Friday, June 27, 2014

Cracks in #ChickenMafia's Wall

There are cracks in the wall surrounding the #ChickenMafia.  Big cracks.  Fortunately the inner circle of the #ChickenMafia don't realize they exist.

I have delayed writing this post in case I was followed.  I didn't want the #ChickenMafia spies and Intelligence Officers to know who I was speaking to about the current status inside the #ChickenMafia castle.

Sometime between 72 hrs ago and 6 weeks ago, I had an opportunity to speak to three different members of Chicken Farmers of Ontario; chicken quota holders all.

I boldly and randomly chose them for a visit, drove up to their house or barn (as the case may be), gave them my Small Flocker's business card, introduced myself, and asked if they knew who I was.  They said "Yes", "Oh yes!", and "I sure do".

I told them I came to listen, and asked what they would like to tell me.

There was a long uncomfortable silence.

I waited patiently, but it was really getting difficult to hear the long silence.

In some cases, they eventually started talking.  In other cases, I finally broke the silence.  I explained my concerns and purpose for doing what I have been doing.

All three of these quota-based chicken farmers said they had no problem with the small flockers being able to grow 2,000 birds per year per farm.

Some expressed a fear of the level of greed that has grown amongst their fellow quota chicken farmers.  "They never seem to be satisfied, they gotta keep having more and more, just like ******** down the road.", pointing along the highway.  Later, I drove down the road in the direction he had indicated.  Sure enough, huge poultry barns, one after another.  All of it looked very neat, and expensive.  This was obviously one of the Gorillas in the Chicken Coop of which I had previously blogged.

I shared the info I had learned about FCC and their huge loans to farmers of all description, and the risk when interest rates go up and business grows hard, just like in the early 1980's when FCC's predecessor went bankrupt from thousands of bad farm debts.

I want to publicly thank my three chicken farmers who acted as gracious hosts to my unannounced visit.  I told them that our visit and conversation, and their identities would remain confidential.

Not all members of CFO are #ChickenMafia.  There are some good, normal people who are forced to follow the fanatic core who run things day-to-day.

Sometime in the future, that silent few will become the silent majority.  Next, the silent majority will become the vocal majority.  Then there will be change.  CFO will eventually realize that the greatest danger does not arise from outside the #ChickenMafia's castle walls.  The risk and the rot is occurring inside the CFO castle walls.  The #ChickenMafia will implode from within, or it will be dismantled from the outside.  It's hard to predict which one will get them first.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Backyard Chicken: Win in Whitehorse

Keeping up to 6 female chickens in an urban backyards of Whitehorse, Yukon is now legal.

CBC News and others report that Kristina Calhoun has spent the last 3 years on a long, painful saga:
CKRW Radio did an interview of Kristina as well.

Kristina also happens to be the leader of the Green Party in Yukon.  In the Green Party's policies, they clearly support sustainable, affordable, nutritious food for Canadians.

It is interesting that when City Council was debating the current and proposed By-law, some felt that the permission of neighbours should be obtained before someone is allowed to have chickens within city suburbs.  Kristina rightfully responded:
"That's unrealistic and unfair.  I just think, you know, nobody had to come to me and ask if they could have a dog, nobody had to come to me and ask if they could have a cat, tune up their ATV in their yard and have exhaust and noise - nobody comes and knocks on my door and asks 'Oh, is it okay if I start up my leaf blower now?' It just seems a little bit much."
In the Yukon-News coverage of this victory, Kristina reminds people what happens when food trucks can't make it up the Yukon Highway due to weather or other issues.  Food security for Kristina and her family is important.  She said,
 "I think its really important that municipal, federal, and territorial governments remove as many boundaries as they can to allow people to be as self-sufficient as they can, especially in an isolated community like this.”

Kristina eventually wants to be able to raise meat birds during the summer, and layers year-round.  That will require another By-law change.

Kristina waxes on about the mini local food economy that has flowered and flourished in the neighbourhood.  One neighbour bakes bread, which are exchanged for eggs.  Backyard vegetables could also come into the mix soon enough from another neighbour's backyard greenhouse.

The Yukon has a portable abattoir for processing chickens in all the remote communities.  Kristina helped process 220 chickens in a Saturday afternoon; now food in citizen's freezers, ready for winter.

Ontario, as a "Have-Not" province, doesn't have portable abattoirs to service its Small Flockers in remote and Northern communities.  Hopefully we can soon be successful enough as a Province so we can afford portable abattoirs too.

In a previous post (see Health Consequences of Food Monopolies ), I Blogged about the 28% food insecurity in Nunavut, a neighbouring territory to Yukon.  In Nunavut, 75% of pre-school children don't get to eat on any particular day due to food insecurity.

Backyard chicken could help make those sad statistics a thing of the past.

A tip of the hat to Kristina and all others like her who struggle on for years, fighting for their rights, and the greater good of the people.  It isn't an easy battle, but it's worthwhile.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hatchery Infects 126 Small Flockers

Unsafe Practice:  Infant kissing chick, risk of salmonella poisoning or other disease causing severe illness or death
Unsafe Practice:  Image of infant kissing chick
at encouragement of adult.  This is a really bad
idea that could make the child seriously ill, leave
them chronically ill, or kill the child.
A mail-order hatchery that supplies chicks and ducklings has been identified by CDC as the source of the infection.  CDC states that this hatchery has been the source of previous outbreaks in the past, and has done it again, this time with salmonella (Strains Infantis and/or Newport).

US Government's Centres for Disease Control and Prevention report that a total of 126 people have been infected, 35% of those have been hospitalized, across 26 States, starting in Feb. 2014, and continuing till May 27th.  More cases may still be coming, as it takes 2 to 4 weeks for new cases to be reported.

Mt. Healthy Hatcheries, the hatchery fingered by CDC as the source of the outbreak, has been in business for 80 years.  They produce up to 200,000 chicks per week.  When the lawyers get done with them for this last outbreak, they might not be in business for much longer.

Mt. Healthy has published an explanation on their website, stating that they have suspended purchasing poultry chicks from one of its sub-contractor suppliers. Mt. Healthy claims they meet USDA Best Practices for controlling or preventing salmonella in hatcheries.  We might not know the true culprit for 10 years or more, possibly never.

It would be impossible for anybody, Small Flocker or otherwise, to determine if this was a "reputable dealer" for chicks, as suggested by CDC.  Therefore, Small Flockers should presume all chicks purchased are contaminated until proven otherwise.

Nobody, especially not children, should be allowed to nuzzle or kiss farm animals, chicken, or other poultry.  For safe handling of chicken and eggs, see here and here.

  1. To protect your farm animals, you and any visitors (if you allow any) should wash your hands prior to going to see the animals, and wash again between different pens/barns of the same species, and/or between different species.
  2. You should re-wash immediately after leaving the livestock area.
  3. Nobody should be allowed on a farm tour or visit unless they have been warned about biosecurity in general, and these recommendations in specific, and they can control themselves so as not to touch any surfaces unless told it's OK to do so, and can avoid touching their face with their hands until after they have left the farm and re-washed their hands.
  4. Small Flockers should only buy chicks from hatcheries that can prove they meet the USDA Best Management Practices Handbook A Guide to the Mitigation of Salmonella Contamination at Poultry Hatcheries, March 2014 version.
  5. If you sell eggs or meat to others, your customers should be clearly and plainly warned of the risks, and precautions they should take to avoid becoming infected.
Perhaps Small Flockers can demonstrate how biosecurity excellence is achieved, something that the big factory farmers do not yet understand, and are far from achieving.

Affordable Chicken for Canada Day

Sobey's Foodland (and perhaps other grocery stores owned by this grocery store giant), brought affordable chicken at $1.88 per pound (ie. $ 4.14/kg) to Canadians last week for a 3 day sale; 57.14% less than regular pricing.  I wonder why?

Ontario Canada ad for affordable chicken, offered by Sobey's Foodland
stores in June 2014.  This chicken sale price is just 57.14% of the regular
Ontario retail pricing.  The $1.88/lb sale pricing in Canada is equivalent
to the current, every-day price of US chicken.
Was Sobeys feeling patriotic, in preparation for Canada Day celebrations?  Were they feeling guilty for their prior aiding and abetting of Canada's Chicken Mafia plans to rule the chicken world?  Was Sobeys being cunning at exploiting a known, heart-felt grievance of Canadians, so as to gain market share from its competitors by actually siding (or seeming to side) with consumers?

I have been writing in this Blog of late about the unaffordable chicken prices in Ontario (see LICO-Chicken = "Let them eat Cake"and Unaffordable Chicken in Ontario and Squeezing The Pimple).  This affordable chicken sale is quite a contrast to that historically bleak pricing of chicken.

I have written an email to both Sobeys and MapleLodge Farms (the Canadian supplier of the affordable chicken being sold by Sobeys) seeking more information on their motivations and corporate policies on this affordable chicken.  Hopefully, we will soon learn more about this fantastic sale of affordable chicken in Ontario.

The Meat Department Manager at my local Foodland store told me that he brought in 720 chickens in preparation for this sale.  All of those 720 birds were sold out in Day 2 of the 3 day sale.  He also said that those 720 birds were equivalent to the amount of chicken he would typically sell in a month.

It appears that Canadians are ready, willing, and able to respond when the price is right.

This chicken sale is even more remarkable, as beef  and pork prices go through the roof; beef because of the herd collapse in US due to the severe drought in the South West USA, and pork because of the herd decimation from the on-going PED virus that is killing pigs throughout North America.  With beef and pork prices rising for understandable reasons, the Chicken Mafia could have ridden on their coat tails, but Sobeys Foodland comes in with a huge sale that significantly helps consumers.

I guess we shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, just count our blessings.

So a sincere tip of the hat and heartfelt appreciation goes out to Sobeys, and/or Sobey's Foodland, and/or MapleLodge Farms for bringing this sale of affordable chicken to Canadians.  If you started the idea, approved it, or aided in making it happened, you are to be congratulated for doing so.

Affordable chicken comes to Ontario for 3 days. Don't stop now, just 362 more days to go!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Squeezing the Pimple

There is an over ripe pimple on the rear end of Ontario:  The Chicken Mafia.  Small Flockers now have something to push against so as to squeeze that pimple and relieve the pain and infection.

 Archemedes (287 BC - 212 BC), the great Greek philosopher and scientist said,
"Give me a place to stand, and with a lever, I will move the whole world.”
That has been a problem so far for Small Flockers. The more we push for change, the more the Chicken Mafia deflect or move out of the way.  What Small Flockers need is something to push against, so as to put the Chicken Mafia between a rock and a hard place.

Perhaps Jamie Oliver is that something (or someone) that Small Flockers can push against with the Chicken Mafia caught in between.

Jamie is a chef from Essex England, now world famous for his work in getting safe, nutritious food for children in English schools.  For the past 7 years, he has been trying to do the same for US school children.

Farm to fork, or farmer to chef.  These are two excellent bookends in which to frame the Chicken Mafia, so they can't escape.

In Feb. 2010, Jamie was invited to be a speaker at TED.  Jamie continued his crusade against obesity in children from bad food nutrition.  He showed how the US is spending $150 Billion per year in excess health care costs due to poor nutrition.

Jamie wants good food for families.  Small Flockers want good food for families.  Chicken Mafia say they do, but do exactly the opposite.  One of his latest projects was in Huntington West Virginia USA.  When he left that town after finishing his project, Huntington Kitchens continued on as a community kitchen to help people learn how to eat properly.

Watch the video, then get on your splash shield to protect yourself.  When we start squeezing that Chicken Mafia pimple, you never know when it will pop.  When it does, it will be pretty messy at first, but we'll get it put right soon enough.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Unaffordable Chicken in Ontario

Is chicken unaffordable in Ontario for the "Working Poor"?  Is the situation getting better, or worse, over time?  Unfortunately, I have bad news again.  Here is more evidence of the crimes or misdemeanors of the #ChickenMafia in Ontario, and the rest of Canada.

Yesterday in this Blog, we examined LICO-chicken (see LICO-Chicken = "Let Them Eat Cake" ) to see how retail chicken has become 16% affordable over the last 14 years for those living at the poverty level, as defined by LICO (Low Income Cut-Off).

Today, we will look at the working poor, defined as those earning at or about the Minimum Wage.

To make my case more obvious and easy to understand, I have chosen to explore the situation in the time period of 1995 to 2005, a 10 years period when the Ontario public was abused worse than usual.

This is the sad tale of Ontario citizens during the rein of the hereditary aristocracy of millionaires running the Ontario #ChickenMafia.

Between 1995 and 2003, the minimum wage was fixed at $6.85 per hour.

Seeing an opportunity to make even more millions of profit for themselves, the #ChickenMafia started issuing self-serving price increases for chicken.

The #ChickenMafia also allowed a laissez-faire abdication of their government-delegated powers and duties to manage the marketing of chicken (ie. processors, further processors, distributors, and importers of chicken in Ontario, all of whom are "friends" or accomplices of the #ChickenMafia members).

The rule of thumb for the #ChickenMafia is:
"Scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours."

After all, there is honour among thieves; and likewise, millionaires.

The #ChickenMafia caused or permitted retail chicken prices to rise at  3.44% per year, which is a doubling and re-doubling of chicken prices every 20.4 years.  In total over this 10 year period, retail chicken prices went up by a whopping 43.3%.

As the retail price of chicken climbed higher and higher, the affordability of chicken dropped at 2.7% per year; halfing and re-halfing chicken affordability every 25.9 years.  This data is described as the number of kg of chicken that you can buy per hour worked at minimum wage.  In total over this 10 year period, the affordability of chicken dropped by 31.7%

Eventually, the Provincial government was forced to act.  In 2004, the Ontario minimum wage was raised.  In 2005, it was raised again.

While these minimum wage increases were designed to help the working poor, the #ChickenMafia rubbed their hands together in glee that their lobbyists had successfully created a perpetual wealth machine.  The #ChickenMafia keeps raising chicken prices, and the Ontario government keeps raising the Minimum Wage so the more expensive chicken stays somewhat affordable for the Working Poor.

Around and around we go, extracting wealth from all citizens and giving it to the Chicken Mafia.  As far as the #ChickenMafia is concerned, this "game" must continue forever.

Unfortunately, Ontario sets the pace for the rest of Canada.  If the #ChickenMafia can get away with it in Ontario, then the #ChickenMafia in the rest of Canada are encouraged to try the same scheme too.

Unfortunately for the #ChickenMafia, there is a growing number of citizens who are becoming wise to the plans and sordid history of the #ChickenMafia, and are no longer willing to sit back and be continuously screwed by them.

Monday, June 16, 2014

LICO-Chicken = "Let them eat Cake"

"Let them eat cake" has been attributed to callous aristocracy who were insensitive to peasants spending more than 50% of their income on bread, helping launch the French Revolution and the rapid increase in the use of guillotines.  Is Chicken Farmers of Ontario and the rest of the SM Chicken Mafia saying the same today?

Low Income Cut-off ("LICO") is one of the measurements used by the government to define who is living in poverty.  You are living in poverty if your total annual income, expressed as $/yr, is less than LICO (whether that income is from gambling, lottery winnings, wages, government welfare, bank interest, clipping your bond coupons, or fixed retirement pension income).

With the inflation or deflation of retail prices (eg. housing, energy, food, etc.), LICO goes up or down accordingly.

Chicken prices have had almost a continuous rise in prices for over 20 years (see Blog Posting Chicken Price Parity: will it ever come?, going up an average of 3.54%/yr for more than 17 years.  If the income of the poor has not been rising as fast as the price of chicken, then the poor are feeling the squeeze of unaffordable food.  So we pose the important question:

Is chicken getting more affordable, or less affordable for the average Canadian, and someone who is subsisting at LICO?

Scrooge McDuck counting and playing with his gold coins
(also known to to done by members of the Chicken Mafia)
To find out, all we have to do is divide LICO by the average retail price of chicken.  This provides us with the number of kg. of chicken that a LICO-earning person can purchase per year.  If the kg/yr of LICO-chicken is decreasing over time, then chicken is becoming less and less affordable for someone living at the LICO threshold.

CFO, and the rest of the Chicken Mafia seem only interested in maximizing their personal profits.  It seems they are busy counting their gold coins, like Scrooge McDuck.  They don't know about nor understand LICO, and don't want to know.

I believe that since they received their government created quota for free, and have been delegated government powers to enforce their quota, they should be acting as a proper steward, working for the greater good of all Ontario citizens.

Unfortunately, it appears that CFO, their members, and the rest of the Chicken Mafia have a callous disregard for everybody except themselves.  Witness the data on LICO-chicken:

Figure 1:  The number of kg. per year of retail chicken that can be purchased by someone earning
at the Lower Income Cut-Off ("LICO") Poverty Line.  LICO-chicken has been dropping at 1.3%
per year, down a total of 16% during the last 14 years.  This means chicken is becoming less
and less affordable by the poor.
The data in Figure 1 is derived from Statistics Canada CANSIM Table 326-0012 and ON Ministry of Labour report on Minimum Wage
and Statistics Canada LICO data with Census Agglomeration for an individual living in a community of 30,000 to 99,999 people, before tax income.  The amount of chicken that can be purchased at retail stores in Ontario by someone earning at the LICO Poverty Line has dropped 16.3% in the last 14 years (1997 - 2011).

By way of chickens having the lowest FCR of all farmed animals (Feed Conversion Level, see The Chicken Mafia Exposed ), chicken should be the cheapest available meat.

If you cannot afford chicken, your poverty has forced you to become a vegetarian.

LICO is affected by many complex factors.  CFO and the Chicken Mafia contribute to, but do not control nor overly influence LICO.  However, CFO and the Chicken Mafia have direct control and supreme influence on the price of chicken, from the farm gate, all the way through to the retail meat counter.

Not only do CFO and the Chicken Mafia have the ability to control chicken prices, I believe they have the duty to control chicken prices on an on-going basis in the best interest of the citizens.  I believe CFO has that duty of responsibility for LICO-chicken as long as SM is allowed to continue in its present form.  If CFO continues to ignore LICO-chicken, doomsday for Ontario's chicken SM system may be far sooner than they would have dreamed possible.

Is CFO aware of this trend they created?  Does CFO care?

Did I just hear somebody within Chicken SM shout:
"Can't afford chicken?  Let them eat cake!"

Now that I have exposed CFO's negligence and callous disregard for the poor, will CFO study the matter, and assemble a plan to reverse the trend of LICO-chicken?

Will Ontario's Minister of Agriculture Kathleen Wynne order Ontario Farm Product Marketing Commission ("OFPMC") to consider LICO-chicken every time CFO tosses in another request to increase the farm gate price of chicken?

Under Ontario's Farm Products Marketing Act, CFO has been delegated sweeping, broad powers over everything within Ontario that is directly and indirectly associated with chicken.  For the most part, CFO continues to ignore and abdicate its authority over the chicken marketing and processing system beyond the delivery of chicken to the abattoirs.

Will CFO continue to ignore the impact of allowing the billionaire mega food corporations to extract the maximum profits that they please, making chicken less and less affordable for the poor and everybody else?

If CFO is unwilling or unable to act on LICO-chicken, will OFPMC order CFO to exercise the full scope of its delegated powers, so as to rein in the processors and distributors of chicken in Ontario?  

If CFO put their minds and efforts towards LICO-chicken, they should be able to achieve an improvement of 10%/yr in the kg/yr of chicken that a person living in poverty can afford.

While we are at it, why aren't all basic necessities of life judged in a similar manner by governments, as the yardstick we can all use to determine if our politicians and bureaucrats are earning their keep?

If life is more and more affordable for the poor, likely it is more affordable for everybody.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Germany refuses US Contaminated Chicken. Why not you?

Germany has consistently refused to allow the importation of contaminated chicken that has been washed with chlorine water solutions so as to remove some of the deadly contamination.  Canada accepts this contaminated chicken.  I wonder why.

Angela Merkel said, "There will be no import of chlorine-washed chicken from the United States. I have prevented it for years and will continue to do so. There is no question about that,"

In the 12 to 24 hours before shipping to slaughter, the chickens are allowed water, but are not allowed to eat any food.  This saves the chicken factory producer on feed used, and minimizes the undigested food in the bird's digestive tract, minimizing the material present during the slaughter process.  Because the chickens had food removed from them for many hours before shipping, the manure during shipping is liquid diarrhea, full of bacteria.

The chickens becomes contaminated by being placed in crates stacked one on top of the other while on the shipping truck going from chicken factory to the slaughter plant.  The bottom row of chickens receive a rain of manure coming from all the chickens above them.  Their feathers become coated in the potent chicken manure.  During the slaughter process, that external contamination gets sprayed everywhere during the high speed mechanized slaughter process.  The internal contents of the bird's digestive tract released during the slaughter process adds to the mess.

With fecal matter flying everywhere, the eviscerated chicken meat become highly contaminated, inside and out, with fecal matter.  To minimize the impact of this contamination, high pressure spray nozzles are used with acid, caustic, chlorine, or other chemicals to wash some of the contamination away.  Of course, the bacteria can't all be washed away, in spite of their best efforts.

The chickens smell of chlorine, taste of chlorine, and still have significant risk of food poisoning is the consumer makes even a small mistake.

With Germany and the rest of the EU refusing to receive contaminated chicken rinsed in chlorine solutions, that means there will be no shortage of this "wonderful" product so as to ensure and enhance Supply Management's ongoing abuse of the Canadian consumer.  By the way, Canadian slaughter plants used by the chicken factory producers use similar technology and chemicals, so the Canadian chicken isn't any better than what is imported from the US or elsewhere.

Alternatively, a farmer with a sharp knife can cleanly dispatch a chicken one at a time with 96.3% less contamination (ie. 133 CFU during on-farm slaughter vs. 3,600 CFU with the government approved high speed machine slaughter system.  See Joel Salatin and our Blog posting  Hope for the Mega Meat Manufacturers?)

Germany has made their decision.  What will Canadians choose for themselves?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

George Morris Centre: Facts or Rhetoric

George Morris Centre says that it is "Canada’s leading economic agri-food research centre."  Is George Morris Centre the leader in agri-food research, or the propaganda centre for Big Food or Supply Management ("SM") rhetoric?

Rhetoric is defined as:
"language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable."
George Morris Centre ("GMC") used to be part of the University of Guelph.  Today, it is registered as a non-profit charitable organization.  According to its 2013 financial report, it is operating at a $475,000 deficit on a $1.8 Million annual budget; a 26.4% deficit.

GMC writes research reports, puts on seminars, and provides speakers.  They have a significant number of talented people who don't work for peanuts.  Finding the revenue each month to keep GMC going is likely not an easy task.

To help fund GMC, they sell memberships (Individual $250/yr, Association $1,000/yr, and Corporate $2,500/yr).  Are the opinions, needs, and desires of these GMC members influencing, controlling, or tainting the research and opinions of GMC?

Is GMC an independent, unbiased, and authoritative source than can be relied upon, or a shill and propaganda mouthpiece for Big Food and Canada's Supply Management sector?

GMC recently released a new research report, titled Is Food Really More Expensive in Canada Than the US?  This report was written by GMC Staff Members Al Mussell (Senior Research Associate), and
Kevin Grier (Senior Market Analyst).  Al has a background in US dairy, while Kevin is more into meat and retail grocery.

It takes brave individuals to write about something that just about everybody "knows" to be obvious, ubiquitous, and long ago assumed to be consistently true.  What could you possibly say other than re-hash the same facts over again?

However, these two GMC researchers dove into the deep end, and produced this report.  It seems that this GMC paper was prompted by the May, 2014 Commentary by the CD Howe Institute "Sticker Shock: The Causes of the Canada-US Price Differential" by Nicholas Li.  The CD Howe report found that consumer prices are broadly higher in Canada, and Canadian food prices purchased for consumption in the home was about 57% more expensive in Canada than in the US in 2011.

GMC's comments on the CD Howe report were:
"Meats and the milk, cheese, and eggs group were observed to have the largest cost differential, at 76-77% more expensive than in the US.  [Nicholas] Li comes to a familiar conclusion- blame supply management."
GMC appears to be great friends with Canada's Supply Management system.  Perhaps GMC has a majority of its members in the SM system.  When CD Howe complains about SM in Canada, what should GMC do to help its members who use SM proceeds to buy GMC memberships?

I wonder how much in charitable donations does GMC receive each year from the Supply Management sector?  Since all of those $ eventually come from Canadian consumers of SM products, it is easy to be generous with other people's money, so I bet SM is very generous to GMC.  If I am wrong, let GMC and SM disclose the truth so that we all know.

Exactly how many consumers, poverty activists, small flockers, affordable food supporters, and local food groups buy GMC memberships?  I doubt it's a large crowd.  My guess is that GMC has significantly less than one person in this large group who buys a GMC membership.  Also, I doubt any of these people attend GMC seminars.  If I am wrong in my assumptions, let GMC disclose the GMC membership data so we all know for sure.

So GMC has an easy choice:   support GMC members, and find some way to lessen the blow from the CD Howe report.  If you can't fight it with facts, perhaps GMC can muddy the waters so that there is confusion where clarity previously existed on the US-Canada food price differential.

CD Howe used OECD data to prove its case (data that originated from each government, likely Statistics Canada in our case).

GMC used data from US Department of Agriculture- Economic Research Service and an unspecified Canadian source (I assume USDA Table 97_2012, but that hole in GMC's paper is worrisome).  GMC determines that in 2012:
"in the US, food and non-alcoholic beverage purchases consumed at home were 6.6% of consumer expenditures. Canada came in with expenditures of 9.6%. This appears close to the 57% spread from the OECD data quoted by Li."
Let's see, 6.6/9.6= 68.75% and 9.6/6.6= 145% and (9.6-6.6)/6.6= 45.45% and (9.6-6.6)/9.6= 31.25% so we have something between 69% and 31% difference, depending on how you calculate it.  Oh oh.  GMC seems to support CD Howe and their conclusion that Supply Management likely results in higher food prices.  GMC goes on to explain it away:
"According to the USDA, US household consumer expenditures were $US 34,541; For Canada it was $US 27,761. This gives total expenditures on food for a US household of $US 2,273 and a Canadian household of $US 2,679. The implication is that, over the course of a year, Canadians spent about $US 406 more on groceries than Americans did. This is just under $US 8/week, or about 18%.  The implication is that when we factor in observed differences in consumer spending for all goods, apparently the difference in food expenditures is not quite so egregious."
GMC says Canadians pay 18% more, but doesn't say 18% of what.  It is incorrect to use percentages unless you clearly state what the percentage refers to.  GMC muddies the waters, again.  Taking a guess, I find that the US$2,679/yr that Canadians pay for groceries is 17.8419% more than the US$ 2,273/yr that a US family spends on groceries; close to the 18% figure stated by GMC.

Now that we know where GMC gets its numbers from, we can look at GMC's magical thinking more carefully.

The average US household earns 24.4% more than the average Canadian household.  In spite of the average US household earning more, it spends less on food, whether in absolute US$ (15.2% less) or as a % of household income (31.25% less).  Either way, Canadians earn 24.4% less and pay 31% more for food than our American neighbours.  The combined whammy of these two factors produces a 63.3% greater impact of food purchases on Canadian family budgets (ie. 1.244 * 1.3125= 1.633).

Whenever a propaganda pusher wants to create rhetoric (ie. propaganda), changing the basis of comparison, or taking percentages is a favorite ploy.  CD Howe says Canadians pay 57% more for food that US households.  To disguise this sad fact, GMC changes the basis of comparison and takes percentages.

GMC goes on, in its Table 1, to look at 2009 expenditures for food cooked and eaten at home vs. food eaten outside the home.  Here, Canadians eat out less than our US neighbours (6% for US, 3.7% for Canadians, for a 61.7% difference) .  Everybody knows it is more expensive to eat out.  Most restaurants charge a 200% to 300% markup (eg. if the food ingredients cost the restaurant $10.00 then that meal will sell for $30.00 in a restaurant if a 300% markup is used).  If Canadians can't afford the food they need, they certainly won't be maximizing their dining out experiences.  For this 2009 data, in-home and out-of-home food is 14.6% for the US, and 15.3% for Canadians, so Canucks pay a grand total of  4.79% more that our US neighbours.

GMC then concludes,
"In other words, it suggests that what Canadians and Americans spend on food in total as a share of consumer spending is about the same."
There is still a 4.79% difference in this 2009 data, which is dismissed by GMC as a triviality, so close to equal that GMC dismisses it as zero.

A 4.79% price difference to frugal Canadians is far from zero.  Have you seen how far Canadians will drive to buy gasoline at just 0.1 cents per litre cheaper (ie. 0.1 cents is a 0.069% price savings at 140.0 cents per litre)?

Of course, the data in GMC's Table 1 is 2009 data, 5 years old.  Does the CD Howe data of 2011-2012 suggest that things have gotten a lot worse for Canadians in those 3 intervening years?

Graph from Page 4 of GMC's Report, showing price trends in US and
Canada for food and all items purchased by households
Above is a graph taken from GMC's report.  We can see that all prices were indexed as of 2002 (ie. set equal on the index as of 2002).  From that starting point, US food prices increased the most, followed by Canadian food prices.

When you start with a small number (ie. US food prices), the same increase creates a huge percentage increase, as we see here for the US food price index.  For example, changing from 1 to 2 is a 100% increase, but to change from 100 to 101 is just a 1% increase.  This is just another propaganda trick.  I'm not fooled by GMC's slight of hand.  Were you?

Let's look at something that GMC exposed by their graph, but didn't discuss.  Since 2002, Canada's all item prices increased by about 22.5%, but Canadian food prices went up by about 32.5%.

I assume that "all items" includes food, so if we were to compare "All items except food" with "Food", we would get even a bigger price differential.  We will ignore this effect for now, but realize that the magnitude of the screwing revealed below is even worse than we state here because of this issue.

When we look at the relative price changes, the 2013 Canadian indexes 32.5% (Food) vs. 22.5% (All) is a 8.16% difference for Food Vs. All.  For the US in 2013, the price indexes are 34.8% (Food) vs. 29% (All), which is a 4.5% difference Food Vs. All.

In summary, everything was set equal in 2002, then US food went up 4.5% more than all other US consumer prices.  For the same period, Canadian food went up 8.16% more than all other Canadian consumer prices.  Therefore Canada has had double the price inflation rate differential (ie. Food Vs. All) of what the Americans experienced.  I would suggest this is an apples to apples comparison that clearly shows Canadians are being screwed for food prices.

Just as CD Howe reported, I agree with CD Howe that chicken, eggs, dairy, and turkey represent the leaders in the screwing of Canadians for food prices.  That means Supply Management causes or significantly contributes to the screwing of Canadians for food prices.

How can the same data be used to draw totally different conclusions?  I would suggest it is because a twisted tale is being created by a propaganda shill mouthpiece in one case.

Is this example enough to clearly show GMC's bias?  Are we done here?

Perhaps GMC is in a funding crisis because they are on the wrong side of the issues.

Perhaps if GMC was seen as a protector and defender of all Canadians, then all the governments, citizens, and the entire agri-food industry would support them and take them seriously.

GMC has done great works for Canada and Canadians in the past.  Perhaps the Board of Directors of GMC should re-read the bio of their namesake, George Fletcher Morris (1910-1999)  and determine if he would approve of this GMC report and its obvious bias against the 38 million Canadian consumers, and in favor of GMC's friends, the Supply Management millionaires.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Ontario Small Flock Chicken Appeal Re-launched

The decision has been made.  I will be re-filing my appeal of CFO's small flock regulation to the Ministry of Agriculture Appeals Tribunal.

When I received the ruling from the Tribunal on my appeal, I immediately sent a copy of the ruling to the various agriculture publications and reporters.  Among others, Susan Mann of Better Farming did an interview of me, and wrote an article on the appeal and the Tribunal's decision.

Since that time, there has been a lively debate on BF's website about the issues; making it the most lively issue on BF's website.

That prompted me to make the following posting on BF today, announcing my decision:
Eighteen days have passed since BF's posted this article on May 22, 2014.  In that time interval, a total of 81 comments have been made by numerous people.

My original appeal to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Appeals Tribunal presented evidence on all of the wrongful acts of Chicken Farmers of Ontario ("CFO") and the chicken Supply Management system overall.  While that comprehensive appeal was rejected by the Tribunal, the Tribunal invited me to re-file my appeal on the limited grounds of the 300 bird small flock exemption Regulation.

I have monitored all the comments made here, and attempted to respond, question, or defend the principles behind the appeal I filed with the Tribunal, complaining against the alleged illegal, negligent, and mis-guided actions of Chicken Farmers of Ontario ("CFO").

After the ruling of the Tribunal was released, I asked for opinions on what should be done next (if anything).  I received nothing but encouragement to continue.  In spite of this encouragement, I do not look forward to another appeal, for I see it as sticking my head into the gaping jaws of a hungry lion.

Some comments made here were off topic, but most expressing worthy opinions on this important issue.

The debates held here have assisted me in considering and preparing the necessary arguments and reasons as to whether a renewed appeal should be made.

In my opinion, there have been no arguments presented here that have persuaded me to change or abandon my principles and logic behind the original appeal.

I thank everybody for your input, and for providing me the ability to defend, practice, and hone my skills and persuasive arguments.

In spite of my reluctance and reservations, I believe that re-filing my appeal must be done for the greater good of all.

I therefore hereby announce that I will be re-filing my appeal within the 60 days allowed by the Tribunal.  I have already started re-drafting the Notice of Appeal this weekend.  When the draft is ready, I will post it on SFPFC's Blog for review and comments before the final version is submitted to the Tribunal.

Glenn Black
Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada ("SFPFC")

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Chicken Factories: New Heights of Depravity

Chickens in battery cages inside chicken factories have a poor life experience.  There is now a depraved proposal to use virtual reality headsets on all imprisoned chickens, so as to allow chicken factories to continue undisturbed in its dubious or depraved methods.
An illustration of what a virtual reality headset might look
like as worn by a chicken kept inside a battery cage within a
chicken factory.  This idea is proposed as
"The Matrix meets Chicken" so as to fool a chicken into
believing it has quality of life.

What an imprisoned chicken would see through their
virtual reality headgear.
Prof. Austin Stewart at Iowa State University has proposed virtual reality lifestyle for imprisoned chickens so that factory chicken producers can get maximum profits while criticisms by animal rights activists are deflected.

A more detailed description of a chicken's proposed virtual world is described here.

Interesting idea, but can we all agree that this is a bad solution to a bad problem that can more easily be solved by small flock, free range, pasture perfect chicken?

This crazy proposal has gone viral.  Even the highbrow The Economist has covered this "important development", as they said,
"Chicken scientists have worked on a variety of ways to minimise the harm to chickens from this factory environment, basically all of which are horrifying to some degree. They include the breeding of blind chickens, which apparently are less bothered by cramped environments, or the production of headless chickens, in which part of the brain or the entire head is removed but the body is kept alive to fatten up and haunt the dreams of everyone who learns of the technique."
Thanks for sharing your ideas.

Instead of decapitated chickens on life support, or virtual reality chickens, I vote for small flock, free range chickens.

I hope you do too.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Sickening Chicken

She won't buy chicken anymore.  She can't buy it, for it makes her young son very ill.  So as to simplify family meals, everybody else in the family abstains as well, starting about 2 years ago.

She is afraid of the antibiotics, chemicals and hormones that she thinks are in the store-bought chicken.  The doctor told her to stay away from it.  She's listening to the doctor's advice.

I just got back from the meat display case of the large, national grocery chain store.  I was collecting more price information for my retail chicken price database.

I noticed the young lady who seemed to be wondering what I was doing on my knees in front of the chicken display, as she was looking at the beef and pork section beside me.

I decided to ask her, "Hi!  I was wondering how you'd describe the price and quality of the chicken sold in Canada?"

She replied, "I don't buy chicken."

I asked, "Do you mind me asking why you don't buy chicken?"

That's when she told me about her ban on chicken purchases.  I nodded in understanding of her plight.  I reached into my pocket and gave her one of my SFPFC business cards.  She studied it carefully.

I explained we are trying to do something about those issues, and many more, for everybody in Canada.

I asked if she would be willing to send me an email with all the details about how she feels about chicken.

She said she would.

I thanked her, and went back to logging the prices and specifications on the various cuts of chicken in plastic wrapped trays.

I hope I get the email.  If any of you have similar stories, I would like to receive them too.

Hopefully somebody will soon start to listen a little better.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Biohazardous Ground Zero: Factory Chicken Farms

Scientists have discovered that crops of spinach growing in fields within 10 miles of a factory chicken growing operation are 172 times more likely to be contaminated with deadly E. coli bacteria.  This contamination likely comes from the chicken factory exhaust air that is spewed into the atmosphere on a near-constant basis.

The study was done by Texas A&M University, published in July 2013 in the peer-reviewed journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology., and was summarized in Science Daily in June 2013.

As we should know, correlation doesn't prove causation.  There is a slim chance that this 720 times higher risk is a spurious correlation that means nothing.  However, that is highly unlikely, especially with such a huge risk ratio of 720 times.

As an example, the odds ratio for cigarette smoking and lung cancer vary between 7 (1 cigarette per day) to as high as 16.3 (25+ cigarettes per day).  See the 1947 epidemiological study of Doll, and 1951 study by Hill and here.

Compare the odds ratio of 720 for E.coli/chicken factory to 16.3 for cigarette-lung cancer. If you believe cigarette smoking increases the risk of lung cancer, should you believe that mega chicken factories cause or contribute to significantly higher risk of E.coli induced food contamination leading to food poisoning?
Wrinkles and crevices in baby spinach
hold tight any any contamination, defying
most attempts to remove

In 2006, baby spinach grown by Natural Selection Foods LLC in Salinas Valley, California USA was contaminated with E. coli, killing 1 person and making over 193 other people in 21 States seriously ill.  They packaged the same spinach under 34 different brand names, then distributed it to every major city and 74 percent of America's supermarkets in the US.

In Sept. 2013, four brands of contaminated spinach packaged and distributed by a Burlington ON company were suspected of having Salmonella.  It is unknown

Spinach is especially dangerous, as the wrinkly leaves defy the effective removal of the contamination through any feasible methods of washing, whether at the farm, packaging, or the home.  If the baby spinach is used raw in a salad, likely somebody will get sick or die from eating contaminated spinach.

Will mega chicken factories, whether in US or Canada, share this news with their neighbouring farmers, warning them about the airborne contamination spewed into the atmosphere by their bad acting chicken farm neighbours?

In Ontario, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1980, is supposed to control worker exposure to biological and chemical agents. At the present time, the OHSA does not apply to farming operations (per OMAF website). Consequently, farming operations are exempted from the general industrial establishment standards which cover ventilation requirements, and the regulations regarding air contaminants and dust.

OMAF also says,
 "In animal housing, 70 to 90% of the dust is organic. This means that it is biologically active and will react with the defense system of the respiratory system. Included in the organic barn dust are feed components, dried faecal material, hair and skin cells, feather particles, pollen, insect parts, molds, fungi, viruses and bacteria. Endotoxins are produced by bacteria. These endotoxins are generally strong allergens causing immediate or delayed reactions in the respiratory system."
"The main health problems with poultry workers occurred while moving or handling older birds; these symptoms could be attributed to exposure to the combined effects of dust, ammonia and endotoxins."
Since it is standard practice to put antibiotics in chicken feed so as to maximize the mega chicken factory's profits, those antibiotics also enter the air as dust, Carol Morison was allergic to the dust and many antibiotics used for humans from her occupational exposure (see our 2013-10-27 Blog posting:  Chicken Factory ).  Shortly after appearing in the documentary Food Inc., she quit as a chicken farmer, and is pleased to report a significant improvement in her personal health.
After years working in a mega chicken factory, Carol Morison's
health is severely compromised.

In a 2004 scientific report on poultry factory air quality (made available in 2011 by a leading supplier of products and services to the poultry industry), they reviewed all the available scientific literature, and concluded":
"The data that does exist is quite clear and unequivocal. Air quality within poultry housing is poorer than in confinement facilities for any other species. Subsequently, poultry workers suffer from more respiratory damage than any other workers in animal agriculture. Because much of the damage is insidious in nature and/or delayed in onset, its connection to occupational exposure is often overlooked."
There is no legal protection for the workers inside the chicken factories, even less protection for all those unsuspecting victims down wind from a mega chicken factory, yet this air pollution is clearly causing or contributing to the death and/or disease (both acute and chronic) of hundreds or thousands of people.

The proper thing to do is:
  1. Define "Acceptable Farm Practices" to include adequate indoor air quality for both animals and workers; and
  2. Install filters and scrubbers on any mega chicken factory that exceeds emissions of X kg/yr of organic dust, or Y mg/litre organic dust concentration levels.
  3. Determine the acceptable level of bio-security risk for mega chicken factories.  For example, even if the exhaust scrubbers are 99.999% efficient, with the trillions of bacteria that are potentially released each year from mega chicken factories, the risk will likely be significantly greater than zero.  How bad is "good enough"?
  4. Ensure zoning separation between mega chicken factories and all  homes, public buildings (eg. schools, hospitals, arenas, etc.), agriculture lands that grow food crops (animal or human), and other land users.
  5. While a 10 mile radius is clearly a problem, just how big is No Man's Land around mega chicken factories?  We need scientific research to determine the No-Go Zone around the mega chicken factory Ground Zero sites.
  6. With all of the growing lists of risks and unintended consequences with the mega chicken factory model (eg. biosecurity, occupational health, tainted raw chicken, poor nutritional profile for rapid-raised chicken, unaffordable food prices, etc.) is this a flawed model for food production that must be phased out or abandoned?
As soon as I finish this posting, I will send a link to it for Chicken Farmers of Canada ("CFC"), Chicken Farmers of Ontario ("CFO"), Health Canada ("HC"), Ontario's Ministry of Environment ("MOE"), Ontario's Ministry of Health & Long Term Care ("MOHLTC"), and Ontario's Ministry of Agriculture and Food ("OMAF").

Who wants to bet that they are all silent, or say its not them who is responsible to protect the public?

The obvious solution is treat mega factory chicken farming as being similar to nuclear fuel processing, lead smelting, PCB's, dioxin, or other similar noxious and dangerous environment.  The offending source of air pollution must be filtered and scrubbed before it is exhausted into the air to everyone downwind.

Just how strong is the Chicken Mafia lobbying effort?  Will it be able to deflect and avoid this issue as well?

We will have to wait and see.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Which is Worse: US or Canadian Chicken Production ?

On Better Farming, an anonymous poster provided a link that described the challenges in the US chicken industry.

My response to his posting is as follows:

In your posting "US Style Chicken Production" ( see ), you posted a valuable link that discusses the current plight of US chicken farmers.

Many of the Supply Management ("SM") supporters might read that link and say, "US chicken farming in 2014 sounds like the 1960's in Canada.  Thank goodness Canadian chicken farmers had the sense to lobby for Supply Management from 1920's to the 1970's, and not stop until we got the government to act."

As I previously posted, I am somewhat aware of the difficulties faced by US chicken farmers (see ).

I propose to you that before SM arrived in Canada, both the Canadian consumers and the Canadian chicken farmers were being abused by "Corporate Agribusinesses".  The farmers fought back against this tyranny and oppression by "Corporate Agribusiness", eventually receiving SM to protect the Canadian chicken farmer.

When SM got established, "Corporate Agribusiness" was very upset with the government.  "Corporate Agribusiness" had fought a long, steady, and expensive lobbying of the government, but failed when SM got passed in Dec. 1971.

What was "Corporate Agribusiness" to do next, after SM was passed into law?

"Corporate Agribusiness" swallowed hard, and started courting the newly empowered Canadian chicken farmer.  The previous animosity between these two factions slowly dissipated (ie. the hatchet eventually got buried, though not too deeply, as we see now and again).  "Corporate Agribusiness" was crafty, and the chicken farmers were enticed more and more by the trinkets given and enjoyed by "Corporate Agribusiness".  Soon, the chicken farmers were infected by a rising tide of greed, grandeur, and arrogance.

"He prompts you what to say, and then listens to you, and praises you, and encourages you. He bids you mount aloft. He shows you how to become as gods. Then he laughs and jokes with you, and gets intimate with you; he takes your hand, and gets his fingers between yours, and grasps them, and then you are his."
Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890)

Through all of that, what became of the Canadian consumer and the Small Flockers who were left behind in the pit of oppression?

In the 1950's, both the chicken farmers and consumers were equally abused.  One select sub-group managed to climb up out of the pit of oppression, then turned their back on the consumer and small flockers.  Those who were freshly set free were soon helping the "Corporate Agribusiness" continue abusing all those still left in the pit, if not making the severity and frequency of the abuse even worse. Perhaps it was the Stockholm Syndrome at work, perhaps not.

Either way, how soon the newly powerful chicken farmers forget who was suffering equally with them, suffered beside them, and continues to suffer at the hands of the new master and his whip.

Today, the consumers and small flockers in Canada have virtually no voice whatsoever.  A huge bureaucracy has been created around CFC, CFO, OFPMC, etc., but consumers and small flockers are shunned and cannot participate, nor complain. Neither consumers nor small flockers get to sit at the table when discussions are held on chicken prices, proposing and passing oppressive regulations, or who will receive another gift of free quota.

I wonder why.

The same ugly power, "Corporate Agribusiness", holds all the cards, both in the US and Canada.

In Canada, "Corporate Agribusiness" has a pseudonym, which is "Supply Management".  It's merely a different cut from the same cloth.

If SM-supporters, SM-reformers, and SM-abolitionists can all see the problems in the US, why can't all of them see the same problems under their very noses here in Canada?

Glenn Black
Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada