Tuesday, May 31, 2022

OBHECC public hearing winds up

 A weeks-long set of public hearings wound up here recently, leaving the appeals tribunal to decide whether the cost-of-production formula for hatching eggs and chicks ought to be changed. 


The Association of Ontario Chicken Processors brought expert witnesses to argue that there is double counting in some aspects of the formula the Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg and Chick Commission uses.


Its lawyer, Alexandre Fallon, told the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission’s Appeals Tribunal, that flaws in the formula mean chicken processors are paying prices that are too high, mainly for labour and investment.


Lawyer Trenton Johnson countered by citing evidence from its expert witnesses to justify the formula and said no customers have complained – hatcheries which pay the prices set by the formula, chicken producers who buy the chicks and chicken consumers. And he argued that there is no double counting.


He said the only one complaining is the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors which he called a trade association that lobbies on behalf of its members who want to increase their profits. He said the hatcheries, which are the buyers of the chicks, have not complained about the formula, but participated in fashioning and approving it.


Lawyer Geoff Spurr, speaking for the Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board, said the processors only want to push chick prices down. He noted that chick costs are about a third of those included in the chicken farmers’ cost-of-production formula.


The AOCP challenges have persisted over four years involving negotiations, hearings at the commission level and now the appeal to the tribunal.


 case. During that time, Johnson said OBHECC consulted with the processors and made some changes, even though it has no obligation under its mandate to consult with the processors.


Spurr said the processors treat the formula as only a way to cover costs, but the real and fair aim is to also provide farmers with earnings on their labour and on their investments. 


The issues raised were technical, leading to lengthy testimony and arguments about data bases and various formulas that have been used, such as the Ontario Energy Board to calculate a fair return on investment.


It may take weeks for the three tribunal members to review the evidence and arguments and reach decisions. It does have the power to substitute its own cost-of-production formula, or parts of it.


Alberta claims dire shortage of veterinarians


There are 840 vancancies for veterinarians and veterinary technicians in Alberta alone according to a report by the two associations representing them. 


“If left unaddressed, these shortages can pose a risk to animal welfare, agricultural production, food security and public health,” says their report.


The two associations have launched a “public awareness” campaign to persuade the public that things need to change.


At the same time, there is the story of a veterinarian who escaped the Ukraine, is now on a dairy farm near Tavistock, and faces challenges to gain accreditation to practice veterinary medicine in Canada. It will take at least two years.


I guess Ontario animals must be a great deal different from those in the Ukraine.

London poultry show cancelled

The National Poultry Show in London has been cancelled for the third year in a row, this time because of concerns that highly-pathogenic avian influenza could spread. 


The two previous cancellations were because of the COVID-19 pandemic.


“We are so very disappointed to cancel this event for the third year in a row, however the safety of the industry is paramount,” said Ashley Honsberger, executive director of the Poultry Industry Council.


“We appreciate the ongoing feedback and candor of our show exhibitors, customers and sponsors as we navigate the circumstance of waiting another year for the show once again.” 

Pigeon racing ban lifted

Keith Woods of Guelph holds one of his racing pigeons




An Ontario ban on racing pigeons because of avian influenza has been lifted. 

 The season, which typically runs May to September, was delayed after the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) issued orders in April and May limiting the "commingling of birds from different locations," reported CBC Radio in Kitchener.


The Canadian Food Inspection Agency  reports that 1.9 million birds have died or been sacrificed because of the highly-deadly and contagious virus.


The ban was officially lifted on May 20, good news for racers such as 11-year-old Charlotte Cassell of Toronto whose pigeons, Lucifer and Tyler, came in second and third, respectively, in a race on opening weekend.

Monday, May 30, 2022

U.S. farmers ask for lifting of tariffs

 Forty farm organizations have written to United States President Joe Biden's administration, asking him to lift import tariffs in return to gaining more access to agricultural export markets. 


It seems the letter is particularly aimed at tariffs former president Donald Trump imposed on China, beginning with steel and aluminum and then expanding to a long list of commodities. China responded with tariffs on U.S. commodities and products.


In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Farmers for Free Trade, an agriculture trade advocacy group, said that doing so would “increase market access for U.S. food and agriculture exports and reduce costs for critical machinery, fertilizer, agricultural chemicals and other food and agriculture inputs. These efforts would have an immediate effect and would ease the uncertainty felt by all rural America.”


The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in early May began a review of Section 301 tariffs on more than $370 billion of Chinese goods. Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 allows USTR to enforce U.S. rights under trade agreements and address unfair foreign barriers to U.S. exports.


Because Section 232 tariffs remain on Chinese steel, U.S. pork continues to face a 25 per cent retaliatory duty on product going to China.


Lifting the pork tariff would have mixed results for Canadian hog producers. It would increase competition for China's market, but an increase in U.S. pork exports would bolster hog prices in both Canada and the U.S.

Big interest rate hike expected

Analysts are expecting an interest rate hike of half a per cent when the Bank of Canada makes its regular announcement Wednesday. 


The interest rate hikes have already had an effect on real estate sales and prices and that is likely to increase.


The hikes will also make loans more expensive, hitting the pocketbooks of farmers who borrow to plant crops or replace flocks and herds such as chickens, turkeys and hogs.


Whether it will bring down inflation leaves questions of when, for what commodities and services and by how much.


Friday, May 27, 2022

Fertilizer prices now in decline

 Fertilizer prices peaked this month and are now in decline with the June spot price in Tampa, Florida, for ammonia nitrogen fertilizer settled at $1,000 per metric ton, a 30 per cent drop from May's $1,425 per ton. 


Southeast Asia and other places are seeing more buyers who are unwilling to pay the record high prices that were seen in April and May, and the cost of ammonia production has declined as European natural gas prices fell in the second quarter, said Green Markets analyst Alexis Maxwell in an interview withh Bloomberg news service.


A recent report from Texas A&M University shows higher input prices are having a larger impact on farmers than originally thought. 


It said net cash farm income on the representative feed grain and oilseed farms is projected to decline by an average of $534,000 from 2021 to 2022 across the 25 feed grain and oilseed farms.


Representative wheat farms face an average reduction in net cash farm income of $399,000.


Representative cotton farms face an average reduction in net cash farm income of $716,000.


Rice farms face the largest reduction in net cash farm income per farm at $880,000 and a per acre reduction of $442.


It found that fertilizer costs increased by 133 per cent.

Dairy trade again in the spotlight

 Canada’s supply management dairy policy is again in the spotlight in trade talks with the United States and Britain. 


United States President Joe Biden said he will file another appeal over Canada’s handling of import permits for dairy products.


The appeal is to the disputes-settling panel under the Canada-U.S.-Mexico trade agreement. 


The United States won its first appeal, but is not satisfied with Canada’s response.


On the British front, Canada has told England that its goal of increasing cheese exports to Canada is off the table for negotiations that are just about to begin.


Ralph Goodale, high commissioner to England, said Canada already granted access to the European Union and England failed to take its share of that access with it when it left the European Union.


He said England needs to go back to the European Union to get the cheese access it seeks. Asking for its own access in addition to what was given the European Union would be “double dipping,” Goodale said.


But Britain’s trade minister insists she wants access to Canadian markets for cheese, including artisanal varieties.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

How grain trading changed

 Documents released under Access to Information reveal the federal government’s attitudes to major changes in marketing Prairie grains. 


One set shows how the departments of transport and agriculture argued that it was a waste of money to continue subsidizing exports via the Port of Churchill on James Bay.


The subsidy was more than $12 a tonne. Only the Canadian Wheat Board used it.


The other set of documents outlines opinions about Glencore acquiring Viterra.


The agriculture and transportation departments did not raise any significant concerns.


One document has been completely blocked from release – an economic analysis prepared for the Government of Saskatchewan.

There are significant sections of other documents blacked out.

Biden pursuing new Pacific trade deal

United States President Joe Biden wants to negotiate a new type of trade agreement with Pacific nations.


Rather than focusing on the usual aspects of trade agreements, such as reducing tariffs and other barriers to trade, the Indo Pacific Economic Framework will emphasize four pillars: supply chain resiliency; clean energy; tax and anti-corruption; and trade.


The IPEF, as it is known, is a partnership among the U.S., Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.


One of the first things former U.S. President Donald Trump did was pull out of the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement negotiations.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Coops challenged to provide broadband

 CoBank, an American lending institution, is challenging cooperatives to become broadband internet servers for farmers.


CoBank said that together as a cooperative, farmers could afford what they can’t on their own.


And broadband service will help more farmers adopt precision agriculture technologies such as data analytics, connected equipment, robotics and automation.


In Ontario the federal, provincial and municipal governments are subsidizing installation of fibre optic cable to deliver broadband to rural people and businesses and internet providers such as Bell, Telus and Rogers are adding some of their money.


CoBank’s challenge therefore seems to come too late for most in Ontario.


According to a new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange, agricultural cooperatives are in an ideal position to work with communication companies to deliver carrier-grade, high speed private wireless networks to their farmer members at costs that were unthinkable just a few years ago. Such networks allow for greater adoption of precision ag applications that can help farmers produce more efficiently.


“Offering these network solutions could be a new, reliable revenue source for U.S. farm supply cooperatives, helping them to offset the highly competitive and volatile business of fertilizer, chemical and other input sales,” said Kenneth Scott Zuckerberg, lead grain and farm supply economist with CoBank.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Fire closes Cargill poultry in London

 A fire on holiday Monday closed the Cargill-owned poultry plant at London on Tuesday.


Firefighters said heavy smoke was coming from the rear of one building when they arrived and put out the fire.


 “Thanks to the excellent response from the London firefighters in combination with our sprinkler/pump system, the fire was quickly contained,” Cargill said.

Third lawsuit filed against A2 Milk

A third class-action lawsuit has been filed in New Zealand against the A2 Milk company. 


As with the previous two filed in Australia, it claims the company misled investors about its prospects and they lost a lot of money when the company’s share price plunged.


In 2021, the company’s revenues fell by 30 per cent and one measure of its profits by 78 per cent.

Trade sets a record

International trade set a record in the fourth quarter of last year, helped by inflation. 


Exports increased by 3.6 per cent among G-20 nations and imports increased by 5.8 per cent.


The statistics for trade in services was not so rosy with exports up by about two per cent and imports by one per cent, far below year-earlier increases of 6.2 and 3.1 per cent.

McCain speaks out about food insecurity

A “terrible tragedy” is unfolding across Canada, where 5.8 million people are living in food insecurity,  Michael McCain, head of Maple Leaf Foods is quoted today in the Globe and Mail.


Valerie Tarasuk, a nutritional sciences professor who leads a food security research team at the University of Toronto, estimates about 16 per cent of Canadians live in food-insecure households.


Among food companies that have been vocal about the continuing crisis, the response has been to focus on supply – and how to increase it. Other companies have responded by raising their donations to food banks and other charities.


But, in an interview with The Globe and Mail, McCain explained why those approaches are based on “myths.”


“Food insecurity is not about food,” he said. “The fundamental drivers of food insecurity [are] not food. Canada has an ample supply of food.”


Instead, “it really is about the systemic issues,” he said. He pointed to multiple factors tied to food insecurity: income inequality, poverty, mental illness, access to skills (including financial and nutritional skills) and racism.


“It’s all of those systemic issues that are at the core of food insecurity,” he said.

Farmers oppose state pesticide labeling

Fifty-four of the largest farm organizations in the United States have written to President Joe Biden declaring their opposition to state labeling for pesticides. 


They argue that labels should be national and follow science and said they fear states may make regulations that are based more on politics than science.


More specifically, the farm organizations raised concerns about a letter the U.S. Solicitor General wrote to the Supreme Court which is pondering whether to hear an appeal on the labelling issue.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Judge charged with cattle rustling

A judge in Loving County, Texas, has been charged with cattle rustling.

He is accused of working with three others to round up and sell stray cattle. One of them is a sheriff’s deputy.


Judge Skeet Jones is 71 and in the county, which has only 64 residents, the least of any municipality in the United States, is also the chief executive officer and has a salary of $133.000.


The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association said the arrests came after a yearlong investigation.

Potash train crashes in Alberta

Photos by Barb Glen, Western Producer

More than 40 potash-carrying train cars were wrecked in a derailment near Fort MacLeod, Alta. 


The train derailed early morning Sunday on the Canadian Pacific main line.

BHP accelerates potash mine

BHP of Australia is speeding up construction of a potash mine at Jansen, Sask, now aiming to have it producing nine to 12months earlier. 


That means it will be marketing about 4.35 million tonnes a year beginning in early 2027.


And the company said it is also considering plans for the second phase that would add another four million tonnes per year.


“We are not saying we will do that today. We will wait and see how the market unfolds,” said company chief financial officer David Lamont.


“But that is something that we think makes sense.”


It makes sense because global supplies of potash are being threatened by the war in Ukraine and sanctions imposed on Russia’s economy.


Russia and Belarus account for 38 percent of the 70 million tonnes of global potash supply. Much of the rest comes from Nutrien in Canada.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Jif peanut butter under recall


Smuckers Foods Canada Corp. is recalling a number of its peanut products because they may be contaminated with salmonella food-poisoning bacteria. 


The recalls were triggered by findings in the United States. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said there are no reports of Canadians falling ill after eating the peanut butter.


The products under recall are:


Jif Squeeze Creamy Peanut Butter 375 g 0 51500 24556 91274 425 to 2140 425

Jif Peanut Butter 200 Cups200-18 g 0 51500 40200 91274 425 to 2140 425

Jif Dark Roast Creamy Peanut Butter 500 g 0 51500 45163 21274 425 to 2140 425

Jif Dark Roast Creamy Peanut Butter1 kg 0 51500 45736 81274 425 to 2140 425

Jif Light Creamy Peanut Butter 500 g 0 51500 70037 21274 425 to 2140 425

Jif Light Creamy Peanut Butter 1 kg  0 51500 70038 91274 425 to 2140 425

Jif  Creamy Peanut Butter 500 g 0 51500 75002 51274 425 to 2140 425

Jif Crunchy Peanut Butter 500 g 0 51500 75004 91274 425 to 2140 425

Jif Creamy Peanut Butter1 kg 0 51500 75005 61274 425 to 2140 425

Jif Crunchy Peanut Butter 1 kg 0  51500 75006 31274 425 to 2140 425

Friday, May 20, 2022

Chicken leaders set aggressive quotas

Demand for chicken continues to be strong, supported by competing meat prices and overall market conditions. The demand is also boosted by the lifting of most pandemic related restrictions and capacity limits, said the Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board on its website today.

The national agency is calling for production 4.5 per cent above base and Ontario’s allocation is 5.25 per cent above base for the quota period that runs from the end of August to October.

The allocations are the most aggressive since the COVID-10 pandemic struck two years ago.

Deere sales, profits increase

Deere and Co. reported a 17 per cent increase in profits for its fiscal quarter that ended May 1.

Sales increased by 11 per cent to $13.37 billion.

That bucks the industry trend. Tractor sales declined by 22.3 per cent in April from last year and combine sales by 5.6 per cent.

Farmers have been replacing equipment because grain and oilseed prices have increased and are forecast by Archer-Daniel-Midlands to remain high for two years. 

A state wins poultry price-fixing case

 Washington State has won a price-fixing case.

Most of the cases so far have been customers who filed class-action lawsuits against chicken processing companies.

Washington State’s attorney general, Bob Ferguson, announced a settlement with Mar-Jac Poultry, the first in the state's antitrust lawsuit against 19 broiler chicken processors.

Mar-Jac will pay the attorney general's office a total of $725,000 to resolve the claims against it, according to the consent decree.

The 19 chicken companies were charged with conspiracy to inflate and manipulate prices, rig contract bids and coordinate industry supply reductions to maximize profits. The lawsuit also accuses industry data reporting service Agri Stats of assisting in the conspiracy.

Ferguson asserts the defendants drove up the price of chicken, causing Washington consumers to overpay by millions of dollars. The attorney general’s office said its investigation found a coordinated, industry-wide effort to cut production through the exchange of competitively sensitive information, signals during investor calls and direct coordination between players in the industry.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Racist paints Maple Leaf’s London site

Maple Leaf Foods Is offering a $25,000 reward for the capture of the vandal who sprayed racist graffiti at the construction site for its London poultry plant.

Anti-Semitic graffiti and a noose were found in the bathroom stalls at Wilton Grove where a $660-million, 190,000-square-feet plant is under construction with a finishing target for this fall.

London was rocked by another racist attack by a young man who drove his pickup truck through a group of Muslims. That man remains to be sentenced.

"Our company abhors any form of racism," Maple Leaf wrote in a statement to CBC. "The finding of racist paraphernalia at the London construction site prompted an immediate response, as it should."

Graham Construction is sharing in the offer of a reward for information that leads to a conviction.

CFIA detects third bird flu case in York Region

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has quarantined a third flock in the York Region for highly-pathogenic avian influenza.

It took action on May 16 and posted the information today.

Tribunal declines to hear Sweda’s appeals

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal has declined to hear four appeals filed by Norman Bourdeau who is acting as an agent for Sweda Farms Ltd.

The tribunal has not posted its decisions on its website, but Ontario Farmer has obtained a copy and also learned that Bourdeau has written to Ontario Agriculture Minister Lisa Thompson to protest the tribunal’s decision.

The letter raises a number of issues that it claims are errors in law. That raises speculation that Sweda is considering an appeal to the courts to obtain decisions on its claims of tribunal errors in law.

The Egg Farmers of Ontario marketing board, represented by lawyer Geoff Spurr, argued that Sweda is neither an active egg producer nor egg grader and therefore has no right to appeal. The tribunal disagreed because Sweda does have basis to argue that it has been aggrieved by the lack of policies Sweda seeks.

But the tribunal ruled that is lacks jurisdiction to order the egg board to implement Sweda’s requests. It said it can deal with grievances under existing board policies or actions, but not on policies it has declined to implement.

The key request is that the egg board change marketing to establish pools for geographic districts and then direct eggs from those pools to grading stations. That speaks to Sweda’s concerns that egg grading is dominated by a “duopoly” of Burnbrae Farms and L.H. Gray and Sons Ltd.

It also proposed an alternative that the egg board direct production from 200,000 hens to Sweda’s grading station.

Bourdeau countered that the tribunal has broad jurisdiction and cited a number of cases including a tribunal decision on chicken pricing that was ordered by the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission, not the egg board, a decision on an appeal brought by Glenn Black against th Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board, seeking new policies to favour small-scale producers, and an appeal by Georgian Bay Milk Producers which sought new milk board policies on milk production for export.

Spurr argued, and the tribunal agreed, that there is a conflict between the tribunal entertaining the appeals and an ongoing lawsuit Sweda filed against Burnbrae Farms Ltd., L.H. Gray and Sons Ltd. and the egg board seeking $32,000,000 in damages and $10,000,000 as a fine, called punitive damages. 

The courts allowed Burnbrae out of that case because Sweda’s lawyer at the time, Donald Good, failed to file a timely request for Burnbrae documents. The case against Gray and the egg board remains active.

Bordeau countered that the issues it raised in its appeals are separate from those in the lawsuit.

The tribunal not only declined to entertain Sweda’s appeals, but also stuck it with a bill for $8,812.25 to cover the egg board’s legal fees. It lectured Sweda for being “vexacious” and harassing the egg board.

Neither the egg board nor the tribunal made any comments about the conflicts of interest Sweda raised about senior officials of Burnbrae and Gray sitting as egg producers the Ontario egg board where decisions have considerable implications for their dominant businesses in egg grading and egg processing. 

Sweda has also argued that they can intimidate egg farmers who rely on them to market their eggs.

I frankly think that politics, not the law nor the facts, are protecting Burnbrae, Gray and the egg board. 

I have substantiated, from Canadian Food Inspection Agency data, that there is cheating on the grading of eggs to the benefit of producers, the egg board and the two grading stations, but to the detriment of consumers.

And I have seen examples over the decades of Burnbrae's Joe Hudson acting for his business benefits to the detriment of producers, supply management and consumers. And the politicians and bureaucrats looked the other way.

U.S. emphatically rejects Canada’s dairy trade response

The United States has emphatically rejected Canada’s response to its loss of a trade dispute over how it handles import controls for dairy products.

A disputes-settling panel under the trade agreement among Mexico, Canada and the United States, ruled that Canada is wrong to assign import permits to milk processing companies. The U.S. wants them assigned to those who buy dairy products from processors, such as wholesalers and retailers.

But Canada’s International Trade Minister Mary Ng said that under the trade agreement, Canada has the authority to manage imports within a tariff-rate quota. 

The quotas establish how much of each dairy product can enter Canada at reduced tariffs. The trade agreement substantially increased the quotas, prompting the Canadian government to offer dairy farmers and processors subsidies of hundreds of millions of dollars.

“The new policies end the use of processor-specific TRQ pools,” Ng said.

“We will always stand up for its dairy industry, farmers and workers and the communities they support, and at a time when global food security is under threat, it is even more important that we strengthen and maintain a strong and vibrant domestic dairy industry,” Ng said.

In a call to reporters from Poland after meeting with G7 leaders about the Ukraine situation, United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said he had had a “very frank and specific conversation” with Canadian Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau to tell her “how inadequate” the response was, and that the United States was “greatly disappointed” that the new quotas do not include retailers.

“I am hopeful that the nature of my conversation with the Canadian minister underscores the initial level of disappointment,” Vilsack said, adding that he believes Bibeau “is capable of reading between the lines about what’s next.”

International Dairy Foods Association president and chief executive officer Michael Dykes, who represents dairy processors, said “this outcome is completely unacceptable.”

“Canada’s publication today clearly shows they are ignoring their trade commitments agreed to in the USMCA and refusing to administer their dairy TRQs in a manner compliant with the agreement, he said.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

China lifts canola ban on Richardson and Viterra

China has lifted its ban on canola from Richardson and Viterra three years after they were imposed in the wake of Canada’s detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Canada acted on an application from the U.S. to extradite her on charges of selling banned items to Iran. That was in December, 2018; in March, 2019, the Chinese announced the bans on Richardson and Viterra.

The United States has abandoned its extradition proceedings against Wanzhou and she was freed to leave Canada last year.

“This is a positive step forward, restoring full trade in canola with China and ensuring that all Canadian exporters are treated equally by the Chinese administration,” said Jim Everson, president of the Canola Council of Canada. “We will continue efforts to nurture and maintain a predictable, rules-based trade environment.”

Everson thanked federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, International Trade Minister Mary Ng and trade officials for their support.

Before the bans, Canada sold  4.87 million tonnes iof canola to China and that was reduced to 1.54 million tonnes and from $2;8 billion to $800 million.

Canada was able to market canola to other countries and, in fact, has swept granaries clean before planting this spring.

Health Canada approves gene editing for crops

Health Canada announced Wednesday that it will not impose new regulations on foods developed by editing genes.

The technology works only with existing genes and differs from genetically-modified crops that contain genes from brought in from an unrelated species, such as genes from bacteria for Roundup-ready soybeans and for Bt corn to counter insects such as root worms.

Health Canada’s announcement immediately drew criticism from the National Farmers Union and the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.

Lucy Sharratt of CBAN said “this decision profoundly increases corporate control over our food system.”

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has yet to say whether it will introduce regulations for gene-edited seeds.

Of course, the overwhelming majority of NFU members are again planting genetically-modified crops such as corn, soybeans and canola. The organization's concerns seem to be related more to corporations than Canadian citizens.

Mexican chicken stopped by CFIA

Documents obtained through Access to Information reveal that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency stopped chicken from a plant in Mexico from entering the Canadian market.

Correspondence among inspection staff indicates that at least a couple of boxes of chicken were stopped within a matter of a few days.

The front-line inspector was informed that Mexican chicken slsughtered at a federally-inspected plant in the United States might be okay, but not chicken slaughtered in a Mexican packing plant.

The chicken in question was apparently sourced from an approved plant in the United States, but further processed and packaged in Mexico for shipment to Canada. That, according to the correspondence, is allowed.

The chicken was detained in cold storage in Brampton while inspection staff tried to sort out the issues the chicken raised.

The correspondence does not indicate the ultimate disposal of the chicken or the identity of the importer.

Pig squeals used to measure welfare

 The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology is studying the sounds pigs make to determine their welfare.

The researchers say the sounds pigs make express their emotions and farmers could automatically collect their sounds and make adjustments to improve their welfare.

In order to build this tool, the researchers started by collecting thousands of vocalisations. In the end, over 7,400 good quality vocalisations from 411 pigs in different European laboratories could be analysed. 

These sounds were recorded in 19 different contexts: from the birth of the pigs and throughout their life, in different types of indoor rearing (e.g. on slatted floors or on straw) and in slaughterhouses. 

These contexts can be sources of positive emotions, such as suckling and reunion with fellow pigs or negative ones, such as fights and isolation.

By combining the expertise of ethologists, bioacousticians for the detailed analysis of the acoustic structure of the recorded vocalisations and computational methods of artificial intelligence, the researchers worked on the automatic classification of the vocalisations according to negative and positive emotions and the situation in which they were emitted, with a view to possible action by the livestock farmer.

The results show that artificial intelligence is very effective at recognising not only the emotional valence of the vocalisations (91.5 per cent accuracy), but also the situation in which they were emitted (82 per cebt accuracy). 

On receiving a new sound, the system will automatically compare it with previously classified sounds to qualify it. 

The researchers say this system could be of great help to livestock farmers as it could alert them in real time if a situation requires their immediate intervention, such as in the case of a piglet being crushed by the mother or repeated or prolonged fights within a group.

It would also allow livestock farmers to reinforce positive situations for the pigs, helping them to evaluate, for example, the provision of new toys or infrastructure to enhance the welfare of their animals.

Similar acoustic monitoring systems already exist on farms to monitor the health of pigs by analysing the noise of their coughs. The research team is now working on adding an analysis of pig vocalisations to this listening system in order to combine physical and mental health measures for better welfare on-farm.