Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability

NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 1, Edition 16

Three key shifts in the landscape

August 22, 2013

A new world of farm animal care is showing signals at the consumer level, in the newspapers and at the grass roots of livestock production

Here are a few examples of the broader trends emerging.

1. Rising consumer engagement. The body of knowledge from numerous surveys around the globe continues to grow confirming that consumers are becoming far more engaged in wanting to know about how their food is produced, including information on farm animal welfare practices. One of the latest examples comes from WSPA and partners on animal welfare-related food labeling in Europe. Learn more here.

2. New sophistication to the public debate. Hollywood has long been a player in the welfare issue, most notably (or notoriously) through spokespeople used by PETA. But today there are hopeful signals of a new level of dialogue with a decidedly more constructive bent from influential celebrities and other high profile people. Case in point comes from Canada's own Ryan Gosling, who recently penned a comment piece regarding the new Pig Code of practice in the Globe and Mail. He would like to see gestation stalls banned completely but had a balanced tone and praised the multi-stakeholder efforts on Code development that have included strong livestock industry participation. See the piece here: (May require log-in or subscription)

3. Industry taking charge on the front line. Amid all the new expectations and pressures, the progress led organically at a grass roots level by producers making simple, common sense management decisions continues to stand out as among the most practical, logical and sustainable. One small but very good example is the decrease in branding in the Canadian beef industry, as revealed by a recent National Beef Quality Audit study, supported by the Beef Research Council. Learn more here.

Research shows switching from stalls to pen gestation can work

August 22, 2013

System design needs to be matched to the needs of the individual farm or farm system, says Tom Parsons

Faced with increasing pressure from consumers and retailers more pork producers are considering a switch from stalls to pens.

Those producers have two main questions. Can they achieve the same production efficiency with pen gestation? And what are the best options to make sure they "have it right this time" in terms of acceptable housing systems?

No question that transition can leave pork producers in uncharted territory says Dr. Tom Parsons, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and industry leader studying the industry switch to pens.

"We have found a pen system that we know will work for some people," Parsons says. "I don't know that it's optimal, just that we've found a way to make it work. We need to be able to look at these things in a more systematic way to give producers better information about their choices."

Click here to read the complete feature article.


August 22, 2013

Quick takes on key activity and what's coming, from NewStream editors

Lessons from a global livestock leader

Dr. Allan Savory
Photo credit: Savory Institute

When Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency brought in the internationally known Dr. Allan Savory to Calgary in July of this year, as part of their leadership series, they knew they were hearing from a catalyst for change.

Savory has spent a lifetime promoting holistic management of grasslands around the world. Witty and pointed, he was not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom. "We have cage bred scientists, not free range" was a sample comment.

If you were not able to attend and would like to hear why livestock production is critical to the world's future, check out Savory's TED talk, How to fight desertification and reverse climate change.

The TED website is "Ideas Worth Spreading." Savory's talk is self-explanatory.

Codes activity: Pig wraps up as sheep takes centre stage

It has been a busy summer with the swath of new Codes of Practice under development. The public comment period for the new Pig Code wrapped up August 3 and sparked a broad range of debate and often passionate discussion from a variety of viewpoints. The feedback collected will now be reviewed by the Code Development Committee before the Code is finalized.

Hot on the heels of that progress is the public comment period for the new Sheep Code, which extends until Sept. 6. "The Code Development Committee has worked hard for the past two years developing the draft Code," says John Hemsted, sheep producer from Ontario and Chair of the Code Development Committee. "This public comment period will allow us to ensure we are on the right track in providing sheep owners with the information they need to meet the needs of their animals." The draft Code can be viewed and feedback can be submitted online at www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/sheep.




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