The Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board’s directors have approved a specialty-breeds program.
The approval comes days before the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal is scheduled to hold public hearings into a complaint by small-volume processors that the marketing board has failed to implement its specialty-markets policy adopted last year.
The board says the new policy will be limited to two breeds – Special Dual Purpose chickens from Frey’s Hatchery in St. Jacobs and Silkies.
Both are to be processed with head and feet left on to serve the Asian market. That market was pioneered by Cami International Poultry Inc. of Welland, but it was frozen out of chicken supplies by other policy moves the Ontario and Quebec chicken marketing boards implemented two years ago.
The board says it is now accepting applications from farmers to grow the specialty breeds next year.
In the interim, existing producers have been able to legally grow the birds for two processors in Wellington County. Apparently some of those producers were violating the board’s policy that forbid farmers from raising more than 300 birds per year without holding marketing-board quota; that policy is also under challenge.
Board chairman Henry Zantingh says "the specialty breeds chicken program provides a significant growth opportunity for the Ontario chicken industry. Ontario's demographics are changing rapidly and the demand for different types of chicken has been growing as well."
The board’s chief executive and chief operating officer, Rob Dougans, says "while Silkies and Frey's Special Dual Purpose chicken breeds have been available for sale in Ontario for some time, the market for these products has been underdeveloped.
"Providing business opportunities for those interested in meeting these markets will better serve specialty breed consumers and create new growth opportunities for the Ontario chicken industry."