NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 3, Edition 6
The new world of 'sustainable beef'
July 16, 2015
By: Brad Brinkworth
Straight talk on what it means, where welfare fits and what the future holds
Who's driving this bus?
Amid 'grocery wars,' Jamie Oliver, 'hormone free' Walmart and a storm of related debate, this is the core question many producers and others in animal agriculture have about the new swath of expectations and 'sustainability' programs taking hold throughout the industry and the marketplace.
One person with a unique, up close perspective on what's happening at what it means, at both the ranch level and the board room level, is Cherie Copithorne-Barnes, a fourth generation rancher and CEO of CL Ranches Ltd., which grazes around 28,000 acres near Jumping Pound, Alberta, just west of Calgary.
Copithorne-Barnes grapples daily with the practical realities of today's rising pressures on animal agriculture. As head of a prominent operation, she has also dealt directly with many of the movers and shakers behind initiatives at Sobeys, A&W, McDonald's and others.
She also has a front-row seat to developments both nationally and internationally, through her role as chair of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB).
Copithorne-Barnes was a featured speaker at the 5th Annual UCVM Beef Cattle Conference in Calgary and offered a number of important observations. Here is a sampling of some of the key ones that grabbed the attention of the several hundred producers and other industry representatives in attendance.
Inside the grocery game
July 16, 2015
Darrell Jones deals fresh insights for the livestock and meat sector
Overwaitea Food Group is on a mission to win the west.
The innovative supermarket operator based in Langley, B.C. that boasts Save-On-Foods among a portfolio of five banners is steadily expanding throughout Western Canada. It has 146 stores (including over 100 in B.C. and 32 in Alberta), with 30 to 40 more on the books in the next few years.
Overwaitea Food Group President, Darrell Jones, shared insights on the company's approach and the various changes and challenges in the Canadian retail sector, at the 2015 Future Fare event hosted by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA). Here are a few highlights from the session.
Five key insights
1. Local, local, local. We believe that being local is the key to success for us in this business, together with our business partners and strategic alliances. Focusing on local means we want to have local products. If there are local pork, chicken, beef producers near our stores, we want their product in our stores, even if they're only big enough to supply one store or a few stores rather than the whole chain.
Stampede through different lenses
July 16, 2015
Though a lightning rod for activists, Calgary Stampede has shown leadership and progress in animal care
One of the more interesting public relations case studies in Western Canada in recent years is the Calgary Stampede and how it has managed the ever-rising scrutiny and pressure around animal welfare.
To its credit, one thing the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth has not done is sit on the sidelines. It has taken action, including bringing in leading experts such as world renowned Dr. Temple Grandin and Alberta-based Dr. Ed Pajor of the University of Calgary, and is rightly considered by many knowledgeable people on all sides of the debate as leader in driving innovation and progress for animal care at western events.
Today the Calgary Stampede has an independent Animal Care Advisory Panel that guides decisions for animal policies and procedures, harnessing expertise in livestock care, health and handling. It has also adopted a ground-breaking Fitness to Compete program, considered one of the most comprehensive animal care programs in North America. During the 10-day Stampede a full-time team of veterinarians is on hand and each animal is checked by a veterinarian daily.
July 16, 2015
Quick takes on key activity and what's coming, from NewStream editors
The march of 'cage free': General Mills in its own words
Add one more food industry giant to the list of those pledging a shift to 'cage-free' eggs.
General Mills is the latest to hop on board - issuing a statement announcing that it is working toward exclusively cage-free eggs in all of its products.
The move is what many would call predictable and currently lacks teeth. The company says that because of egg supply challenges spanning from the recent outbreak of avian influenza it can't set a firm target and instead will commit to a 'reasonable timeline.'
By now almost more interesting than these announcements themselves is the way various companies choose to position the rationale for change. General Mills went a step further than most by issuing not only the statement, but a Q and A with Steve Peterson, its director of sustainable sourcing. Here are a few highlights that reflect how the major food corporations are incorporating animal welfare into their corporate identities, and also reveal key welfare-related issues up next on the agenda.
Q: What is new about the refreshed policy statement released today?
Peterson: The policy statement released today is grounded in our long-sought support for the humane treatment of animals in agriculture, but there are a few new or expanded commitments we're announcing in the refreshed policy statement.
For example, as a company we have long recognized the global standard of "five freedoms" for dairy cows, including freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition; discomfort; pain, injury and disease; fear and distress; and engage in normal patterns of animal behavior. Moving forward, we are committing to achieve these "five freedoms" for all animals across our supply chain.
Another expanded commitment we're making is to work toward 100 percent cage free eggs for our U.S. operations. We currently source free range eggs for all of our Häagen-Dazs ice cream in Europe.
And finally, we're expanding our work to understand and address other animal welfare issues like pain relief during castration and tail docking in pork production, and complications during the fast growth of broiler chickens and turkeys.
How will General Mills tackle these commitments across its supply chain?
As we've done for many years, we will continue to work with our suppliers to understand more about these issues and how we can help drive change through the way we do business.
Why make this commitment today if it will be difficult to accomplish?
We chose to make this commitment today - in the midst of the current environment - because we believe it is important to communicate openly about both short-term and long-term goals. A public statement drives greater accountability and collaboration internally and across our supply chain.
People care about where their food comes from and the animals that produce it, and we do too.
General Mills supports the humane treatment of farm animals and this statement allows us to clearly articulate that.