Environment

Sustainability has become a buzzword in the agricultural industry. But what does it mean exactly?

The USDA defines sustainability as a way to enhance environmental quality; make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources, including natural biological cycles and controls; sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and enhance the quality of life for society as a whole.

However, what’s key when talking about sustainability is economics. Yes, the end result is providing food for the population at large, but those who produce the food need the system to be economically viable in order to continue making the necessary changes required to be sustainable in terms of both maintaining production and remaining viable economically.

Animal welfare, particularly with respect to egg production and the use of gestation crates for sows, has become part of the sustainability equation. At many meetings I have been to in the past year participants have included the welfare of animals and the use of new production systems in the sustainability discussion.

This has been driven primarily by animal rights groups influencing consumers and industry, and it’s led many food companies to start demanding these animals be housed in a certain way. But the key question has always been, will consumers pay for the increased costs welfare-friendly systems incur?

In the article “A Market for Animal Welfare” (page 19), economist Jayson Lusk proposes a credit system for animal welfare that makes welfare a “purchasable commodity” and encourages consumers to buy credits to support its improvement. An interesting idea. However, how will this be measured, and who makes the rules? As Lusk correctly points out, consumers are inconsistent — although many say they will pay more for a product produced within a certain type of welfare-friendly system, the number of consumers who will actually do so is minimal. This was evident, Lusk says, during the discussion surrounding Proposition 2 in California; in that case, 63 per cent of consumers voted for a ban on conventional layer cages, but only five per cent said they were willing to pay the premium for cage-free eggs.

Despite the lack of willingness to pay, consumers and food companies will continue to push for improved welfare standards. Moving forward, the key is focusing not just on the systems themselves but also on how producers can transition while still remaining economically viable. Otherwise, the sustainability discussion is moot.

New Editor
Lianne (Lia) Appleby will serve as editor of Canadian Poultry while Kristy Nudds is on maternity leave, beginning this month. She comes to the magazine from Hybrid Turkeys, a division of Hendrix Genetics, in Kitchener, Ont., where she specialized in corporate marketing and promotions. Prior to this, Lianne worked in public relations for the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association for five years. She began her career with the Chicken Farmers of Ontario.

She holds a BSc. and MSc. from the University of Guelph, and completed her Masters thesis on broiler nutrition under the guidance of Dr. Steve Leeson.  She is looking forward to immersing herself in the world of the poultry producer and learning more about the industry. She resides in Rockwood, Ont. 

Published in Welfare

Alan and Kristin Hudson, fourth-generation poultry producers, received fantastic news this past December – a federal judge in Baltimore, Md., ruled against the Waterkeeper Alliance in a lawsuit that pitted the Berlin, Md., farmers against the New York-based environmental group.


What a relief for the young family.


The 50-page decision brings an end to the legal nightmare that has haunted the Hudson family since 2009, when a flyover of their farm led to the investigation of a pile of what was suspected to be poultry litter placed adjacent to a drainage ditch. The alleged litter actually turned out to be treated Class A bio-solids. Working in conjunction with the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Hudsons moved the pile, cleaned up the area and were cleared of any wrongdoing by the state agencies. But the Waterkeeper Alliance persisted in moving forward with a lawsuit against farm and poultry integrator Perdue Farms, alleging that dust from ventilation equipment and litter tracked out by boots and vehicle tires was polluting nearby waterways and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.


Senior U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson disagreed.


“The court has no disagreement with (the) plaintiff that the Chesapeake Bay is an important and vital resource, that it is seriously impaired, and that the runoff from factory farms, including poultry operations, may play a significant role in that impairment,” he stated in his decision. “Nor does the court disagree that citizen suits under the Clean Water Act can play a significant role in filling the void where state regulatory agencies are unable or unwilling to take appropriate legal action against offenders. When citizen groups take up that mantle, however, they must do so responsibly and effectively. The court finds that in this action, for whatever reason, Waterkeeper did not meet that obligation.”


Judge Nickerson’s decision was met with enthusiasm by the Save Family Farms organization, which has helped the Hudson family both financially and emotionally.


“Judge Nickerson’s ruling reinforced what the Maryland Department of the Environment concluded three years ago: That Alan and Kristin have not done anything wrong and are not guilty of violating the Clean Water Act,” said Lee Richardson, president of the Wicomico County Farm Bureau and a member of Save Family Farms. “The Hudsons were unjustly accused in a witch hunt by the Assateague Coastal Trust, the Waterkeeper Alliance and their agenda against modern agriculture.


“We are grateful that justice prevailed and common sense won the day. However, we remain concerned that other farmers will suffer the same fate as the Hudsons at the hands of bullies armed with millions of celebrity fueled dollars and an attitude of taking farmers down at all costs, with or without evidence.”


Save Family Farms is urging Judge Nickerson to award legal costs to the Hudsons and Perdue Farms and is asking the Assateague Coastal Trust, the Waterkeeper Alliance and the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic, which argued the Waterkeeper’s case, to issue a public apology to the Hudsons and the taxpayers of Maryland, “who unwillingly financed this wasteful lawsuit.”


While Alan and Kristin Hudson express relief at the end of the lawsuit and the uncertainty that has faced their family and farm, the Waterkeeper Alliance said it is considering appealing the case.


Hopefully, Waterkeeper and the UM Environmental Law Clinic drop this issue completely. Enough time and money has been wasted on an issue that was moot from the beginning. The Hudson family has suffered enough from the Waterkeeper’s ineptness. Leave them alone.

Published in New Technology

The old saying “It’s not the heat; it’s the humidity” can be tweaked to apply to a lot of problems in poultry barns: It’s not the dust, the ammonia, the carbon dioxide or the carbon monoxide; it’s the humidity. 

Over-ventilating can result in dry, drafty conditions with an unnecessarily high heating cost, while under-ventilating can cause excessive litter and air moisture, and negatively affect bird performance. When it comes to minimum ventilation, monitoring humidity can be the ultimate tool to manage air quality. Maintaining humidity levels of 50-70 per cent can create ideal gas and particulate concentrations in the barn.

One gas that is important to address is carbon monoxide. Although carbon monoxide is generally not lethal to poultry until it reaches levels of 3,000 parts per million (ppm), it can cause measurable distress at 600 ppm, and has been shown to cause ascites around 70 ppm in poultry. It is actually more of a problem for humans than for birds. In reality, heater maintenance will affect the concentration of the gas more than ventilation for two reasons:  first, increasing ventilation brings in more cold air, which requires the heater to run more, and second, oxygen levels aren’t reduced enough to allow toxicity to become an issue. Since carbon monoxide is linked to oxygen, it is vital to mention that ventilating to ensure adequate oxygen is not necessary. Air is 21 per cent oxygen, and birds require only six per cent to survive. To provide enough for 20,000 day-old birds, only 16 cubic feet per minute (cfm) of ventilation is required, and normal ventilation rates are over 1,500.

For humidity control, we need to look at how the gases that follow humidity will be at acceptable levels as long as we maintain appropriate humidity levels. The first of two gases that can dramatically affect bird performance is carbon dioxide: a gas that has essentially no effect on performance up to about 6-8,000 ppm. However, at levels exceeding 8,000, performance starts to decline marginally, while above 10,000 ppm, weights can be reduced by over 10 per cent. The target for carbon dioxide based on these numbers should be a maximum of 5,000 ppm. As seen in Figure 1, if humidity levels are maintained at under 70 per cent, levels above this number should never occur, and therefore, humidity control will result in carbon dioxide control.

It is easy to see in Figure 1 that not only does carbon dioxide follow humidity, but ammonia does as well. I don’t need to rehash all the issues that can result from high ammonia levels, but keratoconjunctivitis and air sac issues are a couple that come to mind. Lesions on the eyes due to high ammonia levels quickly cause blindness, and destruction of the cilia lining the respiratory system make it nearly impossible for birds to expunge particulates and bacteria from air sacs. In inoculated birds, Newcastle disease has been shown to infect 100 per cent more birds at 50 ppm of ammonia than at 0 ppm1. The threshold for live weights also seems to be 50 ppm, with close to eight per cent lower than at 25 ppm, whereas feed conversion rates increase by four per cent and mortality is nearly four times that at 25 ppm. There is a theory that because ammonia increased more quickly (4 ppm / min) in relative terms than carbon dioxide and temperature (0.7 F / min), and because oxygen barely decreased in 20 minutes with no fan activity, in power failure situations it is actually ammonia that causes catastrophic mortality.

Ammonia, by far, is the biggest concern, but it is not a practical method to manage ventilation.  Ammonia monitoring equipment is expensive and not consistently reliable, so humidity is looked upon as the management tool.  

p32 Figure-1

Figure 1: Plot of temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and ammonia. Mike Czarick, 2012.


Humidity Sensors
Humidity sensors to attach to a barn controller are relatively inexpensive for the benefits they provide, and allow for accurate tracking of humidity data. If it is established that humidity is too high, ventilation levels can be tweaked higher until a balance is achieved. Using gas to increase heat production and warm incoming air might be a necessary evil to get below 70 per cent humidity. The decision must be weighed against bird performance. An essential piece of information to understand is that increasing temperature by 20 F doubles the water holding capacity of the air as it enters the barn, so boosting the target temperature can more effectively reduce humidity than increasing air exchange, and lessens the chance of chilling or drafting.

Keep in mind, however, that humidity’s affect on litter moisture is a cumulative one. Taking advantage of higher daytime temperatures and lower outside humidity by reducing ventilation in the nighttime hours and increasing it during the day can save a lot of money on gas.  

p32 Figure-2

Figure 2: Graph of carbon monoxide versus bird age for 20,000 broilers. Brian Fairchild, 2012.


DUST
But there is another side to this story, namely particulates, or in other words, dust.

There are a few reasons a barn can have dust problems, and there are some facilities where the only solution is to use dust clearing technologies like sprinklers, for example, conventional and aviary layer barns, light restricted breeder replacement barns and heavy activity turkey finishers. But in most commercial meat production barns, the majority of dust control can be accomplished through proper ventilation management, and by this I mean humidity management. Not only does dust carry bacteria, but also it can irritate the membranes of the system and increases transmissibility of disease.  

High dust levels are also generally an indicator that ventilation levels are too high, and in turn, too much heat is being generated, consuming gas. Taking into consideration all the previous data provided about the other factors in air quality – carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, oxygen and ammonia –  if we pull back ventilation enough to elevate humidity above 50 per cent, we should be in good shape. As we do this, we must remember that levels above 65-70 per cent can drastically hurt bird performance, so it is very important not to overcompensate for dust, and consider alternative dust control measures if it is not practical or possible to get levels up.

As with all poultry-related topics, it is difficult to adequately explain all of the ins and outs of ventilating based on humidity, but it is worth the time to do some further research and develop an understanding of what moisture does to a barn.

Consultation with an expert can go a long way. Making use of monitoring equipment will give you incredible insight into what is actually occurring in your barn, and is an invaluable tool. And don’t forget, when it comes to minimum ventilation, it’s not the gases and the dust, it’s the humidity!

1 Miles et al., 2004.


Shawn Conley is with Weeden Environments in sales and technical service, internationally and in Canada. He manages projects with many U.S. poultry companies and works frequently with researchers in the industry. Management in pharmaceuticals, a degree in cell and molecular biology and some NCAA and professional basketball preceded his six years working in the poultry equipment and feed-additive industry. Being a former Ontario farm kid, his motivation is to help producers build a strong Canadian poultry industry. He can be reached by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Published in Bird Management

Jul. 11, 2012, Ramsay, AB - Poultry firm Lilydale has been fined $180,000 for an ammonia leak that endangered residents of Calgary's Ramsay neighbourhood, but residents are seeking $250,000 in damages.

According to a report in the Calgary Herald, while Lilydale plead guilty to leak that ocurred on Sept. 13, 2009, the matter was only recently settled in the courts.

Residents of Ramsay are claiming that when the leak ocurred, which was due to employee error at the plant, they were evacuated and suffered sore throats and headaches due to the exposure.

For more information, please the article in the Calgary Herald.

Published in Company News

June 21, 2012 - Elevated temperature above 30°C combined with elevated humidity results in reduced feed intake and possibly heat prostration mortality in poultry. As well, flock performance and health may be compromised with reduced intake of vitamins and minerals.

Research shows that thiamin requirements double during heat stress, and there is also a reduction in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins ADE. This is concurrent with an increasing excretion of minerals such as sodium Na+ and potassium K+, which negatively affects the heat dissipation capacity and acid base balance resulting in losses in growth performance.

There are five modes by which birds get rid of excess body heat:

  1. Conduction - Contact of a warm surface with cooler one will allow heat transfer. Hot birds will try to cool down by touching water pipes or digging into litter to contact a cool floor. In extreme cases, the breast muscle will develop a pale, cooked appearance after the bird sits for prolonged period time.
  2. Convection - Moving air over the birds is the most effective way to keep them cool. If air is not moving quickly enough, heat will build up around their bodies. In extreme heat situations, birds are often found dead along walls where air does not circulate efficiently. These birds usually die from heat prostration, and not from lack of oxygen.
  3. Radiation - Birds will raise their wings to allow heat to radiate from areas where feather cover is poor. Note that many leghorns survive well in cages because of poor feathering and lack of floor litter, which permits maximum radiation.
  4. Excretion - Birds will typically double their intake of water during periods of heat stress and thus excrete more hot urine and water in feces. It is therefore especially important to ensure your barns have an appropriate drinker ratio, clean water filters and well-adjusted pressure regulators to maximize water delivery during warm weather.
  5. Evaporation of water - This occurs from the surface of the skin and from the respiratory tract. In heat stress conditions, the bird will try to maximize heat loss by panting. Respiration rates may increase as much as tenfold, resulting in excess carbon dioxide (CO2) loss. In extreme cases, this loss can change blood chemistry leading to death.

Under heat stress conditions, maintaining water and electrolyte balances are important factors affecting survivability and productivity, especially with high humidity. An essential component to cooling is by high velocity air movement over the birds, but when they are housed under high density, it is absolutely necessary to encourage access to water preferably medicated with vitamins and electrolytes.

Respiratory rates may also increases tenfold with excessive losses of CO2. The acid base balance is disrupted with birds altering metabolism towards homeostatic regulation rather than processes supporting growth.

Excessive water is lost through panting and higher urine flow, which negatively influences the capacity to dissipate heat. Unfortunately there is excessive loss of sodium and potassium in to the urine and feces. The sodium, potassium and chloride ions are important in maintaining the acid-base balance and cell membrane integrity.

Electrolyte supplements can enhance water utilization by increasing water retention, and researchers have reported that sodium chloride and potassium chloride, when administered in the water, were able to alleviate the adverse effect of heat stress.

Gut lining integrity is also compromised under heat stress conditions thus interfering with the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals.

In summary, the valuable vitamins and electrolytes loss with rapid respiration and increase urine output must be replaced or the bird suffers decreased weight gain or even death. In many cases the few dollars spent on water medication will have a significant effect upon the productivity of poultry and livestock.

Published in Environment

May 16, 2012, Tallahassee, FL - Global Green, Inc. has announced that the Company has received the final report on the model Efficacy Study conducted on the Company's patented vaccine, Salmogenics, to be used to protect poultry from Salmonella bacteria. This study, conducted by AHPharma, an independent food safety and animal health research firm, is an important step towards receiving USDA approval for Salmogenics.

The Study was performed using 3,036 chickens, specifically broilers. Those chickens injected in ovo (in the egg before the chick is hatched) with Salmogenics showed a significant reduction in Salmonella bacteria.

The study reports that the "Salmogenics Vaccine appears to provide enough protection against all strains of Salmonella tested." Clearly, Salmogenics provided protection in broilers against the spread of Salmonella. The conclusion of the study reports that reducing Salmonella in chickens prior to them being processed and sold to the public is critical in reducing Salmonella levels.

"Our patented Salmogenics Vaccine is in the fourth and final phase required for USDA approval. The final report on the data in the Study conducted by AHPharma is very encouraging and will be forwarded to the USDA," commented Dr. Mehran Ghazvini, Chairman and CEO, Global Green, Inc.

Salmogenics Utilizes Unique Application

When Salmonella is discovered in the flock during the processing stage, the costs to eradicate the disease are staggering. Salmogenics is unique in that it is injected directly into the egg, before the chick is hatched, improving the immune system, health and welfare of the chicken. The vaccine reduces levels of Salmonella in the flock and reduces the risk of Salmonella contamination in the processing plant.

Leading Poultry Industry Expert Confirms Significance of Vaccine

The historic approach for Salmonella control ignores chicken live growing practices and attempts to completely eliminate Salmonella and other foodborne bacteria during final processing. A Salmonella vaccine addressing vigorous strains that are hard to destroy is important," commented James McNaughton, PhD, leading independent poultry research expert.

Global Green, Inc. plans to manufacture, market and sell the patented, exclusive, licensed vaccine known as the "Salmogenics Vaccine." Salmogenics was developed by Nutritional Health Institute Laboratories, LLC (a research affiliate and majority shareholder) to combat Salmonella bacteria in eggs and poultry. The vaccine is currently in the final stage of the USDA approval process. The Company has received approval from FINRA to begin trading publicly on the OTC market and has applied for DTC approval.

For more information, visit www.globalgreeninc.org.

Published in Biosecurity

If anyone would like a large, tractor tire – including rim – I’ve got one. The problem is I don’t own a tractor and the tire and rim are sitting atop a 10-foot concrete breakwater. They were delivered by Lake Erie during a windstorm that submerged 25 feet of beach and sent waves over the concrete barrier.


But that wasn’t the weirdest part. The really strange thing was watching it snow “up.” Presumably the snow began in the clouds (there was none on the ground), fell for a while, but as it approached the ground the wind drove it up.


This is just the latest in a series of weird weather days in Canada’s banana belt, where I now live. A couple of days earlier we had Aprilish temperatures and driving rain, and a couple of days before that I was out hitting golf balls.


Last winter we were buried. The road that takes me into town was imitating a tunnel with huge snowdrifts on each side. The lake was frozen as far as the eye could see.


And this area is far from exceptional. When it comes to weirdness we aren’t even in the top 10.


Take for example, Regina, where I used to live. In mid-January bitterly cold air -40ish temperatures combined with westerly winds to produce wind chills approaching -50. At that temperature, frostbite on exposed flesh can happen in less than 10 minutes. This deep freeze followed bouts of unseasonably or perhaps unreasonably warm weather.


Meanwhile, a town in Alaska was dealing with 20 feet of snow, Seattle faced snowmaggedon and ski slopes in the eastern United States were bare.


All of this uncertainty, according to the experts, is partly due to La Niña and partly due to the Arctic and North Atlantic Oscillations.


La Niña has helped push the jet stream north, near the Canada-U.S. border and funnelled dry air across much of North America.


Meanwhile, the Arctic Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation are strong this year, unlike last year when they were weak, which results in a steady west to east flow of that drier air.


But the end may be near as the two oscillations and La Niña may be weakening. The result could be a dry early winter followed by a wet late winter and spring. But who knows?


Meanwhile, some may be heartened to hear that global warming may not be playing a role in any of this. But, then again, it might.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in a report that climate change would make extreme weather more common, and more extreme, in coming decades.


It is “virtually certain” that the 21st century will see an increase in the frequency and magnitude of warm temperature extremes and a decrease in cold extremes, according to the IPCC.


They also expect that climate change will affect precipitation patterns in many regions.


But in the near term or the immediate future uncertainty is the operative word.


For grain farmers or those, like poultry farmers, who depend upon grain production uncertainty is an enemy.


Uncertainty makes it particularly hard to plan and adds some punch to the old catchphrase “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”


A result of the uncertainty is volatility and we’re seeing that in spades. In recent weeks, grain and oilseed prices have fallen. There is more available than earlier thought and consumption has slipped.


The general expectation is that this will continue into next crop year and that prices will drift. Just the other day corn prices in Chicago went limit down.


Meanwhile, wheat and, to a lesser extent, sugar have become corn by other names. Lower-quality wheat supplies are more than adequate in North America and internationally and this has led to soft prices and the substitution of wheat for corn in some feed rations. Meanwhile, sugar is being used instead of corn sweeteners in some cases. In both instances this has somewhat softened demand for corn.


But corn supplies remain historically tight and prices, despite recent weakness, remain above long-term averages. All of this sets the stage for a potential weather market and the possibility for extreme weirdness.


Some of this has already shown up. The Ukraine, for example, has been exceptionally dry and the winter wheat crop is said to be in trouble. Meanwhile, Australia may be headed for a bumper crop.


But the key will be the U.S. plains. Decent or “normal” weather would mean tight but adequate supplies of corn and soybeans. But grain markets look like they will be easily spooked. If it doesn’t rain in Des Moines for a couple of weeks this summer expect prices to jump. If it rains too much this spring expect prices to rise. If the Canadian Prairies have another wet year and it looks like a lot of feed wheat is coming in the fall, expect it to affect corn prices.


The bottom line is that if the weather is weird, expect feed grain prices to be just as weird.

Published in Nutrition and Feed

You’re thinking of buying a tractor. Will you choose the most comfortable or the most luxurious one, the one with the best warranty, or the one that carries the most prestige? Unbeknownst to you, your values influence your decision. But to what extent are you aware of what those values are?


One of the first emotional abilities related to emotional intelligence (see this column in the December 2011 issue) is knowing yourself, which starts with knowing your values. A value is what is true, beautiful and good, based on personal or social criteria, and what is used as a reference or moral principle. Your values affect your choices, your actions and your level of satisfaction in life. Indeed, when you feel that your lifestyle is in line with your values, you feel more in harmony. These are important references in your personal, professional and business life. A value is said to be 10 to 100 times more important in life than a gift, a talent or a quality.


When we are faced with a dilemma or with an interior conflict because of a decision we need to make, it means that one or more values that are important to us are conflicting. We must make a difficult choice, based on a hierarchy of values. This hierarchy is bound to change gradually over the years, but it can happen more suddenly due to a tragic event (such as death, accident, bankruptcy or divorce).


If you want to quickly discover your values or those of others, pay attention to the following three questions:

  1. Where do you invest your money? Example: You find that fresh fruit and vegetables are always too expensive (value = health), but you drive a luxury car (comfort, prestige, recognition). You prefer to forgo renovations in your house (comfort, estheticism, prestige) in order to invest in your children’s education (education).
  2. Where do you spend your energy? You have time to sit on four committees (social involvement or recognition), but never enough to work out (health), or to spend time with your family (family). There are 24 hours in a day, and the way you spend your time is based on what you value the most.
  3.  What do you like to talk about? You always talk about your business, ways to increase production (efficiency, recognition, achievement) or you talk about your children and their projects (family, children).

Each decision that we take, or do not take, speaks to our values.
To find out what your values are, think about this:

  • What makes you the happiest?
  • What offends you or frustrates you the most?
  • What are the criteria that you most often base your daily decisions on?
  • If you could change the past, what would you change?

Think of yourself at age 80 and ask yourself…

  • What will be my biggest regrets when I look back at my life?
  • Which achievements will I be the most proud of?

All of your answers reflect your values. If you are dissatisfied with your answers, it may be time for you to reconsider what truly matters to you.

Pierrette Desrosriers is a work psychologist, speaker and psychological coach who specializes in helping those working in agriculture. She can be contacted by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or if you would like more information, visit her website at www.pierrettedesrosiers.com.

Published in Farmer Health/Safety

Mar. 27, 2012, Washington, DC - The global population of farm animals increased 23 percent between 1980 and 2010, from 3.5 billion to 4.3 billion, according to research by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online publication. These figures continue a trend of rising farm animal populations, with harmful effects on the environment, public health, and global development.

Both production and consumption of animal products are increasingly concentrated in developing countries. In contrast, due in part to a growing awareness of the health consequences of high meat consumption, the appetite for animal products is stagnating or declining in many industrial countries.

"The demand for meat, eggs, and dairy products in developing countries has increased at a staggering rate in recent decades," says report co-author Danielle Nierenberg, director of Worldwatch's Nourishing the Planet project. "While industrialized countries still consume the most animal products, urbanization and rising incomes in developing countries are spurring shifts to more meat-heavy diets."

"Farm-animal production provides a safety net for millions of the world's most vulnerable people," says Nierenberg. "But given the industry's rapid and often poorly regulated growth, the biggest challenge in the coming decades will be to produce meat and other animal products in environmentally and socially sustainable ways."

Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), or factory farms, are the most rapidly growing system of farm animal production. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 80 percent of growth in the livestock sector now comes from these industrial production systems. CAFOs now account for 72 percent of poultry production, 43 percent of egg production, and 55 percent of pork production worldwide.

But CAFOs produce high levels of waste, use huge amounts of water and land for feed production, contribute to the spread of human and animal diseases, and play a role in biodiversity loss. Farm animal production also contributes to climate change: the industry accounts for an estimated 18 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, including 9 percent of the  carbon dioxide, nearly 40 percent of the methane (a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide), and 65 percent of the nitrous oxide (300 times more potent as carbon dioxide).

The environment is not all that is at stake with this rapidly shifting means of food production; factory farms pose a serious threat to public health as well. Diets high in animal fat and meat----particularly red meat and processed meats, such as hot dogs, bacon, and sausage----have been linked to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer.

Although CAFOs originated in Europe and North America, they are becoming increasingly prevalent in developing regions like East and Southeast Asia, where environmental, animal-welfare, public health, and labor standards are often not as well-established as in industrialized regions. The report stresses that to prevent serious human and environmental costs, policymakers will need to strengthen production regulations around the world.

Further highlights from the report:

  • Between 1980 and 2005, per capita milk consumption in developing countries almost doubled, meat consumption more than tripled, and egg consumption increased fivefold.
  • Approximately 75 percent of the new diseases that affected humans from 1999 to 2009 originated in animals or animal products.
  • Because CAFOs rely on a narrow range of commercial breeds selected for their high productivity and low input needs, less-popular indigenous livestock breeds are rapidly falling out of use: in 2010, the FAO reported that at least 21 percent of the world's livestock breeds are at risk of extinction.
  • Livestock production is a major driver of deforestation: cattle enterprises have been responsible for 65-80 percent of the deforestation of the Amazon, and countries in South America are clearing large swaths of forest and other land to grow animal feed crops like maize and soybean.
Published in Farmer Health/Safety

It’s well known that many countries of the world are struggling with severe debt right now – but China is definitely not one of them. Indeed, many sources confirm that China is several trillion in the black, and is using that economic clout to do things like enhance its food security.

Food security simply refers to a country’s (or a family’s or an individual’s) ability to secure a steady and adequate food supply for itself. In these times of political instability, impending fossil fuel scarcity and increasing global population, it’s more of a concern than ever. There are different ways food security can be handled, but chief among them is to have a majority of food produced within your own country, with some imported from nearby countries and stable allies. China has made it clear that in particular, it does not want to import meat. “China has a strong preference to produce its own livestock and control food animal production,” observes Dr. Mark Lyons, vice president of corporate affairs at Alltech. “Their preference will be to import grains.” (Headquartered in Nicholasville, Kentucky, Alltech is a global animal health company focused on natural scientific solutions to agriculture and food industry challenges). Lyons adds, however, that the Chinese are also looking to buy or lease land in places such as Africa for crop production, and possibly also for livestock production. “They have bought into some genome companies overseas as well, to look at improving genetics,” he says.  

Pork is still the preferred meat by far in China, with about 50 million tonnes of pork consumed per year. “This is compared to 16 million tonnes of poultry and six million tonnes of beef,” notes Lyons. “The only other protein source that rivals this would be [various products from] aquaculture, and eggs, both around 50 million tonnes. There are also 16 million tonnes of fish caught per year and 30 million tonnes of milk produced.” This year, China had a deficit in pork production due to some disease outbreaks, and has been importing some U.S. pork. It also imports some chicken, but groups such as the National Chicken Council (NCC) would like to see more of this occurring. The roadblock relates to trade issues, says NCC director of communications Tom Super. China has imposed tariffs on a number of imported food products including poultry, and poultry imports from China have not been permitted to enter the U.S. since 2007. The NCC has voiced concerns over the situation and its support for freer trade.

At the same time that almost all meat consumed in China is produced domestically, however, domestic grain production is comparatively quite low. Lyons says annual meat, milk, and eggs production totals 158 million tonnes, while corn production only reaches 162 million tonnes, wheat 115 million tonnes, rice 134 million tonnes and soybeans 15 million tonnes. “Another very interesting factor is where these animals are actually produced,” he notes. “They are very close to [highly populated areas], which is a stark contrast to most the other parts of the world, where animal agriculture has migrated to areas that are less inhabited.”

Lyons thinks China will “go to all efforts” to avoid importing meat – and food security concerns aside, he believes food safety is one big reason for this. China has had a number of disease outbreaks, as well as food safety crises such as the melamine contamination in milk, that have led them to value food safety much more than ever before. Lyons says imported milk from countries such as New Zealand fetches premium prices. But Lyons concludes that above all, the Chinese “will certainly make whatever decisions are necessary to keep food prices low and food available, as this is critical for social stability in China.” 

Indeed, Lyons believes the bigger world food question going forward will be what happens with India. “Relatively small changes in Indian meat consumption could drastically change the dynamics of meat globally,” Lyons says. “Also, both China and India have very high labour force connected to agriculture and, as both countries become more modernized, this may come under more pressure.”

Kentucky Fried Chicken in China
While pork is China’s preferred protein, fast food giant Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is boosting consumption of chicken. To date, KFC has opened more than 1,200 restaurant locations in every region except Tibet, dominating even McDonald’s. Yum Brands Inc. (the Louisville, Kentucky-based parent company of KFC) has itself predicted that its total number of outlets in China will someday surpass that of the United States. “KFC has done an excellent job, not only building their infra-structure system and logistics system in order to get food to all their restaurants, but they’ve also utilized this as a marketing and brand-building exercise,” notes Lyons. “In that respect, they are very well thought of as a corporate citizen and also as a safe place for food. They are sourcing most of their products locally and so they have been very important for the entire Chinese food industry in terms of improving food safety standards.”

Lyons says some of their products are very similar to things that can be bought on the street, but are traded at a much higher premium. “This is widely believed because of the brand being so closely linked to food safety,” he notes. “They focus on having great-tasting and safe food that is very high quality and served in a very speedy manner.” He says that instead of marketing food in North America, in China, “they want to offer a balance in nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. They branched out far beyond regular chicken offerings and provided other options and are continually innovating new food products, with roughly 70 coming out each year . . . all uniquely suited to Chinese taste.” Menu items include seasonal vegetables such as bamboo shoots and lotus roots, and in colder months, things like rice porridge and soup.

Published in Emerging Trends
Page 3 of 3

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