Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability

NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 2, Edition 16

A farm-built code for animal care

December 11, 2014

A farm-built code for animal care

Blaine McLeod knows about the rising role of farm animal care these days. The veteran Caronport, Sask. dairyman has been a long-time player in industry affairs including building policy and programs to meet animal welfare issues.

You'll have no argument on the importance of animal welfare from his sons and now business partners, Michael and Mark. They have been exposed to, and buy into, the latest thinking on farm animal care as part of their education.

They all understand that animal care codes and assessment models are needed on an industry-wide basis. But they also agree that at the end of the day, what happens in farm animal care starts on the farm. And that's an individual producer responsibility.

It's why the McLeods have developed specific thoughts on what is needed to meet both their production needs and the rising expectations of a more food-focused world.

Here are five cornerstone examples that demonstrate this thinking in action.

Click here to read the complete feature article.

WAP flexes its muscle

December 11, 2014

WAP flexes its muscle

The World Protection of Animals (WAP) continues to flex its muscle in the world of farm animal care.

Cheered by some, feared by others, WAP describes itself as a global non-governmental organization based in London, England with 14 worldwide offices, including Canada. It works in four main areas: farm animal care, animals in disasters, animals in communities and wildlife.

A layman's description might be they see themselves as a gentler form of social activism than some of their aggressive activist cousins. While some in agriculture compliment WAP for some solid work on animal care standards, others are suspicious of the ultimate motives of any organization with roots in activism.

Action by the organization in recent weeks on the WAP will feed both sides of that debate.

Click here to read the full story.

MediaWatch: Perdue Chicken in the crosshairs

December 11, 2014

New York Times and others take aim as weak industry standards exposed

It's a cautionary tale with one simple message for agriculture and food: Be careful the double edged sword of boasting about welfare friendly products. Companies who make the claim can expect to draw major scrutiny and if they can't withstand it, can expect a PR nightmare ready to unfold.

The latest example making the media rounds as whipping target is Perdue Chicken as it faces a major public dressing down amid welfare failures exposed after its shift to trumpet "Humanely-raised Chicken" on product packaging.

In this case the storm was kick-started from within the industry by a farmer who spoke with the New York Times and claimed the humane practices shown in a Perdue Chicken promo video around the Humanely-raised launch "could not be further from the truth."

After that big domino fell, resulting in a story, "Abusing the chickens we eat" other news organizations smelling blood have further opened the wounds on the rapidly downgrading food brand.

'Misleading food claim' charge

CBS News characterized the company move as a "misleading food claim." After exposing flaws in the industry checks and balances system underlying the claim, the news organization offered this advice:

"The important lesson for managers here is that when you're trying to play into a consumer trend, it's best to either do it all the way or not at all. Half measures and weak, industry-generated standards aren't going to fly and may come back to bite you."

The National Chicken Council (NCC) has drawn a lot of fire in the fallout, and recently issued a statement in response that you can read here: "NCC says NY Times article not representative of health and welfare of broilers."

Loblaws makes a play on beef sustainability

December 11, 2014

Loblaws makes a play on beef sustainability

Retailer Loblaws reportedly announced to its Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef cohorts at the Roundtable's June 2014 meeting in British Columbia that it will be developing a national sustainability program for beef. The company already has a similar program for seafood.

While there has been no formal announcement of any program from Loblaws, the company's senior director of sustainability, Melanie Aggopian, did comment on its plans in an interview with Alberta Farmer Express reporter Alexis Kienlen "Exclusive: Loblaws jumps on board the sustainable beef initiative"

It's important news for the national beef industry, emphasized by the fact the article included five pictures of beef industry leaders with comments. The scale that Loblaws brings combined with the earlier announcement of McDonald's sustainability initiative, could be a major factor in future success.

The article says Loblaws is studying the industry and may take a somewhat different approach than McDonald's. With all players the Roundtable is wrestling with the indicators that will be used to define beef sustainability. It will move to form a functioning organization within the coming year.

Temple and the 'missing link'

December 11, 2014

Three key insights from her latest publication

The iconic status of Dr. Temple Grandin is such that when she puts out new ideas and observations, the world listens, particularly in the realm of farm animal care. Grandin recently published a new analysis generating buzz both in and outside of ag and food circles, titled: "Animal welfare and society concerns: Finding the missing link," in the November 2014 edition of MeatScience. Here are three key insights from the paper.

1. Ag needs to engage next generation. Young adults in developed countries are distanced from agriculture and the meat industry needs to do a better job of communicating with them, says Grandin. "The meat industry must start communicating more effectively with these af?uent young adults. Their in?uence will extend beyond the developed world because they will write future legislation and policies that will have an effect on the entire world." Filling this missing communications link needs to be a top industry priority, she says.

2. 'Retailer factor' looms large. Retailers have been major drivers of improving animal welfare both on the farm and in the slaughter plant, observes Grandin. "When activists and consumers put pressure on retailers they react by strengthening their standards." In one example from her own experience, Grandin observed that the attitudes of corporate level managers of a restaurant company changed after they saw serious welfare issues in person. "After visits to farms and slaughter plants, the welfare issue switched from being an abstract concept to something real that demanded management attention and action."

3. Checklist of next welfare improvement priorities. Proper stunning practices today at the meat plant have raised the bar on welfare, says Grandin. However, arguably the most controversial area remaining from a welfare standpoint is religious slaughter where preslaughter stunning is not used. Other concerns, such as poor stunning or high levels of bruising, can be easily corrected by management who is committed to maintaining high standards. Another concern is biological system overload, occurring when animals are bred for more productivity. "Researchers and industry need to determine optimum production levels instead of maximums," says Grandin.


December 11, 2014

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

Animal care leaders featured at Banff Pork Seminar 2015

Most pork producers understand the need at the industry level for the new Code of Practice for farm animal care. But many also have specific questions on what that means at the production level.

Banff Pork Seminar Jan. 20 to 22, 2015 in Banff, Alta. looks at how producers can both meet the Code and at the same time keep costs under control when making changes, whether their system is big or small.

Veterinarian Dr. Egan Brockhoff presents on what the Code means for euthanasia and castration. Kase van Ittersum of New West Standard Equipment Inc. talks pen gestation conversions from his North American and international perspective. And Christian Blais of Isoporc and Gene-Alliance offers an additional perspective discussing the state of pen conversions in the province of Quebec.

More information and registration information on BPS 2015 is available at www.banffpork.ca. Read the Inside BPS Special Report featuring news prior to, during and following the 2015 Seminar at www.meristem.com.

AFAC moves offices

If you're trying to reach Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) in Calgary, Alta. you need to look farther south.

AFAC has moved its offices to downtown High River. New address is:

High River PO Box 5201
#5 112 Centre Street SE
High River, AB T1V 1M4

New phone number is (403) 652-5111.

This just in from South Africa

If you need reminders of the global nature and media competitiveness of the animal care world these days, look no further than our story "Sow crates phase-out takes hold world-wide" in the October 23 edition of NewStream Farm Animal Care. That short article brought a response from Christine Kuch of the National Council of SPCAs in South Africa who writes to tell us her organization did not receive proper acknowledgement in that article.

"Please give balance and credit where this is deserved and due. The NSPCA's Farm Animal Protection Unit played a pivotal role and this needs acknowledgement and recognition. It is unfair to state or even to ask the rhetorical question whether this was brought about by being "prodded by animal rights groups."

Alberta's New York Colony wins sustainability award

An Alberta poultry producer featured in our March 20 edition, "One producer's journey to next generation poultry housing", has won the first Canadian Poultry Sustainability Award.

The Colony received the award for table eggs and overall poultry industry honors and was praised for its progressive thinking and commitment to animal welfare and environmentally responsible farming practices.




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