NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 1, Edition 5
Global GAP: Livestock welfare in the spotlight
February 7, 2013
Certification program gains steam, with implications for Canada
It's a program with a bold target: Set the international standard for safe and sustainable agriculture. And it's gaining steam. Fast. At the top level of the global food business.
The program is Global GAP, which stands for Global Good Agricultural Practice. Members participating include a who's who of the major food companies of the world along with a broad and growing segment of major agriculture industry players. It is largely Europe-based at this stage but both the program and the model it represents are gaining profile and making inroads beyond this scope, including in North America.
What does it mean for Canada's livestock industry? Here's a look at some of the fundamentals of Global GAP, along with insights from University of Calgary animal welfare expect Ed Pajor, who participated in the latest Global GAP meeting in Madrid, Spain.
A rising force
The beginnings of Global GAP are traced to an earlier program, Eure GAP, which was started by British retailers working with supermarkets in continental Europe as a means to address consumers' growing concerns regarding product safety, environmental impact and the health, safety and welfare of workers and animals.
To tackle this challenge, Eure GAP developed a focus on harmonizing standards and procedures related to these issues, along with an effort to develop an independent certification system for Good Agriculture Practice.
UEP and HSUS: 'Leap of faith' hatches bold new relationship
February 7, 2013
How two bitter adversaries found common ground to create a new, sustainable future for the U.S. egg business
Kenny Rodgers said it best: "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em."
For Chad Gregory, president and CEO of the United Egg Producers (UEP), the mindset his organization took to radically change the game in dealing with pressure from the Humane Society of United States (HSUS) wasn't quite that stark, but it was certainly part of the equation. They saw the cards on the table and knew the approach of staying in the corner and fighting was unlikely to get the result they needed.
Instead of betting high on tough odds, they chose to work together with their arch nemesis to forge a future they could live with and build on. It came with compromise, but also with the opportunity to create a promising new generation of egg farming in America and have a strong measure of control in determining what that would be.
"It was an incredible leap of faith and in my mind it was also incredible leadership," says Gregory. "All the credit goes to our board of directors, which is made up of 32 egg farmers from around the country. They chose the path and they made the tough decisions. It wasn't easy, but ultimately they saw all of the facts and believed it was the best approach for the future of our industry."
What happened is becoming the stuff of industry lore. UEP reached an agreement with HSUS to jointly lobby Congress to implement legislation for a national standard on egg production. Supporters and critics agree it was a watershed moment, dramatically changing the dynamic of industry and HSUS relations.
The McDonald's barometer
February 7, 2013
From Big Mac Index to Farm Animal Care Index?
The Golden Arches are so common around the globe that the price of a Big Mac has been used as an economic indicator. Now McDonald's is starting to serve a similar role as a leading indicator of where thing are headed in animal welfare.
What is this barometer telling livestock producers and their industries? The short answer is that the world is shrinking and farm animal care approaches are becoming more globally coordinated.
The iconic company has firmly established itself as a leader among food service retailers in establishing direction on farm animal care. It was the first company to establish an independent animal welfare council to advise its operations. Now it has expanded its USA Animal Welfare Council model into a new, international Animal Health and Welfare team.
The team is described as a global, cross-functional group comprised of academic consultants, industry partners and McDonald's representatives. The company points out the use of both "health" and "welfare" in the team name was strategic, to emphasize the close interconnection of both elements and how they contribute to food safety.
February 7, 2013
Quick takes on key activity and what's coming, from NewStream editors
Alberta's T K Ranch receives certification from "Animal Welfare Approved"
More signs that animal welfare is moving into product brands. Alberta's T.K. Ranch, has received certification from U.S based Animal Welfare Approved (AWA). That organization's website says it "was founded in 2006 as a market-based solution to growing consumer interest in how farm animals are raised and desire to know where their food is coming from and how it is produced."
T K Ranch is reportedly the fourth Canadian operation to receive AWA certification a sign that Canadian producers are looking for options to build in animal care on the brand front. The T K Ranch website http://tkranch.com/ clearly states its perspective on the importance of all things related to sustainability with wording such as "Ethical by nature" and "Your ethical and humane choice for high quality grass-fed beef, lamb, pork, chicken and turkey."
An "Animal Welfare" button takes viewers to the description of ranch practices and a distancing from "factory farming."
More information on Animal Welfare Approved is available at the organization's website, www.animalwelfareapproved.org.
Get ready for more "assurances" under GF2
If there's a new buzzword in government and organization meetings these days, it's "assurance." Insiders say that word is an anchor component of the new Growing Forward 2 just announced http://www.agr.gc.ca/cb/index_e.php?s1=n&s2=2013&page=n130131.
Already there are debates about "assurance" versus "verification." Producers and their industry are being encouraged by more than one meeting speaker these days to tell their story effectively and define sustainability on their own terms or have it defined for them by others such as retailers.
Information on new GF programs is available at Growing Forward 2 (www.agr.gc.ca/Growing Forward2).