Monday, June 23, 2014

Towards affordable chicken

Glenn Black, that Manitoulin Island blogger who sits like a burr under the chicken industry's saddle, sent me a copy of this e-mail to Maple Lodge Farms Ltd.:

Sobey's Foodland is running a thee-day special on whole, fresh chicken at $1.88 per pound.  I have been told it is Maple Lodge Farms chicken.

I called Maple Lodge Farms, and the receptionist told me this is Canadian chicken, no U.S. or other foreign chicken imported into Canada.  Is that correct?

I was also told that this is regular roasters/broilers, not spent chicken.  I understand that Maple Lodge marks their spent chicken as "Mature Chicken".  Your receptionist told me that spent chicken are not recommended as roasters, they should be used for soup or stews, and a recipe is provided on the back of the label for recommended use.

Did I understand all this correctly?

Is there any other important info. that you can tell me about these chickens being sold by Sobey's?

The $1.88/lb price is about the same as chicken retail pricing in the U.S., significantly below the typical Canadian pricing.  Was this a special deal provided to Sobey's by Maple Lodge so as to reduce inventory levels, or others marketing purpose proposed and/or supported by Maple Lodge Farms, or was this $1.88/lb special solely the idea and responsibility of Sobey's as a "loss leader", with no prior knowledge nor involvement by Maple Lodge?

The meat department manager at my local Foodland store (a division of Sobey's), said that he brought in 720 chickens under this special, and he sold out completely in day two of a three-day sale.  

This amount of chicken was equivalent to what he would normally sell in a one-month period.  

Does Maple Lodge Farms have any comment about Foodland selling a month's worth of chicken in two days when priced at $1.88/lb, as opposed to the regular price-volume relationship in Ontario?

I have been investigating the affordability of chicken lately, and would like to share the following data:


This graph shows Ontario minimum wage, the retail price of chicken, and the ratio of these two data, so as to show the kilograms of chicken per hour that a minimum wage earner could purchase for the period 1995 to 2005.  

As you can see, the affordability of chicken for minimum wage earners has been significantly and consistently dropping during this 10-year period, dropping by 31.7 per cent.  Does Maple Lodge Farms have any comment on the affordability of chicken in Ontario?

I have also done a similar analysis for LICO (Low Income Cut-Off) for people on the verge of poverty.  That data is as follows:


Here, for those in poverty, chicken affordability has dropped 16 per cent in the last 14 years (1997 - 2011).  Does Maple Lodge Farms have any comment on these data?

I have also done the same analysis for all T-1 tax filers in Ontario on chicken affordability.  For all families in Ontario who filed a T1 return, chicken affordability has dropped 13.5 per cent between 2000 and 2011.  Does Maple Lodge Farms have any comments on this data?


Thank you for your prompt written response to these import issues.

Somehow I doubt Black will get a prompt response. Or, in fact, any response from what he calls the "Chicken Mafia", being a term he applies to the marketing board system, processors and, I suppose, the politicians.

But I do think chicken farmers ought to mull over this data very carefully. How much additional chicken could they produce at what reduced price? How much sustainability might that approach buy them?

It ought to be abundantly clear to them that the current system is not sustainable, and not only because tariffs are bound to start declining sometime relatively soon.