Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability


Seven ideas that matter

A look at several key questions and concepts driving farm animal care progress for livestock producers and their industry

Posted: July 30, 2013

It may be the dog days of summer but in the world of farm animal care it's also a time when new ideas and fresh progress are heating up. Here's a rundown of several key questions and concepts to watch for in the months ahead.

1. Who pays? It's an unprecedented time of new standards and opportunities for innovation in farm animal care, but a key question on the minds of many is who will carry the short-term investment burden required for significant practice and infrastructure change. With numerous potential shifts on the horizon, "The cost of transition must be spread across the value chain" is a statement producers will get used to hearing more often from their associations.

2. Who should pay? Hot on the heels of this debate is the related question of consumer demand and whether or not consumers will ultimately pay more for perceived welfare-enhanced products.

3. Social license. This term has been among the leading buzzwords for why livestock producers and their industries need to get and stay ahead of the game in managing the welfare issue. It follows that food producers who build trust with the public by showing they have good practices in place will enjoy greater freedom to operate.

4. Progress payoff. Canada has been among the most progressive countries in taking the social license argument to heart in recent years, by driving progress with new Codes of Practice and a variety of shifts toward assessment approaches. We'll see better now how much this translates into improved standing with consumers and the general public.

5. Market access. Will livestock welfare become a market access issue? The signs are pointing in that direction, but time will tell how quickly and significantly this step takes hold. Many agree animal welfare is moving from the fringes toward the core of discussions in many arenas, including trade.

6. Benchmarking. Dr. Temple Grandin said it best: "You can't manage what you can't measure." This is just one of many strong reasons why benchmarking studies are increasingly important to provide a basis for not only making farm animal care progress but proving it.

7. Owning the issue. Livestock welfare, simply put, is what livestock producers do every day. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of that amid the flurry of debate and pressure that flows from everything from animal rights activists to consumers who want to know more about where their food comes from. Producers represent the front line of farm animal care and many believe that producers need to 'own' this role more strongly and openly than ever as the best way to manage this issue for a successful future.

Reprintable with credit. This article is available for reprint, with acknowledgement of the source as Meristem Land and Science, www.meristem.com.

Meristem is a Calgary-based communications firm that specializes in writing about western agriculture, food and land use. More articles at www.meristem.com.




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