Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Size does not matter

When it comes to animal welfare, the size of the farm does not matter, according to staff at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in the United Kingdom.

But research results won't make a bit of difference to those who hate large-scale hog farming. They refuse to be moved by facts. Must be Trump supporters, eh?

The institute studied 60 hog farms, found that all but a few pigs were fed adequately, but that some needed better water drinkersand flooring needs attention to address high rates of bursitis and manure-coated animals.

The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare’s (UFAW) report suggests that while some consumers may believe animal welfare is compromised on large farms, their research indicates the situation is far from clear cut.

Dr. Christian Lambertz said “simple adjustments in the management of space allowances and of water supply can also improve welfare.”

Although the study assessed tail-biting, lameness, hernia, severe wounds, skin condition, coughing and sneezing these were only seen at very low rates without any difference among the farm sizes. 

But before you start puffing out your chests, you hog farmers, consider this:

The space allowances in more than 40 per cent of the pens were below the German Farm Animal Welfare Regulations and over-crowded pens were found on 92 per cent of the farms - although the proportion of over-crowed pens was lowest on large farms.

UFAW is an independent and educational animal welfare charity.

Cargill puts robots in Canadian plants

Cargill is planning to install robots to move cattle at its Canadian plants, including Better Beef at Guelph.

The robots take over work considered dangerous for workers and are designed to improve animal welfare, the company told Meatingplace Magazine.

Cargill is expected to order two robots for each of its eight beef plants across the United States and Canada and hopes to expand use of the $40,000 machines in situations involving other animals, a Cargill spokesman confirmed in an e-mail to Meatingplace.

Plant employees operate the robots from a catwalk above the animal pens, reducing the risk to workers from closer physical interaction with cattle that weigh up to 1,300 pounds.

They will also be used at turkey slaughter plants.

Cargill spent two years working with animal welfare experts, its workers and Lakewood, N.J.-based manufacturer Flock Free to develop prototype robots, which move cattle using automated arms that wave the animals in the desired direction at the plant.

The latest version is made of steel and weighs 450 pounds, which prevents cattle from tipping over the robots along the line.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Greek agriculture going digital

The Greek government has plans to collect agriculture information into a data base that will be open to everyone, including researchers, farmers and policy makers.

The data will include satellite-gathered weather conditions, the information collected by farmers who use precision-farming technology and much more.

Greece is the first government in Europe to make this move, but politicians in the European Union telling member countries that his is what they ought to copy.

The EU executive seems to be satisfied with the Greek government’s plan and describes its approach as a “win-win” situation for all, reports EUROACTIV.
“The digitisation of agriculture and precision farming present enormous potential to improve the competitiveness and environmental sustainability of European agricultural production, thus adding value and jobs in the agri-food sector,” Commissioner Phil Hogan said an interview with ERUOACTIV.
So what's the Canadian response? Are we going to continue to have a fractured database, with many individual organizations, such as breed associations, marketing boards and tractor companies maintaining separate records?
Or are we going to copy Greece and gather it all into a database that is open to everybody so together we can made maximum progress?

Monday, October 29, 2018

Feds announce working group for poultry

Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay is setting up a working group to propose measures to adjust to increased import competition resulting from trade agreements with the United States and Mexico and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

While informal engagement has already begun with the poultry and egg sector, the working group brings together officials from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, representatives from national poultry and egg organizations and associations, as well as regional representatives, AAFC said in a news release.

In addition to discussing impacts of the trade agreements in the short term, the working group will also chart a path forward.

Supporting expertise may include academic leaders, as well as industry and financial experts, as necessary, the government said.

“The federal government will engage with provincial and territorial governments on an ongoing basis throughout the collaboration process,” the news release said.

Frankly, I don't think Canadians owe these people a penny. They have had years to prepare for increased competition from imports, going back to the Uruguay Round of World Trade Organization negotiations.

The big poultry meat processors have, in particular, wasted time and profits preparing for competition. They are too small, too provincial and too timid to stand up to the efficiencies of the much larger U.S. processing plants.

In Ontario, for example, Maple Lodge and Maple Leaf should have merged long ago to build one modern chicken slaughter plant that would stand some chance of meeting stiffer competition.

That would also have left a tier of smaller, niche-market players such as those now evolving with help from Chicken Farmers of Ontario. These plants could not only withstand competition from the U.S., but might even be able to develop markets in the big U.S.  cities just across the border.

As for the poultry farmers, let them sell a few units of their over-priced quota if they need money.

Brazil’s new president favours farmers

Far-right congressman Jair Bolsonaro won Brazil’s presidency Sunday, riding on close ties to agribusiness.

Many observers believe Bolsonaro’s strong ties to agribusiness leaders in Congress, part of the powerful “ruralist caucus,” will lead to a reduction in environmental protections as farming interests win out, reports the online Daily Journal.

One example is his promise to combine the agriculture and environment ministries into one — a move environmentalists worry would result in more land being opened up to farming. 

In a recent Facebook Live session, Bolsonaro said he would consider keeping them separate, though he said he is still discussing the idea with agribusiness leaders.

He has also threatened to pull out of the Paris Accord on climate change.

In many respects, his campaign resembled Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s who appealed to rural voters with a promise to scrap the Cap and Trade carbon-reduction policy, to give rural people more say in the establishment of wind and solar farms and to reduce regulations.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

More chicken on recall

Be careful with frozen, breaded chicken products!

Sofina Foods Inc. is recalling Janes brand Pub Style Chicken Burgers because of possible Salmonella contamination.

It is the ninth product on recall after an investigation began a year and a half ago using whole genome sequencing technology which can trace the specific strain of Salmonella involved in an illness.

All of the products on recall are frozen, breaded chicken. The Public Health Agency of Canada is repeating advice to cook these products thoroughly to kill harmful bacteria.

As of October 26, 2018, there have been 474 laboratory-confirmed cases of Salmonella illness investigated as part of the illness outbreaks across the country: British Columbia (38), Alberta (70), Saskatchewan (17), Manitoba (22), Ontario (166), Quebec (107), New Brunswick (25), Nova Scotia (12), Prince Edward Island (two), Newfoundland and Labrador (11), Northwest Territories (one), Yukon (one), and Nunavut (two). 

There have been 90 people hospitalized as part of these outbreaks. 

Three individuals have died, however, Salmonella was not the cause of death for two of them and it was not determined whether Salmonella contributed to the cause of death for the third person.
The people infected were of various ages and genders.

Friday, October 26, 2018

China to import more pork

China will be importing more pork because African Swine Fever continues to spread and reduce domestic production, Rabobank said.

China is already seeing local supply shortages due to the ban on live hog transportation from affected regions, even though the official number of animals culled to date is small relative to the country’s total production, the bank said. 

Price pressure in the affected regions is forcing some small farmers out of the market.

“The possibility of a radical change in hog supply over the coming months could impact the international market,” Rabobank analysts said.

Earlier in the week, ASF was discoveredin a previously unaffected area of China, the southwest province of Yunnan. To date, ASF has affected 27 cities in China, mostly in northern and eastern provinces, resulting in the culling of 200,000 hogs of the 700 million slaughtered annually in the country, according to Reuters.

Senate approves TPP trade deal

The Senate has approved legislation to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

The Canadian Meat Council (CMC) said it welcomes the news because it opens markets that will increase sales by at least $500 million and increase employment by 5,800 jobs.” 

“Joining Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Australia to be one of the first countries to ratify was an important objective of the Canadian meat industry in order to take advantage of increased opportunities that come with early adoption,” the council said.

“The meat industry is grateful for the efforts of the Government of Canada to move swiftly in passing this important legislation which will allow our industry to reap the benefits of CPTPP” said meat council chairman David Colwell.

There was no word from the dairy or poultry industry which will be yielding some of their market to imports.

Chicken board leader says it has changed

Chairman Ed Benjamins of Chicken Farmers of Ontario told Queen’s Park politicians this week that things have changed, and it’s no longer the same old supply management system.

It is expanding production,  serving niche markets and encouraging innovation.

He made the remarks during the annual chicken barbecue for provincial politicians.

“We told them that over the past decade we’ve completely modernized our approach. It’s not the same old supply management. We’re doing everything we can to put the needs of the consumers – the people – first,” Benjamins said.

"We started the day by meeting with the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural “Affairs, the Honourable Ernie Hardeman.

“From there, we met with over 20 Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs), in formal meeting settings, with thirty minutes of undivided face-time,” he said.

They also met with John Vanthof (MPP for Timiskaming—Cochrane, and NDP Agricultural Critic), John Fraser (MPP for Ottawa South, and Liberal Ag Critic) and Mike Schreiner (MPP for Guelph and Leader of the Green Party).

Who better than Benjamins to describe the transformation from a controversial, confrontational and hunkered-down board to what;'s happening now?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Disease prompts cull of deer herd

A red deer herd in the Laurentians in Quebec is being slaughtered because of chronic wasting disease.

It’s the first case in Eastern Canada. It is also believed to be the largest herd of farmed deer in Canada and the United States at 3,200 head on about 500 hectares of woods and rough land.
It is owned by  Cerf de Boileau which is a subsidiary of Harpur Farms LLC.

The slow-moving disease is similar to mad cow’s disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle and Kreutzfedlt Jakob Disease in humans.

But a spokesman for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said there has never been a case of chronic wasting disease of cervids crossing over to cattle or sheep.

The Quebec case began in August when provincial officials detected the disease in a deer carcass.

That prompted the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to impose a quarantine on the farm. 

Two more cases were detected in the herd, so the CFIA took further actions.

“These include ordering the depopulation of the affected herd, conducting trace-outs of animals from this herd to other potential establishments and ordering the cleaning and disinfection of the premises. The CFIA will also perform an epidemiologic assessment of the premises,” the spokesman said in an e-mail.

For privacy reasons, the CFIA will not reveal the owner of the herd or its precise location. An informed source told me it's the Harpur farm and Huntingdon, Que.

But the CFIA has notified the association representing deer farming and maintains close contact with provincial officials and is keeping them updated on the situation.

African Swine Fever spreading in sausages

Sausages from China have been detected with African Swine Fever organisms by officials in Japan and South Korea.

And China has still not managed to contain the disease. It’s latest measure is a ban on transportation of live hogs out of Guangdong province.

Japan has tightened quarantine operations at airports and seaports, especially from those traveling from areas infected with the disease. 

Regular meat inspections detected African swine fever in vacuum-packed pork sausage being illegally brought into Japan by a person coming from Beijing, according to Reutersthis week. 

There is a ban on importing pork meat and products from China, yet this is the third case of the disease being detected in pork products from China.

It was unlikely the pork was infectious, as it was vacuum packed and heat treated, Japanese ministry officials said, but more testing is being done in Tokyo.

Maple Leaf Foods is struggling

Sales and profits both declined in the third quarter, reports Maple Leaf Foods Inc.

"It was a challenging period driven by temporary global trade instability, but our performance held up exceptionally well reflecting the strength of our balanced portfolio and commercial momentum in our business," said Michael H. McCain, president and chief executive officer.

"These abnormal markets have no impact on our core business strategies or our longer-term financial goals.

“We are focused on key levers of value creation over time, including our sustainability agenda, our brands, strategic acquisitions and cost reduction."

Third-quarter sales were down by 3.7 per cent to $874.8 million and the cumulative total so far this year is a decline of 1.7 per cent to $2.2 billion.

Net earnings fell by 29 per cent for the third quarter to $26.6 million and the cumulative total fell from $105 to $89.4 million.

It amazes me that with the newest and biggest meat-processing plant in the nation, and the dollar so favourable for sales to the U.S., that Maple Leaf struggles to set sales and profit records.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Charity statue moves to RAWF

The Charity statue is going to be displayed at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

The statue created a ruckus in Markham when it was raised 25 feet in the air at the home of the daughter of Stephen Roman who paid a record $1.45 million for the prize-winning Holstein cow.

Neighbours persuaded municipal officials to order it taken down.

On Monday, October 29, it will be installed on the floor of the Enercare Centre just outside of the Semex Ring of Excellence. 

“Charity is probably the most famous Holstein of all time,” said Charlie Johnstone, chief executive officer The Royal. “She won more national competitions in Canada and in the U.S. than any other dairy cow. 

Brookview Tony “Charity is considered by many to be the best show cow ever, having been named Supreme Champion an unprecedented three times at the World Dairy Expo.

“We’re delighted to welcome her statue to The Royal and introduce her to visitors, exhibitors, agricultural partners and competitors,” said Johnstone.

In 2014, Canadian sculptor Ron Baird constructed a polished stainless steel statue of Charity at the request of Romandale Farms Limited.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Eating organic food linked to less cancer

A survey study of about 70,000 French consumers has found that those eating a diet of organic foods had a lower incidence of cancer.

In the study titled the “Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer Risk,” published in the scientific journal JAMA Internal Medicine, the authors said there was a significant reduction in the risk of cancer among those eating a high percentage of organic food.

Hog farms raise a stink

Back in the 1990s, when three-site hog production was taking off and farmers were building much larger barns, neighbours got angry about the odours.

I was a member of the Agriculture Research Institute of Ontario at the time, and we were asked for our advice about the issue.

At that time, North Carolina announced a multi-million research program surrounding manure odours, and I felt there would be little Ontario could add to that massive effort.

Instead I suggested a much less costly approach: engage master’s-degree students of sociology at Wilfrid Laurier University to study the dynamics of organized opposition to these hog barns.

My suggestion went nowhere because OMAFRA stuck to University of Guelph and would not even talk to WLU.

Today, maybe Carolina’s hog industry wishes it had gone that route instead. It is being challenged by lawsuits launched by angry neighbours of large hog operations.

So far Smithfield Farms has lost the first three cases. Another 23 lie ahead. The judge for the most recent case awarded the neighbours $474 million. State legislation caps fines at $100 million, so the three cases so far add up to $300 million.

Now Gregg Schmidt, Smithfield’s president of hog production, says “the best way to avoid being sued is to be proactive and be a good neighbour.”

The sociology student who might have been assigned to the issue probably would have identified how farmers and residents within the odour cone could be better neighbours.

Another of the unfortunate aspects of the Smithfield situation is that independent farmers who own the land and build the barns and have signed hog-production contracts with Smithfield’s Murphy-Brown subsidiary are responsible for manure management and odour.

The lawsuits are against Smithfield, which has money, and not against the farmers, who don’t have much. But Smithfield is no longer contracting with the farmer involved in the first court case. He’s stuck with no income and debt on seven huge barns.

And there remains a possibility that Smithfield could pull out of North Carolina, perhaps moving to remote locations on the Prairies where it probably should have gone in the first place to be closer to feed supplies.

Smithfield president Kenneth Sullivan has, in fact, said the company might consider relocation. That could also involve its processing plant at Tar Hill, the largest in the world with capacity to slaughter 30,000 market hogs per day.

It, too, has faced environmental pollution issues.

And then there’s the issue of hurricanes that bring ocean waves surging across the flatlands of Eastern Carolina and heavy rains that fill manure lagoons to overflowing. Yuck!

So what lessons can we in Ontario learn?

One is that bigger is not better unless you can also resolve related issues, and in this case manure odours are a big issue.

Another is that Ontario’s research efforts would be better spent looking at niche opportunities and issues that it’s in a good position to explore rather than trying to copy the big, deeper-pockets mainstream leaders.

Yes, me-too research is important to validate original findings, but I’m not convinced we ought to be spending our money that way.

So what has all that big spending on manure odours come up with so far? Well, in North Carolina they say one of the best solutions is putting covers over the manure lagoons. Cutting-edge technology, eh?

And in Iowa they say it’s knifing manure into the ground, yet in North Carolina the “experts” still advocate spraying it up in the air – for organic fertility reasons.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Listeria concerns prompt recall

Concerns that their chicken could be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes food-poisoning bacteria has prompted a nation-wide recall of Jenny Craig brand Chicken BBQ Wrap.

The Canadian recall was prompted by one in the United States. All of the wraps made from October, 2018 to mid-October this year are on recall.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, the wraps contain vegetables that may be contaminated with salmonella and listeria monocytogenes.

The cooked and frozen wraps were shipped directly to consumers in 12 states and Canada through catalog sales.

Jenny Craig is a weight-loss program.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said there have been no reports of Canadians becoming sick because of this product.

Maple Leaf closes deal for Cericola Farms

Maple Leaf Foods has closed its deal to buy Cericola Farms and its processing plants in Bradford and Drummondville, Que.

The plants process about 32 million kg of chicken a year, using air chilling and including antibiotic-free and organic-standard chicken. 

Maple Leaf has also bought all of Cericola’s processed chicken from its plant at Schomberg. The deal includes an option to buy that plant and associated plant supply quota in three years.

Last year Cericola was found guilty of failing to meet Canadian Food Inspection Agency standards for labeling some of its processed chicken.

Fur farmers furious about court case

The Ontario Fur Breeders Association (OFBA) said it is “shocked and disappointed’ that the crown attorney for Durham Region has agreed to a plea bargain that lets Malcolm Klimowicz off the hook for breaking into a fur farm and releasing mink.
Videos of the event were posted and “the farmer and his 81 year-old mother have worried ever since the videos were released,” said Nancy Daigneault, speaking for the fur breeders association.
She said the family is also worried “Klimowicz and his followers have vowed to continue their on-going protests against local farmers and, in the case of break-ins, it is dangerous for the animals given the farms have strict bio-security policies in place.”  
She said “the protestors have also falsely identified the owners of a local bed and breakfast as owners of the farm. This has forced the B&B to shut down due to on-going harassment.

“If is our hope and expectation the Crown (attorneys) in the other two regions where Klimowicz is facing charges for fur farm break-ins will remain steadfast and ensure a trial,” she said.

Correction on Nov. 2:

 In fact a video was made, but none were released. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Lake Erie algae issue dooms agriculture director

"David T. Daniels, the longtime director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, has been fired by Governor John Kasich because of his resistance to the governor's anti-algal bloom policies,” according to a story printed on, an on-line newspaper.
Daniels, who has served as Kasich's ag director since 2012, "was let go because of his prolonged and active opposition to the governor's efforts to improve Lake Erie water quality," according a source the newspaper did not name because he/she “spoke on condition of anonymity.”
When algae blooms threatened the city’s water supply, Kasich announced mandatory farming controls to replace what until then had been voluntary measures.
On-farm measures remain voluntary on the Canadian side.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Tariff war goes to WTO

Just as I predicted, the tariff war touched off by United States President Donald Trump is heading to the World Trade Organization.

China, the European Union, Canada, Mexico, Norway, Russia and Turkey have all requested that the WTO set up a panel of adjudicators to judge the legality of steel and aluminum tariffs which Trump imposed in March.

In return, the U.S. has asked the WTO to adjudicate on tariffs imposed by Canada, China, Mexico and the European Union in response to those U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs.

This isn’t going anywhere fast, but it could prove lucrative for consultants and lawyers because these dispute-settling cases tend to drag on for months and months, if not years.

There is another fly in the ointment: the U.S. has failed to appoint people to act as adjudicators for WTO disputes-settling panels.

This will probably end only after Trump is either ousted from the presidency or gets over-ruled by the Senate.                           

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Thompsons grain involved in U.S. buyout

Thompsons Ltd. of Blenheim is at the centre of Andersons, Inc., purchase of the Lansing Trade Group.

The two companies each own half of Thompsons which they bought in 2013.

Anderson’s will pay about $305 million US to buy the 67.5 per cent of Lansing that it did not already own.

LTG shareholders will get about $175 million in cash and about $130 million in unregistered Andersons shares.

Thompsons is the dominant grain and food-grade bean handler and crop input provider in extreme Southwestern Ontario. It has 12 locations in Ontario and Minnesota.

LTG has a trading desk in Chatham and holds a 38 per cent stake in Providence Grain Group of Alberta.

LTG also owns a grain business in Hamilton and deals in feeds such as distillers grains, wheat middlings, protein meals and cottonseed and in ethanol, natural gas liquids and frac sand. 

Cow in Scotland had BSE

Government officials in Scotland said routine testing has turned up the first case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow’s disease) in almost a decade in that country.

Thousands of cattle were culled in the 1990s to stop the spread of the brain-damaging and fatal disease.

The infrected cow was detected on a farm in Aberdeenshire, officials said.

Restrictions have been put in place at the unnamed farm as an investigation is carried out into the source of the disease.

Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas said: “While it is too early to tell where the disease came from in this case, its detection is proof that our surveillance system is doing its job.

The animal did not enter the food chain, officials said.

Salmonella outbreak traced to chicken

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says recent outbreaks of salmonella food poisoning are so widespread and involve so many different suppliers that the cause “might be widespread in the chicken industry”

This strain - salmonella infantis - is resistant to some antibiotics and has infected 92 people in 29 states, the CDC said Wednesday, adding that 21 people have been hospitalized but nobody has died.

The DC said it had not yet linked the raw chicken products or live chickens to one lone supplier.
People who got sick reported eating different brands of chicken products purchased from many different locations.
The agency said the outbreak strain had been identified in samples “taken from raw chicken pet food, raw chicken products, and live chickens.”

Canadian supply management means very little U.S. chicken is imported.

Maple Leaf hires public relations expert

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. has hired Janet Riley who is the public affairs director for the North American Meat Institute.

The institute said she will remain there for the rest of this year, handling not only public affairs, but also membership, education, the production center and the IT department.

One of her roles has been responding to the hot-button animal welfare issues, such as sow gestation crates and the on-farm use of antibiotics.

NAMI chief executive and president Julie Anna Potts called Riley’s tenure with NAMI “stellar”.

She said Riley consistently made herself available to have conversations with meat industry critics, provided strategic counsel to NAMI members when needed and served as "Queen of Wien" of the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, which she founded in 1994.

“I am certain we will continue to draw on Janet’s expertise on issues ranging from animal welfare to sustainability to crisis management,” Potts said, noting that Maple Leaf Foods is a member of the institute.

HelloFresh is buying Chefs Plate

HelloFresh of Berlin, Germany, has struck a deal to buy Chefs Plate of Etobicoke. Both are in the meal kit business. 

HelloFresh said in making the announcement that the combined companies will lead the meal kit market in Canada, targeting revenues of about $200 million next year.

The price is somewhere in the middle of double digits, the company said, which apparently means about $50 million.

The integration will provide wider product variety and procurement, production and marketing synergies of some $10 million, company officials said in a news release.

“The integration of Chefs Plate is clearly such a unique opportunity to expand our leadership position across North America,” said Thomas Griesel, chief operating officer and co-founder of HelloFresh. 

“Canada is one of our fastest-growing markets that shows high consumer demand for meal kits. Chefs Plate is the perfect fit for HelloFresh to form the unrivalled market leader,” he said.