In partnership with the Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI), Cleanfarms, an industry-led, national not-for-profit environmental stewardship organization, is offering this program at no cost to farmers.
The obsolete pesticide and livestock/equine medication collection program is a national program that comes to each province every three years. In between collections periods, farmers are asked to safely store their unwanted pesticides and livestock medications until they can properly dispose of them through the program.
"British Columbia farmers are environmentally conscious and are pleased to partner with Cleanfarms to safely dispose of obsolete pesticides and livestock medications," Stan Vander Waal, chair of the British Columbia Agriculture Council, said in a press release. "The Cleanfarms collection program provides an excellent one-stop service for British Columbia farmers to continue to protect the land."
Farmers in British Columbia have a long history of good stewardship practices. Since 1998, British Columbia farmers have turned in more than 282,000 kilograms of obsolete pesticides since program inception, and 47,000 kilograms during last collection in 2014 and 2015. Farmers across the province also turned in more than 500 kilograms of livestock medication in 2014 and 2015.
"British Columbia has a history of successful collections," Barry Friesen, general manager of Cleanfarms, said. "The participation of British Columbia farmers shows they are good stewards of their land and committed to protecting the environment."
After collection, the pesticides and 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 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on the dates specified:
October 3, 2017
Capital Regional District
1 Hartland Avenue
October 4, 2017
3900 Drinkwater Road
October 5, 2017
Comox Valley Waste
3699 Bevan Road
October 10 and 11, 2017
Crop Production Services
7430 Hopcott Road
October 17 and 18, 2017
3256 McCallum Road
October 19, 2017
District Transfer Station
1947 Carpenter Road
T: 604-894-6371 Ext. 236
Half of Asia's aquaculture production is from factory farms, said the report published this week by Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR), referring to the major, industrial operations that raise large numbers of animals for food.
"Asia's meat, seafood and dairy industries face a range of badly managed sustainability risks – from emissions to epidemics, fraud to food safety, and abuse of labor," said Jeremy Coller, founder of FAIRR.
"It is clear that significant environmental and social risks are building up."
The announcement was made following the first meeting between Federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay and B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham.
"The AgriRecovery response will help B.C. ranchers and farmers recover from their losses, and return to their land and their livelihoods. Our governments are working with producers, local officials and stakeholders, and the results and spirit of resilience is collective and clear, we will work together to respond to this emergency until the job is done," Lana Popham, B.C. Minister of Agriculture said.
Government officials are working together to quickly assess the extraordinary costs farmers are incurring and what additional assistance may be required to recover and return to production following the wildfires.
The types of costs under consideration include:
- Costs related to ensuring animal health and safety.
- Feed, shelter and transportation costs.
- Costs to re-establish perennial crop and pasture production damaged by fire.
Alltech China has built long-term cooperative research relationships with 10 well-known universities, research institutes and leading feed and food enterprises.
“The Alltech China Research Alliance is focused on building toward a green agriculture future in China,” said Dr. Mark Lyons, global vice president and head of Greater China for Alltech. “The roadmap to this future requires practical solutions, which will be developed through advanced scientific research and technology and the powerful partnership of these leading agricultural minds.”
Defa Li, professor at China Agricultural University and academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and Kangsen Mai, professor at Ocean University of China and academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, along with more than 30 other professors from agricultural colleges and research institutions, attended and spoke at the meeting, sharing the results of their latest research.
“This meeting of the alliance explored how to reduce antibiotic residues in food, how to effectively use limited resources in the midst of population explosion, and how to reduce water and soil pollution,” said Karl Dawson, vice president and chief scientific officer at Alltech.
A new mycotoxin detection method
The Institute of Agriculture Quality Standards and Testing Technology for Agro-Products of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (IQSTAP) has established a method for the simultaneous detection of 21 mycotoxins, or their metabolite residues, in the plasma of animals. These include toxins such as aflatoxin B1. This testing is expected to become the agricultural industry standard for the detection of mycotoxins in China.
Recently, Alltech and IQSTAP published an article entitled "Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry for Simultaneous Determination of 21 Kinds of Mycotoxins or Their Metabolites in Animal Plasma." Dr. Ruiguo Wang of IQSTAP, who introduced the study, says that it established a liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry method that simultaneously detects animal plasma aflatoxin B1 and 21 other kinds of mycotoxins or their metabolite residue.
Existing mycotoxin detection methods have very complex sample treatment operations, and high detection costs make it generally difficult to do a variety of simultaneous determinations of mycotoxins. The QuEChERS method (Quick, Easy, Cheap, Effective, Rugged, Safe) is a fast, sample pre-treatment technology developed for agricultural products. It uses the interaction between adsorbent filler and the impurities in the matrix to adsorb impurities to achieve purification.
In this study, 21 samples of mycotoxins and their metabolites in animal plasma were developed by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) based on the QuEChERS principle. The method is simple, rapid, low-cost and accurate. It can be used for combined mycotoxin animal exposure assessment and mycotoxin toxicokinetic study. Wang said this method has been submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China for review and is expected to pass as a fungal detector by agriculture industry standards.
Functional ingredients for better pork quality
Another breakthrough came from collaboration between Alltech and Jiangnan University to improve food safety and quality. A Jiangnan University research project showed that the addition of rapeseed selenium in the diet can improve the quality of pork, increasing its water-holding capacity and tenderness. An article published based on Alltech and Jiangnan University’s study confirmed that the additions of flaxseed oil and sesame selenium to the diet can improve pork quality, reducing drip loss by 58–74 percent. The organic selenium diets increased muscular selenium content up to 54 percent. Flaxseed oil and selenium can be used to alter the fatty acid structure of pork, increase omega-3 fatty acids and reduce the proportion of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids in meat, which can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in consumers.
Minerals matter: How trace minerals can impact pollution
Improper sewage treatment and greenhouse gas emissions are leading to heavy pollution of water, soil and air, and some small-scale farms have been closed because of this pollution.
"This will require improved feed conversion, which will reduce damage to the environment without affecting the performance of the animal," said Li.
Inorganic trace minerals in feeds have contributed to this environmental pollution. Due to their low absorption rates, 80–90 percent of inorganic zinc and copper will generally be excreted by the animal, contaminating water and soil.
Organic trace minerals, however, are absorbed more readily. Alltech’s Total Replacement Technology™ is a groundbreaking approach to organic trace mineral nutrition. It features products such as Bioplex®, which includes copper, iron, zinc and manganese, and Sel-Plex®, which includes selenium. Compared to conventional inorganic minerals, these formulations are better absorbed, stored and utilized by the animal and are thus able to meet the higher nutrient needs of modern livestock for rapid growth, maximum reproductive performance and animal health. Additionally, because they are absorbed more readily, less is excreted into the environment.
Some Chinese feed companies are already using Alltech’s Total Replacement Technology. In addition to aiding in animal performance and health, many customers have noted it improves the smell of pig farms.
More than half of the wildfires in 2016 were caused by humans.
With the wildfire season upon on us in B.C., there are measures that ranchers, farmers, growers, and others who make their living in agriculture can do to protect their workers and their property. Addressing potential fire hazards will significantly reduce the chances of a large-scale fire affecting your operation.
Controlling the environment is important. Clear vegetation and wood debris to at least 10 metres from fences and structures; collect and remove generated wastes whether it is solid, semi-solid, or liquid; and reduce the timber fuel load elsewhere on your property and Crown or lease land to help mitigate the risk.
In the case that you have to address fire on your property, have a well-rehearsed Emergency Response Plan (ERP) in place. The ERP should also include an Evacuation Plan for workers and livestock.
“Having a map of your property, including Crown and lease lands, and a list of all of your workers and their locations is extremely helpful for evacuation and useful for first responders,” says Wendy Bennett, Executive Director of AgSafe. A list of materials and a safety data sheet of all liquid and spray chemicals and their locations should also be made available to attending firefighters.
Bennett suggests checking the Government of BC Wildfire Status website regularly to report or monitor the status of fires in your area.
For over twenty years AgSafe has been the expert on safety in the workplace for British Columbia’s agriculture industry and is committed to reducing the number of agriculture-related workplace deaths and injuries by offering health and safety programs, training, evaluation and consultation services.
For more information about agriculture workplace safety or AgSafe services call 1-877-533-1789 or visit www.AgSafeBC.ca
The Honourable Bardish Chagger, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism, today announced a $1.9 million investment with the University of Waterloo to examine greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with agricultural activities and the potential benefits of alternative land use practices and beneficial management practices (BMPs).
This project with the University of Waterloo is one of 20 new research projects supported by the $27 million Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP), a partnership with universities and conservation groups across Canada. The program supports research into greenhouse gas mitigation practices and technologies that can be adopted on the farm.
According to some early findings from a study by Penn State graduate student Erica Rogers, poultry producers are potentially lowering their impact on the Chesapeake Bay.
Rogers and fellow Penn State graduate student Amy Barkley discussed those initial findings from their two master’s thesis projects with the poultry service technicians attending Monday’s Penn State Poultry Health and Management Seminar at the Lancaster Farm and Home Center.
Her project’s goal is to accurately depict poultry’s contribution to the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load. The Chesapeake Bay “is one of the most studied watersheds in the world,” she said, but the problem with the current model is “they are using outdated information for poultry.”
Rogers built her work around the concept that poultry litter management has changed and farmers have adopted more precise diets for their flocks. READ MORE
The approval gives Agrisoma agricultural license to commercialize a protein byproduct of the Carinata oilseed.
Carinata is currently grown by farmers to produce oil that makes low carbon biofuels for the aviation industry. Agrisoma has discovered a powerful, natural protein inside the Carinata seed, which can also be processed to produce a nutritious, low carbon animal feed with overall greenhouse gas emissions significantly lower than animal feed made from other common crops used as feed in the livestock industry.
"This decision places Agrisoma at the forefront of creating a planet-friendly animal feed alternative that helps reduces overall greenhouse gas emissions in livestock production, poultry, aquaculture and dairy markets," says Steve Fabijanski, President and CEO of Agrisoma. READ MORE
CleanFARMS, which operates the program, is a national, industry-led agricultural waste stewardship organization. Collections took place at six participating ag-retail locations throughout the region from September 21-23, 2016.
This marked the first time that a combined collection of pesticides and livestock medications has been offered in the Peace Region. CleanFARMS partnered with the Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI) to add the collection of livestock and equine medications to CleanFARMS' existing obsolete pesticide collection program.
The obsolete collection program is generally delivered in each province or region of the country every three years and comes at no cost to farmers. The free disposal program will be delivered again in the region in 2019. In between collections, farmers are encouraged to safely store their unwanted pesticides and livestock medications until they can properly dispose of them through the program.
The obsolete collection program is part of the plant science and animal health industry's commitment to the responsible lifecycle management of their products. READ MORE
“Animal welfare is the greatest impetus for our work,” Crowe told the audience at the Poultry Industry Council 2016 Research Day in Guelph, Ont., with his work focusing on the transportation of turkeys to market. The turkey industry is facing increased demands from regulatory agencies and consumers but current broiler data may not be directly applicable to turkeys.”
Crowe’s objective was to investigate the response of turkey hen and tom physiology, behaviour and meat quality to different temperatures and humidity levels during simulated transport.
Crowe, the associate dean in the College of Graduate Studies and Research at the UofS and a faculty member in the department of mechanical engineering, was the principal investigator, along with his research assistant, Catherine Vermette, graduate student Zoe Henrikson, and a platoon of other casual workers helping to collect
Researchers mimicked a typical farm-rearing environment at a barn on campus with 120 12-week old turkey hens and 120 16-week old turkey toms, growing them for a week with ad lib feed and water under 16 hours of light. After reaching market age the birds were crated and exposed to simulated transportation conditions where they were randomly assigned to one of five treatments: two warm treatments at 28 C with 30 and 80 per cent relative humidity, two moderate treatments at 20 C with 30 and 80 per cent relative humidity, and one cold treatment at -18 C, all at a stocking density of approximately 83 kg/m2. Crated birds were placed inside a pre-conditioned environmental chamber for eight hours under these experimental conditions before being processed at a mini slaughter plant set up at the university’s College of Engineering.
Experimental measures included live shrink; core body temperature; behavioural observations during exposure such as sitting, standing, huddling, shivering, panting, pecking, ptiloerection and preening; blood glucose levels before and after exposure; heterophil/lymphocyte ratio and the meat quality – the pH and colour of the breast and thigh.
In terms of meat quality, Crowe hypothesized that warm exposure would result in pale, soft, exudative (PSE) meat, demonstrating a decline in pH and subsequent water holding capacity that results in tougher, paler meat. He also expected that cold exposure would result in dark, firm, dry (DFD) meat, due to an increase in muscle pH. There was the potential that meat exposed to cold would provide a larger yield, reduced drip and cook loss, with improved texture and taste scores.
The results indicate that toms tolerate the cold better than hens but hens did better in the warmer conditions.
For cold transport at -18 C, hen live shrink was greater, core body temperature tended to be lower, thermo-regulatory behaviours such as huddling, shivering, ptiloerection increased, both breast and thigh pH tended to increase and became darker when compared to both treatments at 20 C. Under the same cold conditions the blood glucose of toms had a tendency to decrease, thermo-regulatory behaviours increased and thigh pH increased.
Comparing warm transport conditions, the opposite was true. Crowe found overall, that hens were less susceptible to the effects of warm transport than toms. Comparing both 28 C treatments to 20 C treatments at 30 and 80 per cent relative humidity, hen live shrink was greater and thermo-regulatory behaviours such as panting increased at 28 C. For toms live shrink increased, core body temperature increased, thermo-regulatory behaviours increased and breast pH increased under 28 C treatment compared to 20 C.
Crowe suggested that the exposure conditions were not extreme enough to cause consistent and widespread physiological changes but that changes in core body temperature indicate birds were possibly beginning to reach the limit of their thermal coping abilities. Crowe pointed out that the research was conducted under ideal conditions, with all birds healthy and dry.
Turkey physiology and behaviour were affected to a greater degree than meat quality measures; meat quality was not compromised and defects did not occur in cold or warm transported hens or toms.
Crowe suggested that the large size of turkeys relative to broilers and size differences between hens and toms likely account for some of the variation in results and make it difficult to extrapolate work done with broilers to turkeys. As he says, turkeys are not just big chickens.
This work with turkeys was one of the Growing Forward II projects sponsored by Turkey Farmers of Canada and Agriculture Canada. Crowe is now looking ahead to do similar work with end-of-cycle hens in a collaborative project with Karen Schwean-Lardner and he has also explored the possibility of similar work with broilers. There are no immediate plans to extend this work on turkeys, although there are other turkey-related projects ongoing at the UofS.
A study released by NCC details the environmental, economic and sustainability implications of raising slower growing chickens, revealing a sharp increase in chicken prices and the use of environmental resources - including water, air, fuel and land. NCC is also calling for more research on the health impact of chickens' growth rates, to ensure that the future of bird health and welfare is grounded in scientific, data-backed research.
"The National Chicken Council and its members remain committed to chicken welfare, continuous improvement and respecting consumer choice – including the growing market for a slower growing bird," says Ashley Peterson, NCC senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs. "However, these improvements must be dictated by science and data – not activists' emotional rhetoric – which is why we support further research on the topic of chicken welfare and growth rates."
In assessing a transition to a slower growing breed, the environmental impact is an important component often left out of the equation. If only one-third of broiler chicken producers switched to a slower growing breed, nearly 1.5 billion more birds would be needed annually to produce the same amount of meat currently produced – requiring a tremendous increase in water, land and fuel consumption:
- Additional feed needed: Enough to fill 670,000 additional tractor trailers on the road per year, using millions more gallons of fuel annually.
- Additional land needed: The additional land needed to grow the feed (corn and soybeans) would be 7.6 million acres/year, or roughly the size of the entire state of Maryland.
- Additional manure output: Slower growing chickens will also stay on the farm longer, producing 28.5 billion additional pounds of manure annually. That's enough litter to create a pile on a football field that is 27 times higher than a typical NFL stadium.
- Additional water needed: 5.1 billion additional gallons of water per year for the chickens to drink (excluding additional irrigation water that would be required to grow the additional feed).
If the industry did not produce the additional 1.5 billion birds to meet current demand, the supply of chicken would significantly reduce to 27.5 billion less chicken meals per year.
The additional cost of even 1/3 of the industry switching to slower growing birds would be $9 billion, which could have a notable financial impact on foodservice companies, retailers, restaurants and ultimately – consumers. This will put a considerable percentage of the population at risk and increase food instability for those who can least afford to have changes in food prices.
A reduction in the U.S. chicken supply would also result in a decreased supply to export internationally where U.S. chicken is an important protein for families in Mexico, Cuba, Africa and 100 other countries.
NCC's commitment to welfare and consumer choice
"Slower growing," as defined by the Global Animal Partnership, is equal to or less than 50 grams of weight gained per chicken per day averaged over the growth cycle, compared to current industry average for all birds of approximately 61 grams per day. This means that in order to reach the same market weight, the birds would need to stay on the farm significantly longer.
For decades, the chicken industry has evolved its products to meet ever-changing consumer preferences. Adapting and offering consumers more choices of what they want to eat has been the main catalyst of success for chicken producers.
"We are the first ones to know that success should not come at the expense of the health and wellbeing of the birds," said Peterson. "Without healthy chickens, our members would not be in business."
All current measurable data – livability, disease, condemnation, digestive and leg health – reflect that the national broiler flock is as healthy as it has ever been.
"We don't know if raising chickens slower than they are today would advance our progress on health and welfare - which is why NCC has expressed its support to the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association for research funding in this area," says Peterson. "What we do know is there are tradeoffs and that it is important to take into consideration chicken welfare, sustainability, and providing safe, affordable food for consumers. There may not be any measurable welfare benefits to the birds, despite these negative consequences. Research will help us identify if there are additional, unforeseen consequences of raising birds for longer."
NCC in 2017 will also be updating its Broiler Welfare Guidelines, last updated in 2014, and having the guidelines certified by an independent third party. The guidelines will be updated with assistance from an academic advisory panel consisting of poultry welfare experts and veterinarians from across the United States.
"NCC will continue to be in the business of providing and respecting consumer choice in the marketplace," Peterson concludes. "Whether it is traditionally raised chicken, slower growing breeds, raised without antibiotics or organic, consumers have the ability to choose products that take into account many factors, including taste preference, personal values and affordability."
For additional information and resources about how chickens are raised, visit www.chickencheck.in
The study was conducted August-September, 2016 by Elanco Animal Health, in consultation with Express Markets, Inc., using a simulation model that estimates the impact of slow-growing broilers on feed, land, water utilization, waste/manure generated, and production cost. The model used average values of conventional vs. slow-grow broiler for mortality, grow-out days, feed conversion, days downtime, and placement density. A full copy of the study is available here.
Shaver recently gave a keynote presentation to the 11th International Symposium on Avian Endocrinology, held in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
Entitled “Mandating a sustainable economy before it’s too late”, the presentation dealt with a number of current issues critical to, in Shaver’s view, the future of humanity, as we know it.
For sustainable development, he used the United Nations 1987 definition that it “is attained when current generations could meet their needs without undermining or destroying future generations’ chances of having their needs met”.
Of course, much has changed since 1987, especially recognition of the twin challenges of climate change and the associated problem of finite water resources.
“There isn’t an alternative presently known to man that will safeguard the well-being of our grandchildren, short of immediate, co-ordinated reductions in CO2 emissions to levels that will assure human survival,” Shaver said, with regard to global warming and CO2 emissions. “The economics of the so-called market place alone, will not be able to accomplish this, for it is a truly Churchillian undertaking.” The consequences of existing climate change in terms of loss of ice cover and rising sea levels, increasingly volatile weather phenomena, etc. are well known.
Many of these factors are already influencing the world’s food supply. But it is not just climate change that is affecting food security. Shaver quoted Mahatma Gandhi (who died in 1948) as saying that “the earth provides enough for everyone’s needs, but not for everyone’s greed”. The West’s model for food production, Shaver stated, will fail to feed the world if adapted globally, because it destroys resources and many of the traditional farmers whose knowledge is so essential to future food security.
One of the main thrusts of the presentation was the need for governments to restore the priority of food production and agriculture in the scientific world. Apart from those involved in space or defense programs, scientists’ funding is unreliable and short term. The need for worldwide food security is paramount. And the industrial systems now operating in the West are not only largely unsustainable in their present form, they are unsuited for exporting to Africa and other less-developed food systems. This is particularly so for animal systems which, except for ruminants, compete with the human population for food resources.
Effects of climate change
Climate change is already reducing crop yields. Research has shown that, while corn yields in France rose by 60 per cent between 1960 and 2000 (the green revolution), they were flat for the next decade. They are predicted to fall by 12 per cent over the next twenty years. Wheat and soya yields showed a similar pattern and are expected to fall by up to 20 per cent. In the U.S. Midwest, higher temperatures are expected to lower crop yields by up to 63 per cent by the end of this century. Similar reductions may be expected in the Canadian prairies, and, as the world’s sixth largest agricultural economy, this can be predicted to significantly affect the world’s food supply.
The inequity in food distribution is well known. Obesity is rampant in the West, and yet many economies are characterized by widespread malnutrition. Shaver stated, “Nor do the industrialized countries recognize that, for their own future security, they must commit to helping find an enduring solution to the chronic food shortages present in too many disadvantaged areas. Some of us are beginning to think that terrorism is not entirely based on religious differences.”
Shaver also made reference to the inequalities in income and spending power between the “one per cent” and the rest of society. In the past half-century, taxation has favoured the rich in many countries, particularly the U.S.
Finding workable solutions
“If we are to build a more sustainable economic system, we must legislate a less reckless financial sector,” he said. “Neo-liberal capitalism may create wealth, but no attempt is made to distribute this wealth with any degree of fairness, much less honesty. We have apparently accepted a “CEO mythology” replete with excessive salary, bonuses. Even in Great Britain, CEO’s from the top 100 companies enjoyed a 10 per cent salary increase in 2015 and are now paid 129 times more than their employees. Research has shown that since 2008, 91 per cent of all financial gains in the U.S. went to the “one per cent”, and they are basically not spending the money, while many of the other 99 per cent spend all their money just to get by. This weakens demand and suppresses growth.”
While admitting that Canada, on its own, can do little to alter the world’s CO2 levels, we have nothing to lose by establishing a sustainable food system. Shaver proposed the establishment of a “senior cabinet post, second only to the prime minister, responsible for sustainable economic development and the sciences. Shaver envisions that this person would firmly direct our national scientific activity with respect to sustainability, eliminating duplication and managing the function of bureaucracy in areas where it lacks expertise. Furthermore, he would require the creation of a sustainability commission, chaired by the chief scientist; a non-partisan group, with long-term goals. It would not only create plans for Canadian sustainability, but also liaise with similar bodies in
Shaver sees this commission initially providing the prime minister with three 10-year plans, reviewed and if necessary updated as circumstances change. The rewards envisaged would accrue to the scientists involved with the various projects and would be a serious incentive for long-term scientific endeavour. In many cases, the challenges we face can be solved with existing knowledge. What is needed is the will to recognize and prioritize the need for action in the field of sustainability.
In conclusion, Shaver said that “the future human reality will be centred less on technology and industrial might than on food and water security for all mankind. An Eastern philosopher observed that knowing the facts is easy; knowing how to act based on the facts is difficult!”
The swell of demand from North America’s largest food companies for cage-free eggs is a stunning example of why public trust in our country’s food system matters.
The huge number of cage-free commitments from food makers, retailers and restaurants in Canada and the U.S. stems from how these companies perceive overall consumer opinions on hen housing – the fact that consumers do not trust that farmers know best with regard to housing systems that provides the best life for hens.
While these North American food companies (see sidebar) are no doubt being influenced by cage-free commitments already made by their subsidiaries or peers in Australia, the UK and the EU, their promises to only source cage-free eggs in these other parts of the world are again based on consumer perception, largely influenced by animal activist groups.
The united cage-free front of North American food makers, restaurants and retailers suggests that cage-free housing is inevitable in both Canada and the U.S. There are simply no major egg buyers who want anything else. “This is a done issue in the U.S.,” says Josh Balk, senior director for food policy at the Humane Society of the United States. “I can’t see the Canadian scenario being any different.”
However, whether egg farmers in either country will be able to meet the deadlines is far from certain.
Eggs Farmers of Canada (EFC) has currently committed to reaching 50 per cent cage-free production within eight years (2024), 85 per cent within 15 years and to have all hens “in enriched housing, free-run, aviary or free-range by 2036, assuming the current market conditions prevail.” This does not line up with North American food industry timelines of sourcing only cage-free eggs by 2025 or sooner. For example, Retail Council of Canada members such as Loblaw and Wal-Mart have committed to 2025, and David Wilkes, Retail Council senior vice-president of government relations and grocery division, says they “will continue to work with producers and processors to transition to this housing environment.”
Burnbrae, sole egg supplier of McDonald’s Canada, is switching all its production for that customer to cage-free to meet the restaurant chain’s 2025 deadline. In the U.S., Rose Acre Farms and Rembrandt Farms, the country’s second and third largest egg producers, are already converting to cage-free barns.
A&W Canada currently stands alone among North American food industry companies in its support of enriched housing. The fast food company says it “has worked very hard to have our eggs come from hens that live in enriched cages,” and that it “will continue to serve eggs from enriched housing while we work towards better cage-free housing.” The chain recognizes that Canadians want their eggs to come from hens housed outside of cages, but adds that “there are currently no viable commercial cage-free housing options that meet our strict standards.” To that end, in March 2016 A&W announced it wants to work with Canadian charity Farm & Food Care to bring egg industry partners, retail and food service from across Canada together with the U.S. Center for Food Integrity’s Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply to discuss all issues impacting sustainable eggs (including food safety, environment, hen health, worker health and safety and food affordability), and determine areas that the Canadian egg sector feels funding would be best spent. A&W has offered a grant of $100,000 to further this research. For it’s part, EFC recognizes research that shows each production system comes with trade-offs. We asked EFC about the fact that for any Canadian egg farm to convert to enriched cages and keep the same production level, new barn(s) will likely have to be constructed because the same number of birds cannot be housed in enriched cages in a given barn as were housed in battery cages. Does EFC see this as a particular challenge for Canadian egg farmers in terms of costs and the land required? “There are many factors a farmer needs to consider when evaluating the realities of transitioning an operation,” EFC states. “What’s important to keep in mind is that every farm is different (e.g. size, location, etc.) and until farmers start working through the implications of their transition—carefully considering his/her requirements—any estimation of cost is speculative.”
While EFC is currently looking into the financial implications of various alternative housing systems, we asked also if cage-free barns are less expensive than enriched cages, taking into account the possible requirement for new barn(s). “The decision to retool an existing barn or build a new barn is an important component of each farm’s individual transition plan,” EFC states. “Shifting to a new production system with different space requirements can impact the overall size of the flock. Typically, alternative housing systems have a larger building footprint and do not contain as many birds and conventional housing systems.”
Cost is a concern for the United Egg Producers, which represents those producing almost 90 per cent of American eggs, and for the National Association of Egg Farmers (NAEF), which represents about one per cent of U.S. production. NAEF is against mandated cage-free production for other reasons as well, including increased egg prices, increased mortality due to cannibalism and other factors, increased pecking injuries, higher risk of contamination due to prolonged exposure of eggs to litter and manure in nest boxes or on the barn floor, high dust levels and ergonomic challenges in egg collection.
Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) released the draft version of the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Layers for public comment in June. The draft does not promote any type of housing over any other, but does include new recommendations for roomier cages.
In the end however, any attempt to convince the North American foodservice industry of the merits of any other type of housing except free-run/cage-free may be a lost cause. Marion Gross, senior supply chain management vice president at McDonald’s USA, may have summed it up best in her statement in January 2016 in the Chicago Tribune: “Enriched [housing] doesn’t mean anything to our customers, but they know what cage-free means.”
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.
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. 20
Brodhagen - Hoegy's Farm Supply
Guelph - Woodrill Farms
Glencoe - Parrish & Heimbecker
Wednesday, Sept. 21
Brussels - Brussels Agromart
Ailsa Craig - Hensall District Co-op
Aylmer - Max Underhill's Farm Supply
Thursday, Sept. 22
Beamsville - NM Bartlett
Forest - Lakeside Grain & Feed Ltd
Kitchener - GROWMARK Inc
Monday, Sept. 26
Bothwell - Hagerty Creek
Alliston - Alliance Agri-Turf
Tara - Sprucedale Agromart
New Hamburg - Good Crop Services
Lancaster - Munro's Agromart
Tuesday, Sept. 27
Tupperville - Agris Co-op
Wellandport - Clark AgriService
Bradford - Bradford Co-op
Walkerton - Huron Bay Co-op
Alfred - Synagri
Wednesday, Sept. 28
Paincourt - South West Ag Partners
Princeton - Cargill
Oakwood - Oakwood Ag Centre
Harriston - Cargill
Casselman - Agro Culture 2001
Thursday, Sept. 29
Blenheim - Thompsons
Bolton - Alliance Agri-Turf
Trenton - TCO Agromart
Dundalk - Huron Bay Co-op
Richmond - Synagri
Verner - Verner Ag Centre
Gore Bay - Northland Agromart
Pembroke - M&R Feeds and Farm Supply
Arnprior - M&R Feeds and Farm Supply
Thornloe - Temiskaming Ag Centre
Thunder Bay - Thunder Bay Co-op
Friday, Sept. 30
Courtland - Cargill
Orangeville - Holmes Agro
Picton - County Farm Centre
Leamington - Agris Co-op
Chesterville - Synagri
For more information, please call CleanFARMS at 877-622-4460 or visit www.cleanfarms.ca
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.
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.
It’s called the Provision Coalition: a group of twelve food and beverage manufacturing organizations from across Canada that have teamed up under Growing Forward funding with the sole mandate of providing resources, programming and advocacy for sustainability.
Which leads directly to an obvious question: what does sustainability mean?
That’s where there is some confusion, said Cher Mereweather, even within their membership. As the executive director of the Provision Coalition, Mereweather addressed the 2015 Canadian Poultry Sustainability Conference in London, Ont.
She focused on the three pillars that presently define sustainability, which include economic, social and environmental considerations. That’s a good start, but from there, the discussion becomes complex.
The one common theme that she has heard so far in conversation with manufacturers and vendors is a passion in people to do the right thing. Low cost production alone isn’t enough; sustainability begins with awareness, like knowing how much water and energy you are using to make a bottle of wine. Starting with employees, it can be as simple as using one finger to turn off a light. “It’s not only an obligation but it makes good business sense,” said Mereweather. “Just start. You’ll be surprised.”
The Provision Coalition represents one tier of the farm-to-fork industry, where every segment of the chain is responsible for the links surrounding it. In this chain, transparency has become the buzzword, and one of the top issues we face.
What does transparency mean to the poultry industry? Who is responsible for it? Each link of the supply chain needs to be able to supply the answers to questions, driving the need for collaboration as we move towards a ‘clean label’ on our food, as consumers continue to ask, what’s in my food? Where is it from? What is its impact on the environment?
The impact of this consumer questioning is very real. Mereweather looked at some of the big players to show how consumers have influenced them and in turn, influenced primary production. A common theme has emerged.
Walmart, now the world’s largest grocer, is working directly with farmers on precision agriculture. Loblaws, Canada’s largest grocer, made the sweeping statement “We will source close to home to support local, regional and national Canadian producers/growers and to give our customers fresh, wholesome food while ensuring the health and vitality of food sources, including oceans.”
A&W launched a concept but forgot to talk to the supply chain, resulting in a lot of backlash when the industry could not respond quickly enough. They are now trying to re-build those relationships.
McDonald’s has been taking a more collaborative approach, such as with their 2014 Verified Sustainable Beef program, and Mereweather expects them to take the same approach with poultry.
Driven by their need to innovate Prime Brand, Maple Leaf Foods assures consumers that they are moving to feasibly grow antibiotic free production – “Canadian Farm Raised” – with no growth hormones, like all poultry in Canada.
With this push to the holy grail of sustainability, farmers will need to be able to provide transparent and verifiable information in the move towards big data collection, certifications and auditing, as well as a global database. They can expect questions about how the farm manages people, the environment and operations. It’s a theme the food companies call ‘responsible sourcing’, looking back to the farmer to help gain the trust of the consumer. There will always be money pushing the agenda, said Mereweather, but if you’re transparent, honest and real, trust will come.
But who pays? Is this just the new cost of doing business, she asked? It’s time to look at innovation, changing our mindset to ask how we can do business differently. We may uncover opportunities.
The Provision Coalition has started the ball rolling. It’s not just farmers, said Mereweather, feeling the same pressure. In this case, the industry needs to lead but the government needs to support, quite the opposite to the usual process of having the government lead.
So far Mereweather has run into some typical roadblocks while simply searching for collaboration. Each link is protective between competitors so the discussion hasn’t been easy. She has had to focus on what she calls pre-competitive collaboration, while making sure there is government and non-government representation in the room to avoid collusion to fix prices or market share.
There is also a need to avoid redundancy. These ‘Made In Canada’ discussions may start provincially, but need to align nationally as well as speaking to a larger marketplace, and build upon current programs such as the Environmental Farm Plan.
As Merewather says, sustainability isn’t something that can be built in isolation. Right now the focus of the Provision Coalition is to focus on a harmonization of efforts and consistency of information requests; collaboration is the key. As she admits though, “We won’t get there anytime soon.”
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."
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