowed it down to a few that met certain criteria. “For example, we wanted the facility to be near a major urban centre, and be of a size that was representative of an average Alberta egg farm,” says Griffin. “The intent was to give ourselves the best chance of successfully getting to net zero and to ensure that the data generated is applicable to most farms.”
In describing why Brant Colony went ahead, Brant egg manager Darrel Mandel highlights the collegiality within Alberta’s egg industry. “There is a passion for your fellow producer,” he says. “When one has achieved a new and efficient way to better his or her farm…it is shared…For us, it did not seem right to let this pass and not do it for the industry.” The agreement with EFA and AAF required that Brant Colony provide data about barn energy performance and also install a web cam inside the barn, and Mandel says that while “providing data did not seem to be such a big issue” at the time, “agreeing to install cameras, allowing tours, were some big things to consider, and there were multiple reasons why we felt that first off, why should the public see what we or our birds are doing? It seemed like a very strange and out-of-place puzzle piece…[but] then we asked ourselves, what is there to hide? Why is this making us afraid on sharing what we do best, that being caring for our animals?…Adding the cameras would not change our everyday lifestyle. We love our animals…They need to be treated with the best care possible. By doing that, it gives the consumer a healthier egg…and gives us farmers an accomplishment that we are proud of and willing to share, be it on live stream or face to face with the public.”
Using input from EFA and AAF, Brant Colony designed the building and purchased very high-efficiency systems and equipment. “The highest priority was for full laying-barn energy metering of electricity and natural gas,” notes AAF engineer Kelly Lund. “The next highest priority was for an investigation into using modern Heat Recovery Ventilator technology to save on heat energy.” Another main priority was choosing high efficiency equipment in the egg cooler. Electricity consumption is slashed low through the use of LED lights, which initially cost more but reduce light energy use by at least 80 per cent compared to incandescents, and have 30 times the lifespan.
The barn is heated through hydronics, a system wherein heat radiates from warm water circulated through a set of tubes, in this case hung from the ceiling. The water is heated using a natural gas boiler and circulated by electrically-powered pumps. Retaining as much heat as possible is very important to keep energy consumption down, but in a poultry barn, extra insulation won’t really help. That’s because barns lose about 80 per cent of their heat in the winter through ventilation – and that’s why a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) was included in the barn design.
HRV’s maintain air quality while preventing large amounts of heat from being exhausted outside through transferring heat from outbound warm barn air to the incoming cold fresh air. The airstreams pass through an elongated grid system and never mix. The amount of heat that can be retained depends on factors such as air velocity and the temperature difference between the airstreams. Moisture must be removed when the exhaust air temperature is reduced to the dew point. “In freezing weather, there is potential for frost build-up with this condensation,” notes Lund. “Most HRVs (including this one) have a defrost cycle they are able to run if required.”
The HRV system will become operational this fall. Lund says they are anticipating some potential problems in colder weather, “not so much with the heat exchanger itself, but with the method of interior air distribution, which is a free air jet to a central redistribution fan system. If the incoming airspeed is not fast enough (which could potentially happen in particularly cold weather when the incoming airflow rate is reduced to prevent freeze-up), the incoming air may not reach the target location within the barn to be properly circulated.” Brant Colony has looked closely at the situation with EFC and AAF, and also hired an independent engineer. Mandel says everyone has concluded they need to run a distribution duct in order to get a good air flow to the centre of the barn. “We have decided it is better if we wait until the flock gets depopulated in early 2017,” he says. “We will still try to do some initial HRV testing once the heating season starts to see what the air distribution pattern looks like, but are prepared to shut it down if we notice problems.”
When might this particular egg production and cooling facility reach ‘net zero’ energy consumption? Lund says once they have one to two years of data monitoring, they will have “a much better sense of the energy use” and of “the amount of solar panels it would take to make it fully net zero.” She adds that Brant Colony’s decision to go fully net zero will likely be based at some future point in time on “whether the marketplace was ready to reward that level of initiative.”
Mandel notes that overall, being involved in the initiative gave him and his Colony colleagues the impression that the barn really could not be efficient enough, which spurred them to continuously look for efficiencies in all aspects of construction and operation. Besides the HRV system which hasn’t begun operating yet, Mandel says everything else is functioning well. “We can see the energy loads of the equipment in the control system and in the boiler room, and the cooler unit and solar are showing positive signs that the research was a worthwhile cause.”
Chickens, like all vertebrates, are governed by a circadian rhythm that is governed by the natural light/dark cycle of day and night. As such, chickens mostly rest and are inactive at night, especially when it is dark. Although they do rest during the daylight hours, most of their feeding and activity is performed during this time.
Studies show that just as in humans, major abrupt changes to the day/night cycle of the chickens, such as waking up the chickens at night with loud noises, will lead to stressed and anxious chickens.
In addition, studies have shown that loud noises such as found near airports, rail road tracks or loud hydraulic or pneumatic equipment and machinery close to the chickens leads to lower egg production, stunted growth, higher blood pressure, stress and fatigue in the birds. A study has shown that loud noise simulating noisy ventilation fans and operational machines found at slaughterhouses led to increased plasma corticosteroids, cholesterol and total protein.1 This study recommended the control of noise pollution near the chickens and chicks.
Other studies show that noise levels past the 85 dB level can lead to a decreased feed intake of between 15 to 25 per cent. Lower feed intake stunts chicken growth — something the poultry farmer or processor does not want.
But all is not lost. Below are some tips and advice to reduce the noise level to an acceptable and healthier level leading to happier and healthier chickens – both psychologically and physically.
First identify the sources of noise pollution equipment. Use a sound measuring tool if necessary.
- Erect sound barrier secondary glazing in windows.
- Establish your chicken farm in a quiet area away from airports and industrial areas and rail yards.
- Maintain your ventilation fans and feeding machines making sure they are not producing excess noise.
- Try to buy machines that produce the least noise possible.
- Avoid repairs and renovations with noisy equipment, especially during the rest and sleep hours of the chickens
- Muffle noisy equipment.
- Make sure that family members do not honk the car horn too often during chicken sleep hours.
- Investigate “active noise control” - a noise cancelation anti-noise system that produces sound waves of the same amplitude as the noise pollution, but in opposite polarity causing a cancelling of the noise pollution.
- Train employees and family members to respect the sleep hours of the chickens - they should not be screaming out to each other, joking etc. around sleeping chickens.
We simply see that it’s about common sense and respect. We need to respect the fact that chickens are living beings that need many of the same things that we need, including a good night’s sleep and some peace and quiet during the day. We just have to sensitize ourselves by imaging how we feel when we are woken up while we are asleep. We feel grouchy the next day and are less productive in the office. If we internalize this reality, we will treat the chickens with more respect, which not only is the proper thing to do, but it is actual good business sense.
The results will be healthier, bigger chickens. Thus, everybody gains by respecting the chickens needs not to be exposed to high levels of noise pollution: the commercial poultry farmer, the backyard chicken farmer enthusiast, the processor and the chickens.
1Stress in Broiler Chickens Due to Acute Noise Exposure (2009) Chloupek et. Al Acta Veterinaria Brno, 78:93-98.
The rapid escalation in cage-free sourcing announcements from fast-food and quick serve restaurants in recent months has become concerning. The words “cage-free” have become a marketing gimmick, and less a about the welfare of laying hens.
Opponents of animal agriculture will look upon this tidal wave as a win for animal welfare, and continually claim that these restaurant chains are answering consumer concerns over hen housing. But, I suspect that most food businesses are, for the most part, bowing to pressure placed on them from animal activist groups.
Releasing a cage-free commitment announcement has essentially become an insurance policy for a company against having its name associated with disturbing undercover videos or other forms of negative press and social media backlash.
Until recently, this battle hasn’t affected individual farmers in Canada to a great extent. It’s provided an opportunity for some to expand or transition and supply what is still considered a niche market. However, when major grocery store chains follow suit, the entire egg industry is going to be affected — and so is the average consumer.
Restaurant and foodservice providers can make blanket statements about sourcing one type of egg because it’s too complicated for them to offer, for example, a breakfast sandwich made with either an egg that’s cage-free, conventional, organic, enriched or free-range housing – it’s confusing and a logistical nightmare for their supply chains. Whether a consumer is actively choosing a particular restaurant because the eggs are cage-free or not is a moot point when virtually every chain offers the same egg option. For a consumer, the decision of where to eat becomes a matter of convenience, price, and taste.
However, the grocery store is still where a consumer can make a conscious decision on what type of egg to buy. But that may change. In mid-March grocery members of the Retail Council of Canada(RCC), including Loblaw Companies Limited, Metro Inc., Sobeys Inc., and Wal-Mart Canada Corp., announced they are “voluntarily committing to the objective of purchasing cage-free eggs by the end of 2025” (see page 6).
No longer is the cage-free issue a way for a company to differentiate itself within a competitive marketplace, it’s now on a path to become the majority. There’s no doubt that cage-free housing offers improved animal welfare compared to conventional housing, however a multi-year intensive study by the Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES) determined that when all factors of sustainability were examined, including important parameters such as food affordability and environmental impact, cage-free systems did not reign supreme. The CSES study determined that enriched colony housing offered the best for the hen, farmer and consumer – yet it’s a system that is rarely mentioned by restaurants and retailers.
The Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) hope to change this. It’s not about pitting one system against another – it’s about providing the consumer and retailers with choices, and keeping eggs an affordable source of high-quality protein.
There’s still time to turn the tide – but it’s going to be a battle the Canadian egg industry will be fighting for the next several years at least.
If there was one moment that stood out at the International Egg Commission’s (IEC) Global Leader Conference in Berlin last September, it was the moment Jim Dean described the devastation on his farms during the 2015 avian influenza (AI) outbreaks in the U.S. (see Canadian Poultry, Feb/March edition pages 34-36). Dean, CEO of Centre Fresh Group, had the room’s attention from the moment he opened his mouth. He didn’t use slides or stats; he spoke straight from the heart – and experience. It wasn’t difficult. After all, he had lost some 9.9 million birds to AI in that outbreak. No one was more surprised at that time than Dean. “We thought we had the most robust biosecurity program that we could even think of,” he said. “We thought that we were fine.”
The thing is, they did have a robust biosecurity program. In fact, just one month earlier Centre Fresh Farm had gone through a full government audited bio-security inspection. “We received a score of 100 per cent without any deficiencies,” Dean said. “We were infected April 27, 2015.”
The story stood out not so much because of the sheer devastation on the farms, but for the simple fact that it meant no one was safe. That revelation was painfully clear on the faces of the conference’s attendees, who shuffled uncomfortably in their seats. To this day, Dean is uncertain how his farms were infected.
“I’m not sure anyone will know for sure,” he said. “Two complexes broke on opposite ends of the complexes. One was not near a doorway, so we believe wind. The other one broke possibly by a door, so a worker could have tracked it in.”
Envisioning the ideal farm
What would a model farm look like today if you had the best biosecurity possible? That’s the question Andrew Joret of Noble Foods in the U.K. asked the conference attendees. “None of us probably has a model farm,” he said. “It’s about how far away from that we are and if we can do anything about changing the farm to get something like what we think is safe.”
According to Joret, the most ideal location for a poultry farm is somewhere far from open water sources, migratory pathways and neighbouring production units and populations.
Ideally, the perimeter of that farm would be fenced with a single point of entry. “At that entry point you have to have a barrier to disinfect, and when you decide you’re going to actually let a vehicle on your farm, then you can disinfect it,” he said. “There are many, many farms with no fence at all, and that’s an enormous risk.”
The employee car park should be located outside of that fence. “This will force them to walk through the fence on foot and then through whatever biosecurity measures you use on your farm,” Joret said.
The buildings, he said, should be vermin and bird proofed. They should be designed with a cleanable concrete apron, and provisions for rainwater removal. Even where outdoor access is provided, buildings should still meet those standards for periods of shut in.
“Some people would certainly say that there shouldn’t be outdoor access at all,” Joret said. “It presents an increased risk.”
According to Joret, farm size needs to be addressed, too. Consider the impact of stocking density on immune status and animal welfare. While he didn’t suggest an optimum size for farms, he did say that it was something that should be looked into.
“The movement of people also presents a risk,” Joret said. “But contrary to what one might think, regular staff present a lower risk than visitors to the farm. The biggest risk of all is the people who move from one farm to another, for example, the service providers or engineers.”
Depopulation biosecurity: Managing the crisis
Biosecurity isn’t just about preventing pathogens from entering the farm. In situations where biosecurity measures fail, it’s equally important to have a biosecure depopulation plan in place. Culling crews, their tools and carcass transports can still spread disease, Klaus-Peter Behr of AniCon Labor GmbH reminded the conference attendees.
The solution to this problem, he said, is to have as few staff working the site as possible. Treat staff well, he said. Pay them well, provide them with food and clothing, and facilities for hygiene.
He also recommended disinfecting the dead birds before loading them onto the carcass transport. Also, the carcass transport containers should be well sealed, he pointed out.
Perhaps most importantly, though, Behr recommends setting up a mobile disinfection unit for staff, as well as for trucks and equipment. Lastly, staff should be paid to stay away from poultry farms and facilities for the 72 hours following cleanup.
Crisis management beyond the farm gate
While the biological event itself sees the biggest investment when AI strikes, in a recent interview Brian Evans of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said that crisis management success is dependent on addressing two other elements simultaneously: communications and relationships.
More specifically, Evans said that it’s important that public health officials and animal health officials speak in a coherent manner. It’s important for the reputation of both sectors and shows the public that there’s alignment between human and industry, the public and private spheres.
“Full disclosure is in everybody’s best interest to rapidly contain and deal with the circumstance, and it’s the most effective weapon that can be used to maintain or rebuild public confidence in the aftermath,” Evans said.
Evans used the example of BSE in Canada to highlight what full disclosure can do for the industry. “Unlike in other countries in the world, the Canadian experience of BSE was one where we actually saw beef consumption rise in the country instead of fall,” he said.
This was possible, he added, because there was consistent messaging from government, industry, third parties, academics and public health. “They all reiterated the fact that what was being done was based on 20 years experience gained in the U.K. and other countries,” he concluded.
When you’re going through an emergency there will be stresses. Difficult decisions have to be made that can have economic impacts on the livelihoods of producers, the food supply chain, and on food costs to consumers.
“These are not decisions that can be taken lightly,” Evans said. “It is important that when you’re going through these circumstances that the communication level is good because you are also establishing the basis of trust that you will have going forward in the recovery phase, hopefully, and building a better situation to prevent these things in the future.”
“Diseases will happen; no country can prevent that,” he continued. “But countries that handle emergencies well tend to be those that trade well.”
There is no doubt that over the past two decades, the term “sustainability” has become widely used in a variety of contexts. It also has a large range of meanings to different people, but for the purposes of this article, we shall assume the definition developed in 1987, at the time “Our Common Future” was published by the World Commission on Environment and Development. This stated “that a sustainable development was attained when current generations could meet their needs without undermining or destroying the future generations’ chances of having their needs met.”
First, a distinction needs to be made between “industrial poultry” systems and the much less intensive small-scale “village poultry,” still encompassing large numbers of poultry in some countries. The latter might also include backyard flocks in developed countries such as Canada. While many of the issues around sustainability are relevant to all systems, some are specific to industrial production and these will be given added emphasis.
In terms of environmental impact, poultry have comparatively less impact than other farm animals. The carbon and water footprints for both poultry meat and egg production per unit of output are much less than for beef and dairy cattle or pigs. This has been shown to be primarily due to genetic improvements in productivity and feed efficiency. Nevertheless, the use of concentrated feeds has its own environmental impact, particularly with respect to the water footprint involved in producing the high density feed ingredients required. And with many of these ingredients, poultry use material that might otherwise be consumed directly by people. Another interesting consideration here is the feeding of organic poultry. The European Union has proposed to transition all poultry feed to organic sources at some future date (currently January 2018). There is an implication here of converting to more local feed ingredients that do not compete with human food. But it is also recognized that such ingredients may not meet the needs of highly productive birds for methionine, thus leading to over-feeding protein with consequent increases in nitrogen excretion. Nothing is simple when it comes to sustainability!
Pollution is another aspect of environmental integrity. Ideally, egg and poultry production should be a component of an integrated farming system. In the past, this may have been largely the case, but in many (perhaps even most) industrial poultry operations today, manure is considered a waste, and special arrangements have to be made for its disposal. These inevitably involve transportation, with consequent use of fossil fuel causing some degree of pollution. Novel means of manure utilization such as composting, anaerobic digestion, and perhaps others as yet undiscovered or unexploited, will help to minimize impact on the environment.
Especially in highly specialized poultry production systems, employees have been shown to be at high risk of a variety of health problems: exposure to dust, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, allergies to antibiotics and possibly feathers and feather dander. Catching chickens for market has also been shown to place employees at high risk of injuries and illness. In some industries, contract production places farmers at both economic and physical risk, and employees at risk of exploitation in the absence of workers’ unions or negotiating capability.
Gender balance is an interesting social aspect, as in many circumstances such as village poultry production, more women than men are in positions of power and decision-making.
Breed diversity and animal welfare
Both meat and egg chickens used in intensive production come from a very limited genetic base and are bred to be extremely uniform. Conversely, village poultry and small flocks embrace a huge variety of genetics, although often poorly controlled. However, these small flocks represent a valuable reservoir of genetic material. They most likely contain adaptations to local environments, diseases and novel feed ingredients, all of which might become part of a more sustainable industrial system. To formally maintain these resources for future use has been, to date, an insurmountable task.
The point is made that in the poultry industry, a few breeding companies control a large proportion of the market. But as long as their products meet the various demands of the market, it is difficult for this writer to understand how this compromises sustainability; competitors will surely emerge if/when new demands are not met by the large breeding companies.
In terms of sustainability, animal welfare is approached from the desires of advanced society to adopt methods that are ethical and provide animals with a secure and non-suffering existence. Most developed countries now have more or less strict regulations or accepted practices that provide such conditions, but in some areas, notably Europe, ever stricter rules are developed that make industrial poultry production increasingly difficult. It is accepted that poultry meat has evolved over the past century, from a luxury food to “the cheapest source of protein” in developed countries. The question seems to be whether the methods used in the 21st century are sustainable. There are abundant economic conflicts between the desire to produce competitively priced food and the simultaneous goals of animal welfare, corporate competition, resource conservation, and climate change.
Concentration of production is regarded as a disadvantage to consumers as it limits their choice in the marketplace. The concept of a “Concentration Ratio”(CR) has been developed to measure the market dominance of a specified number of companies. For example CR4 measures the market share of the four largest companies; in the U.S., CR4 in the broiler industry was 58.5 per cent in 2010. Some critics have suggested that a CR of more than 40 per cent is undesirable.
There are many areas in which different parts of the production system conflict with each other. For example, feed production may be extremely efficient, yet possibly harmful to some aspects of the environment.
A clear case of conflict arises in the area of organic production systems. While meeting many of the criteria of sustainability, they also produce far less nutrient output per unit of input. Growth rate, egg production and feed conversion efficiency are all much lower than when intensive methods are used.
Resolution of many of these, and other conflicts, seems to be possible only when large-scale production methods are abandoned. In a perfect world, poultry would be integrated into small farming enterprises along with crops and orchards, in both urban and rural settings. How the current systems of commercial poultry production might evolve into such a situation requires a gigantic imagination. However, it is very much the norm in the many “village poultry” enterprises found around the world. In some countries, birds kept in such conditions outnumber those in industrial operations.
This article is largely based on the publication “Sustainable development perspectives of poultry production” by M. Vaarst, S. Steenfeldt and K. Horsted, Worlds Poultry Science Journal, December 2015, pp 609-620.
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National Chicken Month KickoffSat Sep 01, 2018
PIC’s Fundraiser Golf TournamentWed Sep 05, 2018
IEC Global Leadership Conference Kyoto 2018Sun Sep 09, 2018
Canada's Outdoor Farm ShowTue Sep 11, 2018