Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cities Feed Cities

"Farmers Feed Cities" is now a passé slogan, recently abandoned by Grain Farmers of Ontario in favor of "Good in every Grain"

Intense agriculture requires huge capitalized investments, specialization, and deep expertise, hence requiring farmers.  Intense farms can't be done without farmers.

Can we cut out the Middleman?  Can we make it possible for Cities to Feed Cities?

Let's do a simple calculation based on the following facts:
  • Bird finished weight is 2 kg. live weight.
  • Birds grow cycle is 8 weeks, 6.5 grow cycles per year is 52 week year.
  • Bird's eviscerated weight is 68.6% of its live weight.
  • Chickens raised for meat or eggs need coop space so they aren't crowded or overly stressed.  The minimum space is dependent on age of the chicken, breed, weight, and temperature-humidity.  CFO's Reg 183-2012, Section 3.17 on page 8 sets a maximum bird density of 2.88 kg/sq.ft.  Assuming bird's maximum weight is 2.0 kg, that max. limit is equivalent to 1.44 birds/sq.ft.  CFO's limit is for birds who never see grass, nor the sun, nor feel the wind on their wings.  If you are free range, with the bird inside their coop only during the night or foul weather, you may be able to stock at higher densities.  I suggest that 1.0 sq. ft. per bird is reasonable, which is 44% better than the #ChickenMafia's mega chicken factory stocking density.
  • Canadians eat 37.5 kg of chicken per person per year.
  • A 10' x 10' shed can be build anywhere in Ontario without a building permit.  If a small green area can surround the shed, all the better.
  • Many cities are now permitting backyard chicken coops.
If a 10' x 10' chicken coop is installed somewhere in a city, how many people can be fed by the chicken produced within that 100 sq. ft. coop?  We calculate as follows:

Max # Birds in Coop= 10'x10'/1 sq.ft./bird= 100 birds
Max. Birds per Year= 6.5 grow cycles/yr * 100= 650 birds/yr.
Max. Live weight of chickens per yr= 650 * 2= 1,300 kg/yr
Max. eviscerated weight of chicken produced per year= 1,300 * 0.68628= 892.16 kg/yr
# People Fed per year= 892.16/37.5=   23.79 persons/yr.

Therefore a 10'x10' chicken coop can feed 23.79 people per year for their annual chicken needs.

To me, this example seems to indicate that small spaces within cities can be used to feed a neighbourhood.

Are chickens the best choice for Cities Feed Cities?

The table at right shows the FCR (Feed Conversion Ratio) for various animals.  An FCR of 1.66 means that it takes 1.66 kg of feed to add 1.0 kg of weight to the animal.  As you can see, chickens have the lowest, most efficient FCR; even better than crickets ( the latest proposal for feeding 9 Billion people).

A simple example to show that we the people don't need farmers, nor intense agriculture.

Look out Big Ag.  Your end may be near if you continue to push your own agenda ahead of the needs of your customers.

Low Intensity, Sustainable Farming Expert Comes to Ontario

Joel Salatin, a 3rd generation low intensity farmer from Virginia USA is coming to Guelph ON on Saturday Oct. 4, 2014 to share his low intensity, integrated farming experiences for the benefit of farmers, consumer, and academics.

Joel Salatin, expert in sustainable,
low intensity farming
Joel and Polyface Farm has developed sustainable farming systems for beef, pork, chickens, and eggs.  I highly recommend taking advantage of this opportunity for Ontario to listen and learn from Joel's hands-on sustainable farming experiences and ideas for the future.

Both my wife and I have registered for this exciting day-long event at $65 per person.  I have admired what Joel has been doing in pastured poultry, and his alternative open air abattoir that performs 10 times better than the high speed, mechanized abattoir systems typically used by the #ChickenMafia.

Joel was one of the featured examples of excellent farming techniques presented in the documentary film Food Inc.

My thanks and congratulations to Practical Farmers of Ontario for bringing Joel to Ontario.

Spots are filling quickly, so I suggest you hurry to get a seat.  Here are the details to register:

Joel Salatin, Polyface Farms, Guelph ON, Sat. Oct. 4, 2014 on sustainable, low intensity farming

Friday, September 12, 2014

Intensive Agriculture

I was asked by John G Kent ( @kent_johng ) why intensive agriculture is so bad?  Isn't there an economy of scale?

Big Ag. entices farmers to join the intensive farming band wagon.  A really big tractor is $300,000 or more.  How can a farmer afford such a monster machine?  Add in a combine and a few big implements are your talking big money that depreciates quickly.  Once you start down this road, to keep up, you need to re-invest every year in the lastest "must have" gadget.  There is no end.

I have previously Blogged about the huge debt being carried by farmers, primarily by Farm Credit Canada ("FCC") but also all the major banks and Credit Unions too (see Frighening Farm Finances and FCC: The Farm Debt Trafficker and FCC: A Plot to Kill Supply Management? ).

The documentary Food Inc. tells the story of one chicken farmer who got onto Big Ag's debt treadmill and eventually lost her farm (see Blog posting Chicken Factory.

We now have the lowest interest rates in hundreds of years.  Europe has now implemented negative interest rates, then came back and made them even more negative in the last month.  What's the probability that interest rates will keep dropping more and more?  All sane persons are getting themselves ready for rising interest rates.  FCC specializes today in FLOC's (Farm Line Of Credit), so that farmers only have to pay the interest on their loans (ie. they can postpone repaying the capital "forever", until FCC suddenly changes their mind, and demands repayment of capital, starting next month).  When farmers are up to their eyeballs in debt, barely able to pay just the interest, what will happen when they suddenly have a problem, or FCC suddenly wants repayment of the capital?

Ooops!  There goes the farm, just like in the 1930's and again in the 1980's, thousands of bankrupt farms.

Debt is risky.  Very risky.

That isn't enough.  All that capital requires energy.  If you haven't noticed, energy is pretty expensive today.  As Peak Oil continues to affect the world, and Shale Gas & Oil is exposed as another Wall St. scam rather than the source of energy independence that it is currently sold as, energy will get more and more expensive and unaffordable.  What happens to that $300,000 monster tractor when you have trouble affording to fill it up with diesel fuel?

Chemical fertilizers are made from natural gas for the most part.  Shale gas and the 2007 recession helped drop natural gas prices to rock bottom.  Again, what's the chance that natural gas is going to get more expensive in the near future, especially as Shale Gas wells rapidly deplete over the first 5 years of their life, unlike traditional gas wells that produce for many decades?  As natural gas prices go up in the near future, so will the cost of chemical fertilizers.

Some fertilizers like phosphate and potash are mined.  Mining is very energy intensive as well.  Just like Peak Oil, there is a growing awareness of Peak Mining.  Those mined "essential" minerals for intense agriculture are going to get more and more expensive, so the crops produced via that intense farming method will get less and less affordable.

Is energy really that big of an effect on the price of food?  Look here:

The data is from the United Nations FAO (Food & Agriculture Organization).  It appears that the red curve (North Sea Brent Crude prices) can be used to predict the FAO Food Price Index.  Do you see the correlation?

Pollan says that the energy for intense farming that is needed to put food onto grocery store shelves is now 10 times greater than the energy that is in the food on the shelves.  For the first time in human history, our food supply system operates at a significant energy deficit.

That is the Intense Agriculture effect.

Intense Agriculture causes unaffordable food.

Intense Agriculture skims off huge profits for the trans-national Big Ag mega corporations.

Intense Agriculture is not sustainable.

Recently there was a snowstorm in Calgary.  One farmer who had 16" of snow dumped onto his fields was working night and day to save his crop before the snow hit.  He got 10% of his crops off the fields, while 90% is still suffering under the snow.  His neighbours were likely suffering the same fate, so they couldn't come to help him.  That's the danger when you are responsible for  4,000 acres.  As long as everything is predictable and goes according to plan, you can manage.  If something unexpected or outside your control happens (eg. weather or PEDv virus for pigs), you will have a total disaster.  The government will have to insure or bail out the intense farmers when disaster strikes, or risk losing the country's food supplies.  Intense agriculture is high risk.  When things go well, the intense ag. farmer makes a very handsome profit.  When things go bad, the citizens get stuck with the bill (ie. high moral hazard).

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

The alleged benefit of "economy of scale" is only so big, and only works to a certain size.  Unlike Big Ag.'s alleged economy of scale, continuous improvement ("CI") is more powerful, and repeatable over much longer time periods.  Humans have been at CI for 300,000 years.  Small Farming can, and does use CI.  Intense, Big Ag. can and somewhat does use CI, but it's hard work, so they would rather spread more chemical fertilizer, buy the newest pesticide or GMO invention, or borrow money and buy the neighbour's farm, or buy some more machinery; rather than perfecting the small details, and reducing risk.

Bees understand that a colony can only grow so big.  The personal relations between society's members, or within families get strained the bigger you grow, and the more complex your operation.  The number of interactions grow exponentially, getting astronomical as you get bigger and bigger.  Many things grow exponentially, rather than linearly as you get bigger.

That's why once the hive grows so big, it splits into two smaller hives that go their separate ways.  Big Ag and intense farmers haven't yet learned that lesson.  

We are all at risk until they do.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Food Fight

Al Mussell, Food Guru at the soon to be defunct George Morris Centre of University of Guelph has started another Food Fight ( #CBCFoodFight ) on CBC's show "The 180".  While Al may have started this Food Fight, just as Bluto did in the movie Animal House, we plan on finishing it.

Before I start my rant against Al's foolish support of greater and greater intensification for farming, I want to congratulate and pay homage to the multi-generations of farmers who worked the long nights and endless days on their farm by tried and true methods.  They made some significant improvements along the way after looking beyond the slick salesmanship of Big Ag and seeing it was the right thing to do.  They guarded their soils as a sacred trust, to maintain optimum fertility while protecting the land, water, and air of their farm and their neighbours.  They struggled with doing what was right, rather than what was most profitable.  These farm families didn't gobble up more farms and more acreage, past the point that could be effectively managed.  They quietly and carefully did their job; likely scorned by their more and more intensified neighbours.  First Nations people have tried to teach us that we are all stewards for the next 7 generations to come.  So too the multi-generations of farmers who refused the temptations of Big Ag and their intensification snake oil.  We owe them all a big hug and our heart-felt thanks.

Now, let's get back to Mr. Al Mussell and his controversial viewpoints.

Al proposes that the world can only be saved by even more intensive agriculture, both greater intensity and greater share of the total market.  Al thinks small farms and low intensity farms need to go the way of dinosaurs and Dodo birds.

No wonder the George Morris Centre is shutting down, likely due to the bad advice and slanted viewpoints that have been coming out of there; viewpoints that support their Billionaire Big Ag clients no matter what (see Blog posting George Morris Centre:   Facts or Rhetoric? ).

Al says that if we don't buy into intensive factory farms, we are forced to chew up more rain forest to convert it to arable land, and that's a bad thing.

That's it?  That's his justification for intensive agriculture?  Al claims that the alternative to intensive agriculture is even worse, so we have no choice but embrace factory farms and soul-less billionaire trans-national agricultural corporations.

As usual, fallacious arguments rely upon unannounced assumptions, smoke and mirrors, and slight of hand.  Al has honed all those skill to be close to perfection.  Fortunately, there are a few people who don't fall for this trickery, and can point out the logic bomb.

Al dismisses the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization ("FAO") 2011 report Save and Grow which said:
“The present paradigm of intensive crop production cannot meet the challenges of the new millennium.”

In the more recent UN report Smallholder, Food Security, and the Environment, the UN says that investing in small-scale farmers (not intense farming as Al would have us believe) can help lift over 1 billion people out of poverty.  The UN estimated that 2.5 billion people who manage 500 million smallholder farm households provide over 80 per cent of the food consumed in much of the developing world.

Agriculture, as it is done today, is responsible for a full third of the green house gasses produced by all forms of human activity.  Intense agriculture is responsible for the lion's share of those climate changing gasses.

Al wants to double and re-double on a system that is the #1 source of climate change.  Has Al not heard that continuing to do the same thing over and over again while expecting different results is the definition of insanity?

The organic humus content of virgin forests is generally 25% to 30%.  Under intensive agriculture (especially N. America, but similarly around the world), that humus level has dropped to just 3.5% or below.  That's desertification, 1930's Dust Bowl territory, where on most farms, commercial crops will no longer adequately grow and yield without the application of chemical fertilizers.  High humus soils are drought and flood resistant.

Those depleted soils were caused under the banner of intensive agriculture, mainly during the last 50 years.  Al wants more of the same, and even more intensified ag?

Give me a break!  Give the planet a break.  We need a better way, not more and more of the same.

As National Geographic says in its special eight-month Future of Food series:
"But in the long run, it's small-scale farmers in the developing world, using low-tech but sustainable agricultural techniques, who may be best poised to lead the way in adapting to a warmer world and ensuring the security of the global food supply."

"There are more than 500 million family farmers who produce at least 56 percent of the world's food."
Kelly Hodkins, doing her Masters at University of Guelph adds some excellent points and summaries at the challenges of feeding 9 Billion people, and seems to conflict with Al's knee jerk solution in favor of a few millionaire farmers acting as the henchmen of the billionaire ag industry conglomerates.

I've previously Blogged (see Buried Alive In Chicken Manure ) how intensive chicken farming in Delmarva Peninsula, USA has caused or contributed 94% of the nitrogen that pollutes Chesapeake Bay and many of the streams and estuaries in that region.

Al wants even more intensity?  Will Al be satisfied when 100% of the nitrogen pollution comes from CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) chicken factory farms?  In that case, Delmarva chicken factories need only push for that last 6.38% "improvement" to get from 94% of the nitrogen pollution to a full 100% market share on the nitrogen pollution and the resulting algal bloom and dead waterways.

A recent report by UNCTD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before it is Too Late, included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world (including a commentary from IATP (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy). The report includes in-depth sections on the needed shift toward more sustainable, resilient agriculture.  Resilient agriculture is the opposite to intensive, mega factory farms.

Intense chicken factories in Canada have produced less and less affordable chicken, hurting the poor, the middle class, and the majority of Canadian consumers (see Blog postings LICO Chicken = "Let them Eat Cake" and Unaffordable Chicken In Ontario and Affordable Chicken for the Average Ontario Consumer

Michael Pollan, a world expert in sustainable and industrialized food production, and author of The Omnivore's Dilemna and many other books, says:
"The question of whether you can feed the world sustainably needs to be flipped around."
"The real question is whether you can feed it industrially. What we’re learning about climate change is raising real questions about how long that agricultural model can survive."
"The power of industrial agriculture comes from this paradigm: you start with a very productive seed that under ideal circumstances can produce higher yields than those species ever could before. It’s really impressive. But for those seeds to do their thing and realize their full potential they need lots of water. They need lots of fertilizer. And they need to be defended against pests really vigilantly. Another way of saying that is: you need to protect the environment in which they grow, which farmers have been able to do. But that system depends on consistency. If all we can count on now is that the climate will be variable, that system becomes very brittle."
Pollen has also shown that food in grocery stores that was sourced from intensive agriculture required 10 times more energy to produce than what is in the food on the store shelves.  For example, an adult needs about 2,200 kcalories of energy every day to survive and be in good health.  Intensive agriculture takes 10 times that food energy, mainly oil and natural gas, to produce that food (ie. 22,000 kcalories of oil and gas consumed to make 2,200 kcalories of food).  For the first time in human history, our food production is at an energy deficit.  What does this mean, you query?  Consider a large salmon chasing a small minnow for supper.  What happens to that salmon if it expends 10 times more energy trying to catch that bait fish, than the total energy the salmon can gain if it catches the bait fish and eats it.  Every time the salmon does that, it moves rapidly towards starvation.  How in good conscience can Al recommend the defunct, non-sustainable, energy deficit system of intensive agriculture?  It boggles my mind.

If the intensive factory farmed food isn't riddled with growth hormones, chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, and Superbugs (see Choose:  Frankenstein Chicken, or Naturally Raised Chicken?), then it may be depleted of all or most of what goodness, vitamins, and nutrition it used to contain; all thanks to industrialized factory farming.

For an example of depleted food, let's talk about potatoes, the #1 vegetable in North America.  Potatoes used to be an excellent dietary source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, B6, potassium, copper, manganese, phosphorus, B3, fiber, and pantothenic acid.  Over the last 50 year, potatoes have lost 100% of their Vitamin A, lost 50% of their Vitamin C, and lost 30% to 60% loss of most of the other trace nutrients (see Globe & Mail  and UK's Guardian).

Big Ag has sold the farmer new varieties of potatoes that have bigger yields (ie. kg of potatoes per acre of land), so that is what high intensity farmers planted.  The vitamins and minerals drop as the carbohydrate content goes up; the Dilution Effect.  Excess dietary carbs cause or contribute to a host of diseases; including diabetes, obesity, Metabolic Disease, etc.

It isn't just potatoes that have been depleted.  Broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, and most other expensive fruits and vegetables have suffered similar fates.

Jo Robinson, author of Eating on the Wild Side, has shown that heirloom varieties of corn have up to 64.6 times more anthocyanins (ie. a type of phytonutrient that's good for us to eat) than the standard white corn of today.

More and more intense agriculture produces pseudo-food that is similar to undigestible and inert sand plus a spoon of starch and/or sugar; empty calories that fail to satisfy our need and search for nutritious food.  No wonder people overeat; their bodies keep seeking the nutrients that are never there in adequate quantities and/or quality.

Read Wheat Belly and Grain Brain for even cheerier news about toxic grains we are duped into buying and eating courtesy of Big Ag and intense agriculture.

Most farmers who practice intense agriculture use chemical fertilizers derived from oil, natural gas, or mines.  Manure, which adds organic matter and nutrients back to the soil, is generally regarded by Big Ag as old fashioned, too much work, and less efficient.  Of course, Big Ag has huge profits from selling all those un-natural inputs to the farmer, while there is no profit for Big Ag in manure.

While farmers and farming certainly played a major role in reaching the sad state of affairs for intense agriculture of today, not all of the blame sits at the feet of farmers.  Where has the Federal & Provincial government bureaucracy been for the last 50 years?  What about politicians, farm organizations, doctors, nurses, dieticians, nutritionists, scientists, University professors, ag. consultants like Al Mussell, agrologists, consumer advocacy groups, main stream media and their investigative reporters, and consumers?  There is more than enough blame to go around for everybody on how we got here. To get out of this mess in a reasonable period of time, all of these stakeholders (and everybody else) will have to better understand the problems, listen to each other, and work co-operatively to get a solution ASAP.

What more proof does Al need to convince him of the abject failure of intensified agriculture?

Al is obviously a very smart man with decades of education, skills, and experience in agriculture; far more than me.  How then, do we explain such a wide gulf between what Al says and the other points of view?  Upton Sinclair (1878-1968), author of "The Jungle" (1906) exposing the corrupt US meat packing industry said,
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"
Perhaps that is true in Al's case too.

I hope CBC The 180, Jim Brown, and his Producers gives adequate airtime for alternative viewpoints than the trash talk of Al Mussell.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

No Antibiotics Ever

The millionaire owners of chicken factories are learning new propaganda techniques to continue their steady march to the Billionaire's Club.  Propaganda is cheaper and easier than true change for the better.

There is growing awareness by the public of antibiotic resistance in the food chain and factory farms, and it is being rejected by more and more consumers.  That's why propaganda is the weapon of choice to calm the masses, distracting them into falling back to sleep.

Perdue is #3 in the USA

Perdue Foods Inc. is a privately held poultry company.  Perdue has 8% share in the US poultry market, 3rd biggest after Pilgrim's Pride and Tyson's Foods.

Perdue recently announced their perfection of a method for vaccinating all eggs to be hatched for meat birds without injecting antibiotics into the eggs before they hatch.  It's easier, faster, and cheaper to vaccinate eggs, rather than vaccinating live, squirming chicks who just hatched.

While it may be easier, is it morally right, ethical, and acceptable to inject eggs with whatever drugs, chemicals, and Frankenstein broth the chicken factory owners decides will maximize their profits?

How the Chicken Factory System Works Today

There is a growing use of vaccines in the chicken factories so as to cut the risk for chicken farmers.  Without vaccines, their questionable factory farming practices have significant risk of a major disease outbreak that will decimate the flocks, cutting profits.  A second problem is the variability in the growth rate of the chickens.  Chicken factories prefer that every chicken is like a clone of the other million birds; all of whom behave exactly the same, grow at the same rate, eat the same amount as every other bird; zero variability.  With zero variability, the mad scientists employed by the chicken factories can optimize the chicken factory so that it maximizes their employer's profits, earning a fat bonus for the mad scientists.

However, I say that life is all about variability and diversity.  The mad scientists at chicken factories disagree.

The mad scientists want a chicken factory to behave just like a robotized, computerized manufacturing plant that make widgits.

The chicken factory owners, the bosses of these mad scientists, seek maximum profits regardless of what it does to the chickens, or the meat that is produced by those chickens.

If necessary, the legions of lobbyists who work for the chicken factory owners will get the regulations changed again and again so that it is legal to do what has been found to be more profitable.

That's how the chicken system has worked for the last 50 years.

New Rules ?

Is Perdue out to change the rules?

As the #3 chicken producer, perhaps Perdue plan to become #1 by giving consumers what they truly want and need; wholesome, affordable chicken.

Alternatively, perhaps this is Perdue Propaganda, designed to make them look like the least obnoxious of all the chicken factories.  The "least dirty shirt" is not necessarily a clean shirt.

In April 2014, I Blogged about the CFC finally banning the injection of ceftiofur into Canadian eggs destined for chicken factory meat production.  Eleven years of hell for chicken consumers and the general public, from 2nd Quarter 2003 till the ban in May 2014 with deadly Superbug infections (and who knows what other consequences).

Perdue has now shown that if you spend the efforts to run a sanitary operation, the antibiotic injections are not needed.  Will Perdue's competitors voluntarily choose to follow in Perdue's footsteps, or will consumer's preference force them to grudgingly follow suit?

It didn't take long to find out.

"RWA" (Raised Without Antibiotics) is the latest chicken marketing siren song.  Everybody wants to use it because it allows the chicken factories to demand a higher price, and ensure quick sale of every bird that bears the RWA slogan.

It causes some to want to take the RWA label without earning it.  At least that's the claim of Perdue and Sanderson Farms (5% market share, #5 is the USA).  Perdue and Sanderson Farms are suing Tyson (#2 with 20% market share) for using RWA on their chickens, when Tyson is alleged to dose their chickens with ionofors, chemicals used to prevent or control necrotic enteritis and/or coccideosis; both of which run rampant in chicken factories, not so much of a problem in small flock poultry farms.

When the Titans start battling in court, the documents start being filed to justify their positions.  That's when the public finally learns what has really been going on behind the curtain.  Hopefully we will learn more and more just how crazy chicken factories have become.

Perhaps this growing awareness will allow consumers to say "A Pox on All their Houses", reject all chicken factory operations under their current definition, and return to the sanity of small flock poultry production from somebody in their local community; rather than a chicken factory a continent away.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pregnant Pause

It has been a week since CFO submitted their response to my final attempt to rescue our chicken appeal.

The Tribunal still has not responded to the arguments submitted by the opposing sides.  What could that pregnant pause mean?

The Tribunal could have had a response within the hour after the closing of the time for submitting responses.  After all, how long does it take to type "Case dismissed!".

However, that summary dismissal has not occurred.  Obviously, the Tribunal needs a little bit more time than an hour to consider what has been submitted.

The CFO's 5 page submission takes about an hour to read a few times.  Not very deep, nor complex.  It wouldn't take more than a day to agree or disagree with CFO's submission, and adopt what they submitted.  At a week delay and counting, it likely isn't CFO's response that is delaying the issuing of the Tribunal's answer.

The Tribunal allowed us a maximum of 10 pages to convince them that the Tribunal has sufficient jurisdiction and powers to hear this appeal. Our 10 pages of legal arguments are designed to try and keep the appeal alive.  Those 10 pages are complex, filled with legal references and footnotes.  It is comprehensive, and has maximum possible density so as to fit everything into those 10 pages, the maximum allowed .  It is a significant task just to read those 10 pages.

In addition, our Submission Brief of 1,085 pages contains the full text of all the Court transcripts referenced and relied upon in our 10 page submission, plus our signed Petitions in support of our appeal.  That would take at least a week just to read.

Could it be the Appellant's arguments that are slowing down the Tribunal's response?

That doesn't necessarily mean that we are going to win this skirmish.  I think there is a 90% chance that our appeal gets dismissed no matter how strong our legal arguments may be.  However, our legal arguments are sufficiently strong and persuasive that it takes a significant effort to cast them aside and make it plausible.  That is why it's taking the Tribunal so long.  The Tribunal wants to appear to be fair and legally correct.

Whatever the true reasons for the pregnant pause, it appears that the Tribunal is reading and considering our arguments.  That's an important first step.  There is a slim chance that the Tribunal will be sufficiently persuaded so as to overcome 50 years of #ChickenMafia dogma, precedence, well-embedded habits, and political favoritism.

That won't be easy for the Tribunal to achieve, but it may be possible. Let us hope and pray together the Tribunal's Panel Members have the personal strength to do what is right.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

CFO's Gorilla Dust

On the last available day, we finally have CFO’s reply to our appeal and the Tribunal’s threat to dismiss our appeal.

Our last ditch effort to save our appeal from CFO's fatal propaganda is described in Blog posting It Is Done

I was always told to first find the good in all things before criticizing, so that is where I will start.  CFO, to the best of my abilities to detect, has no spelling mistakes, and their sentence structure shows intelligence, education, and strong  rhetorical arguments.  It appears that CFO's lawyer did the best he could with the weak hand that he was given.  He was unable to present any evidence or case law in support of CFO's position; perhaps because there aren't any available.

On page 7 of the Tribunal's May 21, 2014 decision, the Tribunal said:
"Mr. Black's Amended Notice of Appeal is restricted to challenging CFO Regulation No. 2425-2013 and the 300 bird chicken exemption policy;"
Why then, is CFO repeatedly hammering away about Small Flockers' complaints against the Small Flock Regulation?  In our Revised Notice of Appeal, we complain that this Small Flock Regulation (the "Impugned Regulation") is:
  • Unconstitutional;
  • Ultra Vires the powers and authority delegated to CFO;
  • Violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
  • Excessive, arbitrary, unjustifiable, draconian, and an abuse of powers; far beyond what is necessary and justifiable to achieve the stated Objectives of the Chicken Supply Management System;
  • Not applicable to Northern Ontario, and other under-serviced or remote areas of Ontario.
If the Revised Notice of Appeal is to be limited to the impugned Small Flock Regulation, why does CFO complain that "...the small flock regulation continues to serve as the toe-hold for the advancement of Mr. Black's broader concerns and agenda."

In my Revised Notice of Appeal, I gave evidence on why my appeal of the Small Flock Regulation should be allowed.  CFO takes exception to me being allowed to present evidence against the Small Flock Regulation.

Apparently CFO feels I am only allowed to appeal if I don't present any evidence to support my case.  That would certainly be an interesting appeal process.

In the Tribunal's July 31st, 2014 decision, the Tribunal  invited me to convince them that they have the powers and jurisdiction for the relief I sought in my Revised Notice of Appeal:

"In addition, the Tribunal gives Mr. Black the opportunity to persuade it that it has the jurisdiction to grant the relief set out in section 11 (p. 96-97) of the RNOA."

In my arguments to support our appeal and prevent the dismissal without a hearing, I gave it my best shot to convince the Tribunal in 10 pages or less.  I also said that if I was not fully successful in my arguments to convince the Tribunal, I offered to withdraw all contentious points, defaulting to exactly what the Tribunal has already agreed to (ie. the Small Flock regulation, and the 300 bird limit).

Still, CFO is not satisfied.  CFO spends 5 pages complaining that I improperly persist in my claims, even though the Tribunal gave me the opportunity to make final convincing arguments on those points.

I found numerous previous cases decided by Ontario Superior Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court of Canada that seemed exactly on point in support of my Notice of Appeal.  I understand that the typical arguments against previous case law are:
  • Try showing that I've misinterpreted what my case law is saying, or how it should be applied;
  • Try finding other case law that supersedes or overrules my case law;
CFO does none of this.  CFO presents mere rhetoric against the claims made, but makes no attempt to diminish the legal precedents I presented.  Perhaps that's because the Supreme Court of Canada cases are the law of the land, and cannot be attacked in any reasonable way.

Perhaps CFO has no case, and they know it.  Perhaps CFO is like a scared gorilla, who throws dust in the air as a smoke screen so as to distract attention, blind the opponent, or cover their retreat without being seen.  The best that CFO can come up with is gorilla dust.

We will soon see how far the Tribunal is willing to stretch out their neck in favor of CFO's position.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Food Quality & Nutrition: Factory Chicken Vs. Alternatives

By Jennifer Halton

Organic Chicken Offers a More Beneficial Omega-3 to Omega-6 Ratio
Although we were once advised to focus on foods low in saturated fat, and more recently those low in trans fats, the benefits of choosing foods with a favourable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is increasingly clear. Therefore not only is it important to increase our intake of omega-3 fatty acids, but at the same time we need to control our intake of omega-6. Traditionally our diet had close to an equal ratio of these polyunsaturated fats, but according to an article published in Canadian Family Physician (2006) a typical North American diet now has a ratio close to 16:1 in favour of omega-6 fatty acids. This increased ratio may explain why cardiovascular disease and other chronic health problems are now much more prevalent. One way to lower this ratio is to carefully select the meats we eat, as the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats can vary widely.

Health benefits of adjusting the ratio
As mentioned in the article in Canadian Family Physician, omega-3 fatty acids are cardio-protective in several ways, helping to reduce inflammation, arterial narrowing and blood clot formation, while controlling the rhythm of our heartbeat. Meanwhile, Healthy Canada explains that omega-6 fatty acids are associated with inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, as well as various other chronic health problems. Omega-3 fatty acids exert their benefits beyond the health of our blood vessels though. For instance, KwikMed advises that omega-3 fatty acids are needed for healthy brain development both in the uterus and during a child’s early years of life. These essential fatty acids also seem to protect our mental health, as Ascenta Health informs us that low intakes of omega-3 are associated with an increased risk of depression. Besides protecting our cardiovascular and brain health, Auum Omega 3 describes how the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3s may also reduce our risk of diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis, which are less common among populations with a more favourable intake of omega-3.

Modifying our dietary intake
Oily fish are one of the best dietary sources of omega-3 available, with wild salmon providing more than 10 times as much omega-3 as omega-6 fats. However, choosing meats with a healthier ratio of these two fatty acids is another helpful way to regulate our intake of these fats. As shown in the table below, the ratio of commonly consumed meats varies between close to 2:1 and 27:1. Caribou offers the most favourable ratio of omega-3 and 6 thanks to the fact that the meat is naturally organic, grazing on grasses and other plants, which themselves are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. This is also why grass-fed beef also offers a more beneficial ratio of fats when compared to other domestic meats and particularly to grain fed beef. Of the other domesticated meats, chicken offers the best ratio of polyunsaturated fats, coming ahead of turkey and even beating wild duck. Offering the least favourable ratio by far is pork, so even if you choose lean pork, which is low in saturated fat, it has far more omega-6 by ratio than any of the other meats considered.

Omega 6 (mg)
Omega 3 (mg)
Omega 6: omega 3
Grass-fed beef
Duck (wild)
Duck (domestic)
Figures based on 100g of raw meat, using values provided by Nutrition Data

Omega-3 and omega-6 in organic chicken
While a nutrient analysis report by the Chicken Farmers of Canada (2014) showed there was no significant difference between the amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 contained in organic and non-organic chicken, this is contrary to previous findings. For example, a research paper shared on (2012) highlighted that a systematic review by scientists at Stanford University found that organic chicken contains significantly more omega-3 than its grain fed counterparts. As with grass-fed beef, this is due to the higher omega-3 content of plants growing in the pasture, especially leguminous varieties such as vetch and clover. Indeed an article published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (2005) showed that the fatty acid content of poultry is strongly influenced by the omega-3 and omega-6 content of their diet.

Based on this, nutritional data for commercially reared birds should show a less favourable omega-3 to 6 ratio. However, companies such as Tyson and MapleLodge do not provide complete nutritional information for their chicken, merely showing that it is low in saturated and trans fats, without giving a breakdown of their polyunsaturated fat content. For consumers still focused on saturated and trans fats, this is reassurance enough, but with increasing awareness of the benefits of meat with an optimal ratio of omega-3 and omega-6, this is not sufficient to convince those of us who know that organic poultry is a healthier choice.