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Sustainability, supply management go hand-in-hand [Cheryl Davie]

Business people sometimes wince when the word “sustainability” is mentioned because they relate it to “going green.” However, definitions of “sustainability” rarely include the word “green.” Instead, the verb ‘to sustain’ usually refers to a process or action that continues over a period of time – one that keeps going. The minimizing or elimination of resource use and waste are only two elements of sustainability. Being strong in financial, industrial, social and behavioural areas of business are also essential to achieve true sustainability.

When Canadian chicken farmers started exploring the true meaning of sustainability, they found it was at the core of almost everything they did. They also found that the risk management method of supply management is essential to maintaining sustainability in the poultry sector. Chicken Farmers of Canada identifies their four key values of sustainability as:    

1. Protecting bird health and welfare.

2. Producing safe chicken for Canadians.

3. Preserving the health of the land and of farms.

4. Providing value to Canada, and affordable food to Canadians through supply management.

All chicken farmers in Canada participate in a national, mandatory Animal Care Program that is enforced and includes third party audits. They’re also involved in a comprehensive Antimicrobial Use Strategy that includes surveillance, education, research and reduction.  

Safe food

In addition to the animal care program, Canadian chicken farmers have developed a mandatory On-Farm Food Safety Assurance Program which has received full recognition from the federal, provincial and territorial governments. By following this program, farmers ensure that chicken produced in Canada is safe for Canadians. They also have an effective and responsive traceability system that includes communication and operational plans for dealing with potential disease outbreaks.

Healthy land

No one depends more on the land, soil and water than farmers. Farmcrest Foods, a farm-to-plate operation in Salmon Arm, grows about 85% of its own feed, minimizing the carbon footprint of feed transportation. Owners Richard Bell and Alan Bird take their responsibility to protect nearby Shuswap Lake from their farming activities seriously. Farmcrest’s nutrient management protocols include storing manure on a concrete pad to prevent run off and testing soil regularly. Farmcrest has an Environmental Farm Plan and regularly gets expert advice from a certified crop advisor. Through careful nutrient management, Farmcrest has improved soil health, reduced odour, and decreased its use of synthetic fertilizers. Farmcrest’s achievements in minimizing waste and extending the life of resources were recognized at a national level last year with the 2016 Canadian Poultry Sustainability Award.

Affordable food

Canadian Chicken Farmers use supply management to match their production to national demand. Chicken is the least expensive and most popular meat protein in Canada. From 2013 to 2016, the average retail price of chicken rose just 7.1%, while pork rose 19.2% and beef increased 33.7%. By ensuring farmers receive a fair return for their work, supply management eliminates the need for subsidies.

Sustainability is more than reducing or eliminating waste and extending the life cycle of resources. For businesses, sustainability is about reducing all present and future costs to enable profitability, competitiveness and longevity. Supply management supports the sustainability values of the Canadian chicken industry through the mandatory programs in animal care and food safety that are regulated by provincial marketing boards. Canadian chicken farmers are proud to provide a sustainable chicken industry to Canadians through supply management.

Cheryl Davie, P.Ag, is manager of strategic initiatives and analysis at the British Columbia Chicken Marketing Board and former chair of the Net Impact chapter at the University of Alberta.  


CLBC February 2017

Vol.103 Issue 5
MARCH  2017

CLBC March 2017