Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability

NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 2, Edition 2

Farm animal care takes spotlight at Banff Pork Seminar

January 28, 2014

Social pressure, Codes, opportunities for innovation among the major topics driving debate and discussion

The Banff Pork Seminar is one of the leading knowledge transfer conferences of its kind for the pork sector and it's also an indicator of the hot issues shaping the future.

Little surprise then, with a social pressure rising and a new Code of Practice set to launch that the issue of farm animal care was front and centre in many of the key speaker presentations and conference discussions.

Here is a sampling of three highlights:

1. Social pressure rising

There's no doubt social pressure has been and will continue to be on the rise, particularly in the U.S., says Dallas Hockman, Vice President, Industry Relations, with the National Pork Producers Council. This trend has signaled a new era where industry needs to adjust and realize there is far more to manage today than the traditional challenges of producing a safe, high quality, affordable product.

Dallas Hockman

"There has been a major paradigm shift and no question the impact of social issues is coming to bear on us," says Hockman. "The typical equation that we once dealt with has changed. We find ourselves more and more challenged with social pressures and more of our time is now spent understanding and addressing this to protect our industry and the livelihood of our producers."

Animal welfare is by far the focal point, he says. It has become a major issue fueled by the animal rights movement including well-resourced, sophisticated campaigns delivered by organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States.

Click here to read the complete feature article.

Q&A: Verified Beef Production assessing potential new modules

January 28, 2014

What producers need to know about plans that include farm animal care

Canada's on-farm food safety program for beef, the Verified Beef Production (VBP) program, is looking to add modules for biosecurity, animal care, and environmental stewardship. In an easy-to-use manner that complements current farm level practices.

While in its early stages, it has the potential for using VBP as an anchor for a second level of programming. To learn more NewStream asked Terry Grajczyk, national manager for VBP for more details.

Why is this being done?

In some markets there are indications that customers are asking for more assurances of sustainable production practices, and this is a way to respond to anticipated needs. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association continues to look at ways producers can secure further recognition and reward for credible production practices. Adding new options will promote acceptable beef production practices and demonstrate Canada's beef industry commitment to responsible production. That will help define Canada's beef story with positive benefits geared to match or exceed competing countries.

Click here to read the complete feature article.

Super Bowl and farm animal care

January 28, 2014

Seahawks and Broncos won't be the only animals getting attention under the intense media and marketing glare around the upcoming National Football League Super Bowl in New Jersey.

Super Bowl commercials rival the game itself for attention and this year's collection includes a spot from Chipolte Mexican Grill that takes shots at 'industrial farming,' including on the issue of farm animal care, in a manner sure to rile many in animal agriculture.

Blatant marketing tactic

Many in the North American food industry, particularly on this side of the border, believe farm animal care should be a non-competitive issue best addressed through cooperative efforts involving the full supply chain. However, Chipolte, the fast growing U.S.-based restaurant chain, has been among the most direct and high profile of major food industry brands to veer from that stance and blatantly use the issue as a marketing tactic.

The Super Bowl spots, launching a series billed "Farmed and Dangerous" have been described as a satirical approach using animation and designed to strike emotional chords. The potential coverage is nothing to sniff at, with over 100 million American expected to be watching.

'Food with integrity' battle heating up

It's interesting that while one of the highest profile agriculture industry backed efforts on the sustainability front is the Center for Food Integrity, the Chipolte chain has adopted "Food with Integrity" as its slogan. No doubt the marketing battle is just getting started.

Read more about how Chipolte Mexican Grill is positioning itself on animal welfare and related issues. If you thought the A&W action was aggressive, it's clear there's a whole other level being reached south of the border.

LCC Spotlight: Fighting back against attacks

January 28, 2014

Activists are taking a multi-faceted approach and industry should too

Today more than ever, consumers need accurate, science-based facts to better understand animal agriculture and its importance to their overall quality of life.

It's a statement few in the farm animal care community in Canada would argue with. It's also a key principle driving the mission of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, the U.S. based non-profit organization described as a coalition of individual farmers, ranchers, producers, organizations, suppliers, packer-processors, scientists, veterinarians and retailers that has become a major player in the animal welfare debate.

Kay Johnson Smith

'Fire with fire' game plan

A leading spokesperson for the organization is Kay Johnson Smith, President and CEO, who is a featured speaker at the upcoming Livestock Care Conference, hosted by Alberta Farm Animal Care.

Johnson Smith will discuss the challenge presented by activists and how 'fighting fire with fire' is sometimes necessary in a talk titled "Activists are taking a multi-faceted approach and you should too."

Click here to view the animal care principles of the Animal Agriculture Alliance.

The 2014 Annual Livestock Care Conference is, held March 26th and 27th in Edmonton, Alberta. Get complete agenda and registration information here.


January 28, 2014

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

Piglet processing arm highlights spirit of inventive thinking

The piglet processing arm

Some of the best good news around farm animal care stems from the spirit of innovation that is alive and well at the ground level of industry.

Among the latest examples is the winner of the 2014 F.X. Aherne Prize for Innovative Pork Production awarded at the Banff Pork Seminar.

Helmut Janz, a barn manager for Maple Leaf in Zhoda, Man., received the award for his invention called the "piglet processing arm." It's a unique tool that improves handling for baby pigs at processing and in doing so also supports the health and wellbeing of farm workers.

The invention in action

"Innovation is the lifeblood of any industry and the F.X. Aherne Prize for Innovative Pork Production is an opportunity to recognize those individuals who have developed either original solutions to pork production challenges or creative uses of known technology," says Dr. Michael Dyck of the University of Alberta, chair of the F.X. Aherne prize committee. "This year's winner is an excellent example and very deserving."

The "piglet processing arm" gently and safely holds the animal and allows it to be pivoted and rotated during the handling process. This makes the processing of piglets a safer task by eliminating the potential for repetitive stress and strain injuries on the employees. The beauty of the design lies in its simplicity. It is constructed out of six simple, standardized, easy-to-source, low cost parts. Learn more here.

Power of choice

Dallas Hockman

Another concept that stood out at the Banff Pork Seminar that is likely to gain more traction in the months ahead is "choice" and how it needs to work both ways - not only for consumers but also for producer and their industry.

The past several years have seen a lot of activity among the major food brands who are responding to external pressures by becoming more active in animal welfare as part of their corporate responsibility initiatives, says Dallas Hockman of the National Pork Producers Council. This is leading to more brands making welfare-related commitments and demands that impact their suppliers.

"The pressure is impacting the entire chain and the stark reality is it's not going away," says Hockman." We need a comprehensive approach to counter it." Three keys the National Pork Producers Council and its stakeholders have embraced are standing for choice, transparency and integrity.

"Choice is a big one," says Hockman. "We support consumer choice. But we also want to protect choice for industry and producers."

The Council, which represents producers and the industry as a whole nationally, has moved strongly down this road in recent years, though high-profile campaigns such as the "We Care" social responsibility initiative.

"It's a platform to tell our story and we need more of this," says Hockman. "We don't just want to be in reaction and protection mode. We want to be proactive and clear on what we stand for. The days of 'don't ask, don't tell' are over. We need to engage throughout the supply chain all the way to the end consumer."

Learn more about We Care here.




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