Monday, September 29, 2014

Shill or False Prophet?

Al Mussell of George Morris Centre has some alarming ideas as recently quoted in  Better Farming.

The Better Farming articles specifically mentions Al Mussell's paper Four Fallacies in Agricultural Sustainability, and Why They Matter: Part 4- Technology Will Solve All Problems

However, I cannot find the alleged quotations attributed to Al Mussell by Better Farming in Al Mussell's Part 4 paper.  The quotations in Better Farming also seem to be at odds with the general theme of Al's paper.  Assuming that Dave Pink (Better Farming's reporter) did a 1-on-1 interview of Al Mussell, and the quotations are accurate statements taken from that 1-on-1 interview, then here are my comments on the Better Farming version of events.

Perhaps we should start with the definition of sustainability  "Environmental Science: the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance" (see ).

Mussell seems to have distorted the word when he said "Sustainable agriculture – a philosophy that essentially calls on farmers to not take any risks with new technologies".  Mussell then adds that sustainability is undesirable and unobtainable.

First of all, sustainability is not the rejection of change.  Sustainability does not require being a Luddite.

In fact, sustainability calls for huge change, away from our recent deviation into unsustainable practices, calling for a return to a path of more and more sustainability.

If Mussell is against sustainability, where does Mussell's proposed path eventually lead?  If his recommended path is one of unsustainability, then his path eventually leads into a blind alley, a cliff, or a swamp of infinite quicksand.  Either way, if we  follow Mussell's path, we will eventually face severe consequences.

Who in their right mind would follow a False Prophet who recommends the path of unsustainability?

Is Mussell proposing that it's OK to be unsustainable now, provided we suddenly swerve back onto the righteous path of sustainability just before the arrival of the natural consequences of our folly?

To me, that's a recipe for disaster.  Humans develop habits that are hard to change.  Think, what was the last issue on which all of the world agreed?  When it came time to turn the steering wheel at the last second, everybody will be grabbing for the steering wheel simultaneously.  We'll crash for sure.

Is it OK to go on a murderous rampage as long as we eventually stop the rampage, then start behaving ourselves at the last possible moment that will avoid disaster?

Sustainability calls us to think about all of the consequences for our actions, not just the benefits immediately before our face.

Sustainability means that we and the 7 or more generations who come after us will be able to continue doing as we propose to do today.

If we are raping the planet today while dumping the cost for our wayward actions onto future generations, then this is not sustainable.

How can Al Mussell get so confused on such a simple issue?

I can only assume he gets so confused because someone pays him to confuse himself and mislead others.

Glenn Black
Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Food for All

The “allegory of the long spoons” teaches us that when we struggle to feed only ourselves, everyone goes hungry. But when we focus on our neighbour’s hunger, we discover there are ways to feed everyone.

Based on an ancient story about hunger and sharing, this animated video is part of Caritas’ “One Human Family, Food for All” campaign.

It is interesting that this allegory has been adopted by many or most cultures on the planet (African, Buddhist, Chinese, Christian, Hindu, Islam, Japanese, and Jewish), adapted as necessary.  Perhaps it is true that humans have more things that are the same or similar which bind us all, than the small insignificant differences that may exist between us.

How well has Canada's Supply Management system learned this lesson?

As for Small Flockers, we see all people, even those in the #ChickenMafia, as being the same as us; no better, no worse.  Small Flockers believe that the #ChickenMafia actively or passively do their dysfunctional acts (or acquiesce as others do them) because of the dysfunctional Supply Management System in which they exist; not necessarily due to mass defects in their character.

Some day, those in the #ChickenMafia will better understand the choices and consequences of their situation, and the problems that the current design of Supply Management creates for them and the rest of us.  However, that better understanding won't solve the oppression of Small Flockers, nor the less and less affordable chicken produced by the #ChickenMafia.

Like us all, the #ChickenMafia will become more and more aware, but will likely lack the courage and principles to voluntarily give up their current advantages.  The #ChickenMafia will not automatically allow Small Flockers to regain their constitutional rights and freedoms, nor escape the chronic oppression of today.  There is no recorded human history of monopolists or dictators voluntarily giving up their advantages.

That is where the government comes in.  The government will have to intercede.  The government will need courage too.  The government will need to correct their misguided policy of Supply Management.  If done well, the #ChickenMafia will accept, and all stakeholders (ie. former #ChickenMafia, Small Flockers, and consumers) will reap the benefits.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Food Security

A debate on food security and the impact of Supply Management ("SM") is raging on Better Farming.

These issues have been debated since Rev. Malthus in 1798, the Corn Laws in UK of 1815, and Ricardo's 1817 Comparative Advantage Principles.

UK's Corn Laws restricted the importing of most cereal grains into UK by imposing high import tariffs, so as to subsidize and protect domestic food production, UK farmers, UK grain dealers, and UK mercantilism in general. The UK Corn Laws in 1815 are similar to Canada's SM system today.  The UK debate ended in 1846 when the Irish Great Famine created an urgent need for new food supplies, forcing the repeal of the Corn Laws.

One million or more Irish citizens died, and another 1 million people were forced to emigrate from 1845 to 1852; causing a 25% drop in population for Ireland.  How many lives would have been saved if the protectionist Corn Laws had not been implemented, or government had played its role more effectively?

The UK government allowed long suffering problems and poverty in Ireland to fester unresolved and worsening for decades before the 1845 potato blight occurred.  The government was slow to detect the consequences of the potato blight.  They took ineffective actions that didn't help those in greatest need, and those actions often resulted in severe unintended consequences. Some government officials saw the famine as a God-sent solution that would allow them to eliminate the troublesome Irish.  In other cases, the government ran Ireland as a business, maximizing exports of foods and goods for profits, and huge financial leakage from Ireland by payments to absentee landlords; all while the indigenous populations starved.  Numerous historians reported that God may have caused the potato blight, but it was the English government overlords who turned that potato blight into a famine.  Some say the Irish Famine is comparable to the Jewish Holocaust and other cases of Genocide.

Is that what Canada has in store for us? The Canada of today with its dysfunctional SM system seems to be tracking along the same path as the Irish in the 1800's.

The UK's Corn Laws lasted 31 years.  Canada's SM debacle will be 50 years old soon; 19 years more stale dated than the Corn Laws.  Apparently we haven't yet learned these important lessons, so we need to re-learn them again.

In the short term, all countries are limited by their existing infrastructure capacity, and comparative advantage.  Governments have a duty to ensure that its citizens can feed themselves.

Governments should ensure the greater good of all their citizens by understanding the current domestic limitations, the weaknesses and opportunities, and take the necessary steps (ie. facilitate & encourage co-ordinated free market action, or unilateral government action if necessary) to improve infrastructures, domestic capacity and capability.

Some gaps and disadvantages are temporary or occurred at random, and can be easily solved.  Others are chronic, exist for good reasons, and can only be changed by continuous government subsidies, interventions, and false economies (eg. growing bananas and oranges in Canada); a costly and wrong-headed approach.  Sometimes the solution is worse than the original problem, doesn't solve the original problem, and creates even more problems (eg. Canada's Supply Management system). Sometimes it isn't easy to determine which category the problem and/or proposed solution will fall into.

In SM's case, the unintended consequences, excessive costs, and limitations are obvious.  The ongoing damage to Canada and Canadians, and the future risks, will continue until SM is reformed or removed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Case Dismissed: The Appeal Tribunal has Spoken

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Appeal Tribunal has refused to hear Small Flockers' appeal of the Small Flock Exemption Regulation as it is judged to be "frivolous, vexatious, and made in bad faith."

The Tribunal has consistently complained about lack of powers and jurisdiction for finding liability against Chicken Farmers of Ontario, and similar issues that were requested as relief for Small Flockers.  In response to the Tribunal's alleged limitations, both Versions 3 and 4 of our appeal had those contentious issues removed.  For some unknown reason, the Tribunal got hung up on Version 2, and would consider neither Versions 3 nor 4. 

In addition, I supplied the Tribunal with over 23 different legal precedents that supported the contentious relief that I requested from the oppressive and unconstitutional parts of the Small Flock Regulation; including a number of Supreme Court rulings that directly supported our case.

The other Respondent parties refuted neither our legal arguments, nor the case law presented, nor offered case law in support of the Respondent's position.  In spite of that, the Tribunal is silent about all of the case law presented except one, and then decided against us in what appears to be a contradiction of the case law.

How that can occur is a mystery to me, but that's where we are at.

The Tribunal mentioned in their decision that there was significant animosity between Small Flockers and CFO.  It seems that the Tribunal felt that this was one more reason not to allow the appeal, for they discussed it in this decision, as well as the previous two decision; obviously sufficiently important to bear repeating three times.  Does the Tribunal expect that if litigants are not the best of friends, they shouldn't be allowed access to the Tribunal?  I find this very strange.

The Tribunal said that I acted in bad faith because I had a "personal political manifesto".  That was the accusation made against me by CFO, but I don't remember agreeing to that accusation, so it seems the Tribunal leaped to assume CFO's accusation was true; no evidence required.  It appears that the Tribunal wants and expects me to be a cold fish, a dis-interested party, with no stake in the outcome.  To me, that doesn't make any sense whatsoever.  If fact, Section 16.(4).(c) of MAFRAA says that one of the reasons that the Tribunal can dismiss an appeal is that "the appellant has not a sufficient interest in the subject-matter of the appeal".  So the Tribunal dismisses my appeal because I'm too interested, but can dismiss my appeal because I have insufficient interest.  Appellants must need to be like Goldilocks, not too much, not too little, just the right amount of interest.  Sounds pretty arbitrary to me.

I asked in writing before the Tribunal got started, and was assured by the Tribunal's Administrator that the Tribunal would provide full written reasons for their decision.   At the very start of the hearing, I asked again, and the Tribunal Panel themselves again reassured me that they would be providing full written reasons for their decision. In spite of these assurances, the Tribunal's decision is scant on the reasons for their decision.  My budding understanding of court proceedings, based on what I've been told and read, is that the court's decision should speak to all of the arguments presented by both sides, clearly state whether the Tribunal agrees or disagrees with those arguments, and the reasons why.  For virtually all of my reasons and arguments presented, it seems the Tribunal ignored them, like they were never made.  The Tribunal's decision mentions just one of my arguments, but even there, it offers no reasons why it was dismissed.  With incomplete reasons, it is difficult to impossible to appeal the Tribunal's decision, as there is nothing to appeal.  There is no record kept of what was said during the appeal, so we can't even go there to fill the holes in the Tribunal's records.  Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that I got what I was promised.  The Tribunal seems like it's trying to hide in a fog of ambiguity they have purposefully created.

To see for yourself, here is the Tribunal's decision to dismiss our appeal before it gets started.

So you can see for yourself what the Tribunal is referring to, here are my arguments for allowing our appeal to go forward:
Appellant's Answer to Tribunal's Allegation and Threat to Dismiss our Appeal 
10 pages, 171 kB, Adobe Acrobat X pdf file

Appellant's Submission Brief (case law, statutes, regulations, documents, and 375 signatures on Petitions requesting the Tribunal to allow appeal to proceed to full hearing), 27.35 MB, 1,085 pages, Adobe Acrobat X pdf file.  (It a BIG file, so it takes a few minutes to download.  Be patient)

Here is CFO's submission to Tribunal in response to my Answer

Unlike our answer, CFO presented no facts, no legal references, no case law that supports their position.  All CFO did was issue 5 pages of rhetoric.

It appears that CFO's rhetoric is pretty powerful stuff, as it trumps a number of Supreme Court of Canada cases that supported our position.

I understand that I can ask the Tribunal for re-consideration of their decision.  My estimate of success is I'd have better luck buying a 6-4-9 ticket.

I can also ask the Minister of Agriculture to intercede.  Assessment of success?  I have no idea.  What are your thoughts?

If neither of these work, I can ask the ON Superior Court for a Judicial Review.  However, that puts me at risk for having costs awarded against me, perhaps risking thousands of dollars to pay for CFO's lawyers if I lose. Pretty risky step.

What do you think Small Flockers should do?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

New Rules for Screwing Ontario Consumers

The Ontario Government is considering new rules on how to screw Ontario consumers for the chicken they buy.

The Government welcomes comments from Ontario citizens on how well they like the previous screwings, and how to make the screwing faster, and more effective.

What am I talking about?  They plan to change Ontario Reg 1990-402 under the Farm Products Marketing Act for setting the farm gate price of chicken.  You can read about it here then enter your own comments.

So as to prime the pump, here is what I submitted today.  The deadline to submit comments is Nov. 6, 2014, so don't delay.

The government will likely do whatever they planned to do, no matter what you write, but maybe, just maybe, if enough people give negative comments (or great ideas to make it better), they may toss us a cookie.

Here are my comments that I submitted today:

The current system is badly flawed.

If adequate protections and limitations are not included in the proposed changes, the new system will be easily manipulated so as to make it as bad, or possibly worse, than the current COP system.

It is obvious that over the last 50 years there has been significant integration and amalgamation within and proximate to the chicken SM system, as SM provides significant guarantees of higher profits and other benefits to all who are within and proximate to the chicken SM system.

This has resulted in a 33% premium price for SM animal feeds over similar non-SM feeds.  Since feed represents 60% of the total cost of production, these non-competitive, premium prices, directly and indirectly caused by SM, have a significant effect on chicken COP, and the affordability of chicken for consumers.

Excess carbohydrates in Western diets is causing or contributing to a multitude of disease epidemics, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, etc.  Diabetes alone is projected to consume the entire health care budget by 2045 or sooner at its current rate of increase.  Note that health care currently consumes 42% of Ontario's budget.  If dietary carbohydrates are reduced, that pushes us to increase protein and fat.  Chicken could be an obvious solution to reducing dietary carbohydrates, however it isn't a solution due to the previous SM reg, and unless you are careful with how you change the reg, you will exclude chicken as a solution even more.

If an organization (and/or sister organizations) owns, controls, or passively/actively "co-operates" with hatcheries, feed mills, broiler growers, processors, and further processors, they can tweak the prices, terms, supply, and other factors for all the inputs and intermediary products and transfer so as to maximize their overall profits, other benefits, and minimize their risks.  How will the new Reg tease out the true price, or discover the best price, rather than the artificial price facade that has been constructed so as to take advantage of the regulation for private gain, while the public gets the costs and risks?

What protections will be inserted so that there is openness, transparency, and accountability in all aspects of the input data, random sampling methods, COP process, outputs, and their uses of the data?  Currently all is held in tight secrecy, and the local boards are exempt from Freedom of Information, etc., and refuse to disclose, or answer questions from the public.

Why are there no citizens, or consumer advocates on the Local Board who can help protect the best interests of the Ontario public?  The Local Boards receive a monopoly created by the public, but those Local Boards have stated that they have no duty whatsoever to the public beyond those that are expressly stated in the FPMA and regs; which are none.

The current COP has encouraged and permitted retail prices of chicken to rise far faster the the general rate of inflation.  Affordability of chicken for LICO (Low Income Cutoff, people living in poverty), minimum wage earners, and the average Ontario family has dropped by as much as 32% in the last 10 years.  Before the Local Board states what is "fair" for the farmer through COP, should they not consider what is "fair" for all of these Ontario consumers?  Does this regulation assume that the rights of 1,100 chicken farmers to a "reasonable return" supersede the rights of the 13.8 million Ontario citizens to affordable chicken that is safe and nutritious?  If so, expressly state this assumption or new government policy in the new regulation.

CFIA and University of Guelph studies have repeatedly shown that Ontario chicken is contaminated with deadly pathogens 30% to 80% of the time, and 50% of those pathogens are SuperBugs caused or contributed to by use of antibiotics in the feed and water.  Should the COP discount the value of farm gate chicken that is antibiotic resistant.

An informal survey of BC consumers recently showed that availability of free range chicken is the #1 issue for BC consumers.  Should these type of issues be used to discount or award demerits on the COP when the local board fails to adequately serve the consumer's needs?

If the chicken Board is charged with a duty to maximize the rate of continuous improvement in all aspects of the SM system (ie. retail price, nutrition, safety, biosecurity, availability, affordability, consumer satisfaction, etc.), miracles can be achieved.  Most organizations can achieve 4% per year.  What has the Local Chicken Board achieved over their 50 year history?  If the reg gives the farmers 50% of the savings/improvements achieved, passing on 50% of the savings to consumers, we suddenly are working for a shared goal.

The current way SM works, there is no requirement to improve by SM, so they become more and more fat, dumb, and happy every year.  For example, in the 1950's Canada's chicken farmers had one of the best FCR's available.  Today, the world's best is in New Zealand, with an FCR of 1.38 which is 31.8% better than Canadian chicken farmers.  How did this occur?  What is CFO doing about it?  Why isn't this top priority #1 for CFO?

Changing the regulations without considering the above is re-dealing the cards out of a stacked deck; the outcome is highly predictable, and it will be in favor of CFO and their members, and unfair to Ontario consumers.
A second problem arises from your plans to survey actual COP data.  You state that the COP should "establish a price that gives efficient producers a fair return over time."

If you use median data, 50% of the farmers will be above the median COP, 50% below.  The actual COP is likely a highly skewed statistic, so medians are more appropriate than averages.  The analogy for not using averages is the case of  the annual income of a billionaire and someone living at the poverty level, so the average is a millionaire income, which is somewhat removed from the person living in poverty.

If your COP sampling finds the median COP, those who are in the upper quartile of productivity and efficiency will likely have the lower quartile of COP.  If that tranche sub-group gains a reasonable return, all those who are less effective have a choice:  get more effective for their personal benefit as well as the greater good of all Ontario; or get out of the chicken business as they are negligent or incompetent or unable to compete.

This will help ensure the economic benefits of the SM chicken farmer are tied with the economic benefits of all consumers of chicken.

For the facts that back up all of these comments, contact me, or you can read the objective facts, research, and analysis on our Blog

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Voice of the Customer

Some may consider that the #ChickenMafia just made 6 or more huge mistakes, all of which I'm about to tell you about.  However, I suggest these are 6 shining example of Bravery, Openness, Accountability, and Transparency ("B.O.A.T.") by the #ChickenMafia.

Sincere Thanks to #ChickenMafia for 6 B.O.A.T.S.

We don't get much "BOAT" from the #ChickenMafia, so we should make a special effort to recognize their "mistake" of providing the public some BOAT.  We need to minimize the negative consequence for the BC #ChickenMafia so they don't regret providing us BOAT.  We need to maximize the positive feedback to the #ChickenMafia so they deliver more and more BOAT to the public.

Send your thanks to Chicken Farmers of Canada, and BC Chicken Marketing Board and BC Agriculture Council and BC Poultry Association and the BC Minister of Agriculture Honorable Norm Letnick

BOAT #1:   The #ChickenMafia did a survey where they asked important questions, in spite of the risk that they get the truth rather than what they wanted to hear.  They got the truth in spades:
"over 64 per cent of British Columbians believe that hormones and steroids are added to the chicken they eat."
BOAT #2: The #ChickenMafia decided not to ignore the shockingly poor survey results on the perceived use of steroids and hormones in growing chicken

BOAT #3:  The #ChickenMafia decided to do a video parody on the non-use of steroids and hormones to grow chicken (see Blog posting Militarized Canadian Chicken).

BOAT #4:  The #ChickenMafia published their video on a Vancouver events website VanCityBuzz, asking for comments from the public about chicken growing practices in British Columbia.

BOAT #5:   The #ChickenMafia didn't monitor, edit, and delete the negative comments, so as to leave only the positive comments showing on the Internet.

BOAT #6:   The #ChickenMafia didn't take down that sobering page of negativity directed at the #ChickenMafia and their factory chicken (ie. they left all the negative comments out in the open for the world to see from the day after their contest ended on May 1, 2014 till today; 5 months and counting, thus allowing me to find it today).

In case the BC #ChickenMafia  suddenly lose their courage, or they get a call from TPTB (The Powers That Be) who order them to get it taken down, I have copied the comments and saved them.  You can go to the original source on VanCityBuzz or if that has been disappeared, then you can review the copy I saved for posterity.  Unfortunately, in spite of everything I tried, I was unable to get the last 32 comments (ie. after Helena to Jarret Flach) into the saved file due to the Java script in the html code used by VanCityBuzz's website.

#ChickenMafia Social Media Propaganda

The $1,149 grand prize BBQ used as bait to motivate thousands
of social media slaves to spread the propaganda of
the #ChickenMafia.  In spite of this, the public clearly
bit the hand that tried to feed them tainted chicken.
The #ChickenMafia offered significant bribes to entice the desired social media behaviours: a $1,149 BBQ, and a $5,000 backyard makeover, gift card, t-shirt, cookbook and more.

The #ChickenMafia also held Twitter Parties under the hash tag #RaisedByACDNFarmer (ie. Raised by a Canadian Farmer).  Many of those who participated in that party are Brand Ambassadors (ie. paid shills) of a marketing consultant hired by Chicken Farmers of Canada ("CFC"); a form of social media incest.

In spite of these #ChickenMafia bribes, the people spoke their truths, exploding and exposing the propaganda of the #ChickenMafia.

The #ChickenMafia received a total of 102 comments on their chicken growing practices.

8 People Convinced Duped by #ChickenMafia Propaganda

Just 8 people (just 7.8% of the people participating in the survey, 5.7% of all the comments made) felt reassured by the Supply Management factory farm system, the Local Boards, and the regulatory system that is assumed to protect consumers' best interests.  All of the rest of the comments can be construed as being negative against the plans and actions of the #ChickenMafia and their factory farms.

Voice of the Customers

Free range chicken receive 50.4% of the comments on what consumers liked and preferred.  That is a huge majority, swamping all other comments.  Next in line, 9.2% of the comments expressed support for no hormones and no steroids in their chicken.  In third place was 5.7% of the comments expressing a warm reassurance that the government, the Chicken Boards, and good regulations were protecting their chicken supply. In 4th place, 5% of the comments expressed a desire to have the chickens properly cared for.  Next biggest concern with 4.3% of all comments was tied between locally grown chicken and healthy chickens.  The last of the "Vital Few" (as defined by Pareto as 80% of the population) were happy chickens with 3.5% of all comments.  These eight factors represent 82% of the comments received.

It is recommended that the #ChickenMafia heed the comments of their customers.  If not, they may soon lose 80% of those customers.

Note that Small Flockers' principles, first published in Feb. 2013, are 100% aligned with the consumers' wish list from May 2014.  Imagine that!  What a coincidence!

If the #ChickenMafia is unwilling or unable to serve the clear, stated needs of the Canadian consumers, the #ChickenMafia should step aside, remove the oppressive and unjust regulations that restrict Small Flockers, thereby allowing Small Flockers to serve the consumer's needs.

As Lee Iacocca said,

 "Lead, follow, or get out of the way!"

Pareto analysis of consumer comments on perceived &/or desired growing practices for BC chicken.
The comments that make up 80% of the total population represent the "Vital Few", in this case
the first 6 comments; "Free Range" being the first and foremost feature consumers desire.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Militarized Canadian Chicken

BC chicken farms have been militarized as a propaganda tool to distract consumers from the real issues.

BC Chicken Marketing Board and BC Chicken Growers’ Association teamed up to produce this propaganda video Chicken Squad.

With the specially built website for the propaganda video, offering behind the scenes, out-takes, and related clips, we are introduced to real people who starred in the video, people who are just like us, but they just happen to be chicken farmers.  All of them seem like very nice people who would be desirable as friends or neighbours.  At the end of shooting the video, they bring in the public for a chicken BBQ, show them the barns, the cute day-old chicks, and the video.  Nice PR propaganda.  I'm sure everybody took lots of pictures and told all their family and friends about their exciting adventure.  Excellent tool to avoid the truth and re-assure the public.

I'm not totally comfortable with them depicting the militarization of chicken factory farms.  I'm especially upset that they use this powerful tool to deceive and distract the public from the real issues.

Their video is rated as "ST: Shocking Truth", but is it?  BC Chicken Growers assure us time and again that chicken farmers have kept both hormones and steroids out of BC's chicken supply for over 50 years.  Where is the objective proof to back up that statement?

The movie repeats and repeats again that ever since 1963 it has been illegal to use steroids or hormones in growing chickens.  Got it.  I understand.  No steroids or hormones allowed.  However, this begs some questions:
  1. What were the chicken farmers doing before 1963 that instigated the government to ban the use of steroids and hormones?
  2. What is your definition of "steroids" and "hormones"?  How do those definitions match up with reality, or are these definitions used to create a loophole so as to deceive, mislead, and distract?
  3. What about the use of antibiotics, chemical, drugs, and other growth promotants in the chicken's feed and water?  Why aren't you making a video about that?

David Janzen, Chairperson of Chicken Farmers of Canada ("CFC") since 2012, in the role of Mentor for the Chicken Squad, says in the video:
"They're trying to ruin our chicken.  You have to stop them.  Don't forget what I've taught you, how we raise real food, real chicken."
Interviewing David Janzen about the propaganda video, Canadian Poultry wrote:

“The most concerning statistic is how many consumers believe chicken contains hormones and steroids,” Janzen says, noting a recent survey showed 64 per cent of British Columbians believe that. The videos therefore clearly spell out that the use of hormones and steroids to produce chicken in Canada has been banned for 50 years.

Misconceptions are particularly prevalent among the young.

“We looked at the issue of trust between consumers and farmers. Do consumers trust the people who are growing their food?” Janzen asks, adding “there was a direct correlation between age and the level of trust. The younger the consumer, the less the trust.”

#ChickenMafia's survey of BC consumers found that 63% of consumers
believe BC chicken contains steroids and hormones
The propaganda facade constructed by the #ChickenMafia has some serious breaches and holes.  People have looked behind the curtain and don't like what they have seen.  No wonder the #ChickenMafia needed a hot, sexy video on social media to shore up their image and protect their monopoly.

Feeding chickens arsenic, banned antibiotics, antihistamines, Prozac anti-depressants, caffeine, and Tylenol have all been standard practices in the mega chicken factories for decades (see Blog posting Choose: Frankenstein Chicken, or Naturally Raised Chicken?).  For the #ChickenMafia who chose to do so, some or all of these chemicals and drugs are fed to the chicken so as to help the millionaire chicken farmers increase their profits, and reduce their risks.  While the use of drugs and chemicals has been standard practice, there may be a few brave chicken factory farms who minimized the use of these drugs and chemicals, or didn't use them at all.  We don't know for sure, as this is a closely guarded secret of the #ChickenMafia.

Little thought is made about the impact these drugs and chemicals have on the quality of the food produced, or the wishes of the consumer.  If there was full truth in advertising, and the #ChickenMafia was forced to disclose the chemical soup that some regularly feed to their chickens, how many shocked consumers would still buy that chicken?

If Dave Janzen and CFC want to produce "real food, real chicken", do they carefully audit and test chicken samples throughout Canada to ensure nobody is sneaking any of these drugs and chemicals into the chickens so as to enhance their profits and reduce their business risk?  If yes, let them disclose the methods used and the data collected.  If not, this Chicken Squad video is mere propaganda meant to deceive, coverup, distract, and mislead the public.

They say it and write it in the video "Chicken growers have kept steroids and hormones out of BC for about 50 years"

Yes, I agree, it has been illegal to use hormones and steroids.  Unfortunately, there's significant money to be made by using illegal drugs, hormones, and steroids.

Is BC's Chicken Marketing Board inspecting and testing for illegal substances in the chicken?  If not, why not?  If they can't back up their statements with objective facts, they shouldn't be making the statements; neither in their video dramatization, nor their website, nor their literature.  Again, where's the proof for the statements being made by the #ChickenMafia?

The whole premise of the video is the questionable portrayal of the militarization of food and farm.  In case the BC #ChickenMafia forgot, this is Canada, not the United States.  Canadians support neither weapons-grade food, nor militarization of farms.

The BC Chicken Growers received a $15,500 government grant from the BC Buy Local Fund to help fund the video.   It is interesting to see how the government gushes over the#ChickenMafia in their press release about this grantVancouver's Humane Society isn't happy about millionaire chicken farmers getting government grants to create misleading propaganda to hide behind so as to avoid animal rights issues.

I assume the video cost somewhere between $50,000 to $200,000 to make.  Our tax dollars part part of the cost, but who gets to pay the rest?  Obviously, they didn't do a door-to-door charitable collection to fund their fun little video.  They likely took it out of their marketing budget, funding it as a way of promoting chicken.  The cost of that video helped raise the price of chicken in the stores, or prevented the prices from dropping.  Either way, were they properly spending the public's money?  After all, it is consumers who eventually picks up the tab for everything the #ChickenMafia does.

While the chicken farmers have fun pretending they're in Hollywood, we get the bill, we have to explain to our kids and/or grandchildren why there are gunfights and explosions at Canadian chicken farms, and the #ChickenMafia avoid the truth again and again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

CFO's Specialty Chicken Scam

In bizarre (or manipulative) timing, CFO has suddenly switched policy direction on Ontario's Specialty Chicken.  Specialty Chicken is intended for the historically poorly served ethnic communities in Ontario who want chicken with the head and feet still on the bird, and similar specialty characteristics.

Chicken Farmers of Ontario ("CFO") announced on Sept. 11, 2014 the application process for specialty bird quota of at least 5,000 birds per grow period.

These specialty birds tend to grow slower than WhiteRock birds (up to 14 weeks vs. 8 weeks for WhiteRocks), and consume more feed (ie. a higher Feed Conversion Ratio "FCR").  However, if we assume 6.5 grow periods per year, that minimum quota is 32,500 birds per year.  At an average weight of 2.0 kg, per bird, that is 65,000 kg of live chicken per year, or at 0.686 kg eviscerated per kg live weight, that is 44,608 kg/yr of eviscerated raw chicken meat.  At an average Canadian consumption rate of 30.5 kg/person/yr, that eviscerated chicken will feed 1,462 people per year at the minimum Specialty Chicken flock size.

The first available application period has to be submitted to CFO on or before Sept. 16th, 2014; just 5 days after the announcement of this new policy.

The application will be assessed, prioritized, and approved based on the detailed business plan of the applicant.  I spent 25 years as a Management Consultant, helping hundreds of organizations do their Strategic Planning, project proposals, and build their business cases.

Doing a detailed plan in just 5 days is laughable.  Doing this application isn't the same as ordering a burger at a Drive-Through window.  Here's a typical scenario to meet a 5 day deadline:   CFO has my email address, but they didn't notify me of the launch, so nobody else was notified (if things are as fair as CFO insists).  Perhaps due to my dedication, I discover the CFO launch within 4 hrs after CFO posts the info.  If I am a competent manager, I likely have my next 2 weeks already planned, allowing perhaps 20% of the work as flexibly scheduled in case an emergency comes up.  I cancel everything for the next 5 days, causing total havoc for everybody who depended on my prior commitments.    In the next 4 hours of Day 1, I've read all of CFO's info on this opportunity, and formulate a plan to apply.  Since I am a competent manager, I have been doing extensive research in my spare time (ie. nights and weekends) on the specialty chicken market for the last 5 years, in preparation for this opportunity; so I get out my thick file of accumulated intelligence, as this is where I get to apply it.  On the evening of Day 1, I review my research file.  On Day 2, I email my prospective partners (grower, processor, further processor, custom processor, distributor, wholesaler, and retail) so they can start reading the CFO literature.  By the afternoon of Day 2, I schedule a preliminary telephone conference to discuss and hopefully form a team.  Not everybody will sign up, or they are too busy with their current plans, so I have to find a replacement, done in the late afternoon and evening hours, as I cancel my coaching of my son's team due to the emergency.  By the end of Day 2, we have a team.  On Day 3, I call my suppliers for Blue Sky cost estimates on everything that I will need.  I start a spreadsheet and fill it with numbers that look reasonable on capital, operating expense, marketing S-curve expansion over next 5 years, contact lists, project management schedule milestones and deadlines, price points, competitors, SWOT, risk assessment, sensitivity analysis, and cash flow.  By end of Day 4, the numbers from suppliers and partners start to roll in.  On Day 5, I start drafting paragraphs to cut and paste into CFO's application form, telling them why we should be first in line to receive their blessing for Specialty Chicken.  On or before 4:00 PM on Day 5, I click the send button on CFO's website with our application.

Did you notice a few assumptions?  Are you willing and able to implement that scenario without missing a beat?  Do you agree 5 days is ridiculous?

This can only result in half-baked plans that put the applicant (and everybody upstream and downstream of the applicant) at significant risk when that half-baked plan goes off the rails.

It is unclear as to CFO's reasons for the last minute announcement, but perhaps it is so CFO's "friends" can take unfair advantage of this opportunity.  Perhaps there are "friends" of CFO who were given a 3 month or a year advance warning of the planned legal maneuvering by CFO and AOCP, allowing them to start getting ready before the Unwashed Masses (ie. those with no inside info, as you're not a "special friend" of CFO) had a chance; thereby ensuring that the "friends of CFO" have significantly better proposals and applications.

Agri007 has reported on the ganging up of CFO (Chicken Farmers of Ontario) and AOCP (Association Ontario Chicken Processors) against OIPP (Ontario Independent Poultry Processors) and their OMAF Tribunal Appeal of CFO's Specialty Chicken Policy.

It appears that the lawyers of CFO and AOCP out-maneuvered and manipulated the appeal process by strategically timing the adding of parties to the OIPP appeal, requesting adjournments, using the excuse of "further negotiations" to derail or delay the appeal hearing, delaying the hearing dates, then withdrawing the old policy at the last second.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, CFO has a new Specialty Chicken policy, and gives everybody 5 days to respond.

The timing of pulling the old policy and substituting the new policy was obviously timed so as to screw OIPP out of their OMAF Tribunal appeal of CFO's old Specialty Chicken policy.

Does this all add up to abuse of the appeal process by CFO and AOCP?

But why the 5 days to file the application for the Dec. 31 2014 start?  Was CFO under some undercover threat by CFC (Chicken Farmers of Canada) to "use it or lose it" before the end of 2014 on the Specialty Chicken quota that was made available for Ontario?

Ontario and CFO have been complaining forever about being short of chicken, and differential quota allocations.  On Sept. 9th, 2014 Agri007 reported that CFC and all the provinces finally reaching a deal on an extra 22 Million kg of chicken quota gifted by CFC to Alberta and Ontario over the next 10 years. What link is there between this deal and the sudden shift in CFO Specialty Chicken policy and the short application deadline?

With CFO secrecy, we'll never know.

The opportunity may be so good, perhaps in spite of the stacked deck, the Unwashed Masses may need to react immediately, in spite of the unfair notice period.  There are subsequent deadlines for Specialty Chicken applications, but I suggest that this is such a good opportunity for a chosen few, it will likely be over-subscribed, and CFO might likely cancel the subsequent deadlines before they arrive, meaning that the Unwashed Masses likely need to apply now, or miss out forever on this golden opportunity.

Sean McGivern of Practical Farmers first raised the issue (subsequently investigated and reported on in detail by Better Farming) that at least one Silkie farmer received a surprise visit from the #ChickenMafia around April 2014 who suggested that he immediately pay $100 to make application for a Silkie special license, did so, got the license, and has shown a copy of that license to Sean.  What's up with that?  CFO and CFC have some explaining to do!

As usual, the hidden agenda and jockeying for position behind the curtain by CFO is legendary.

Frey's is the only source for Frey's Special Dual Purpose birds, that are specifically included in this new Specialty Chicken program.  There are many other hatcheries, in both Ontario and across Canada.  How is it that only Frey's is the lucky recipient of all this additional business?
CFO's Specialty Chicken deal requires the birds to be sold with head and feet on.  Once sold, a quick snip with a pair of poultry scissors can convert the bird to a "normal" chicken, a reasonable work-around the politics so we can get affordable chicken for the people of Manitoulin.  This isn't specifically banned by CFO's policy.  Is this a planned  (or unplanned) loophole created by CFO?  CFO insists they will have many Chicken Police across Ontario to ensure the rules are followed.

Does CFO mean the same Chicken Police and sleep walking CFO that consistently turn a blind eye while some renegade farmers buy multiple lots of 300 chickens under the name of their spouse, kids, dog, neighbours, or fictitious people and addresses so as to get around the oppressive Small Flock Exemption regulation of CFO?  The same Chicken Police who turn a blind eye to significant violations of CFO's mandatory rules by the chicken factory quota-bearing millionaire CFO members; thereby raising and selling chicken of questionable quality that puts Ontario consumers at significant risk?

CFO has a levy of just $0.0213/kg plus a $100/yr license fee, which is very reasonable, and highly affordable.  How does CFO justify that when regular quota requires multi-million dollar investments?

When you submit your application, CFO's Internet system takes it, says thank-you, but you get no receipt #, nor do you get a copy of the application as filed for the applicant's records.  Virtually every other website does this as standard business practice.  Not CFO, they're different.  Is the applicant sure that the application was received by CFO?  Can they prove what was submitted, in case of a dispute?  Could an application "disappear without a trace" due to some "accident" or mis-filing of applications within CFO?  This is a recipe for abuse and possible loss of trust, and lawsuits.

In business, it is standard to construct a Chinese Wall (also see here and here which explains the term came into use shortly after the 1929 Stock Market Crash, where insider info was used in conflict of interest, causing or contributing to the Crash), Boards meeting in camera, or have a special training session with a signed confidentiality agreement when staff or board members are dealing with confidential plans that could give unfair advantage to some if they get prior, inside knowledge.

Did CFO construct an adequate Chinese Wall, train those on the Specialty Chicken project team, verify their comprehension by an objective test, then have them sign a confidentiality agreement?  If not, why not?  If they did, how did CFO ensure all of that was effective and leak proof?  If CFO cannot objectively prove that they did all this, then we must assume CFO missed one or more key steps, and there was likely insider info that leaked out, and one or more individuals or groups took advantage of that insider info on CFO's new Specialty Chicken Policy.

I would prefer to have also seen the following, as a fictitious, but recommended, example:
CFO Board considered Application #'s 1 through 231 on a blind basis (ie. identifying info on all applications was stripped off so the judges couldn't tell who submitted the application), graded anonymously, selected anonymously, then the winning code numbers matched up with the name of the winner.

If your application was numbered 232, you obviously weren't considered by CFO's Board as they only considered Applications # 1 to 231 in the above fictional scenario, and you can ask why CFO didn't consider your Application #232.  The way CFO has it structured, you are forced to trust CFO.  Is there no foreseeable benefit of a fully open, transparent, and accountable system?  Where does OFPMC (Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission, CFO's boss and alleged Supervisor) stand on local boards practicing fully open, transparent, and accountable systems when there are millions of $ at stake?

This whole scene stinks worse than the millions of kg. of chicken manure that are produced by CFO's members.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Farmed & Dangerous

Big Ag. and intense farming practices are well skewered and roasted in Chipotles Mexican Grill Restaurants' comedy-satire Farmed and Dangerous.

Chipotles was started by Steve Ells in 1993.

Chipotles started innocent and well intentioned, with "Abandoned" as the debut for the Farm Relief cause:

Karen O. - Abandoned from David Altobelli on Vimeo.

After growing to 8 restaurants, Steve's continuing search for differentiation from Chipotles' competitors through fresher,  more nutritious, and better tasting ingredients led to his awareness about Big Ag's intensive methods of raising the pork that his restaurants used.  Steve was convinced there had to be a better way.

Since 1993, Steve Ells and Chipotles haven't looked back.  They re-invented themselves to rely upon and become symbiotic with low intensity, sustainable farming practices.  Not satisfied with living the good life for themselves and their customers, Steve led Chipotles with a missionary zeal to communicate the difference between Big Ag and sustainable ag. to all the world, hoping and helping everybody chooses the latter.

That Mission within a Mission led to Chipotles sponsoring the short video The Scarecrow

Chipotle describes The Scarecrow video short as follows:
"In a dystopian fantasy world, all food production is controlled by fictional industrial giant Crow Foods. Scarecrows have been displaced from their traditional role of protecting food, and are now servants to the crows and their evil plans to dominate the food system. Dreaming of something better, a lone scarecrow sets out to provide an alternative to the unsustainable processed food from the factory."
Watch, enjoy, and learn your lessons:

I found that short to say very little directly, but stirred strong, deep emotions within me.  Big Ag was quite upset by this video; quite understandable as it exposes them and their questionable practices.  The New Yorker magazine had a good review of the video, Chipotle, and their values portrayed.

Still not satisfied with the rate of change for the better, Chipotle commissioned a sequel to The Scarecrow, rolling out Farmed and Dangerous.  Chipotle describes it as:
"A Chipotle original comedy series that explores the outrageously twisted and utterly unsustainable world of industrial agriculture."

The 4 episodes are available on-line from Hulu, but are not easily watched outside of the USA.  You can watch clips on Youtube, or Huffington Post, or download all 4 episodes using Bit Torrent 

Here is a Farmed & Dangerous trailer:

I found Farmed and Dangerous to be a funny parody, as it is too close to the truth.  I can see one or more Big Ag. person being disappointed because they didn't think of "PetroPellet" first.  In other words, they can't see this as a parody, as it makes total sense to them that Big Ag. would do something so ridiculous.

The CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) owners all over the world are not amused.  A number of them and their Big Ag. friends don't appreciate being the but of the joke.  Perhaps they are considering legal action for libel, slander, and defamation of character, and similar charges.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel voices the complaints of the various Big Ag. farm groups, as does Peterson Bros. Farm Blog, given voice at Huffington Post, and many others in the meat industry.

It's scary that this is how far we've come.

Chipotles recommended reading list:
  • The Omnivores Dilemma
  • In Defense of Food
  • Righteous Pork Chop

It's time to re-trace our steps and get back on the righteous path to our proper destiny.

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.