Thursday, April 30, 2015

Antimicrobial Voices Lost in the Wilderness

Canada's Auditor General made a big splash this week with his scathing report against Health Canada and its fossilized bureaucracy failing to act against the crazy use of antimicrobials for animals destined to be human food.  Is the Auditor General the first voice of reason?


Small Flockers has done 24 well researched postings on this deadly problems during the last 26 months (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).  However, Small Flockers were latecomers to this lonely party.

Canadian Press contacted Dr. John Prescott, a veterinarian who retired last year from the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph, Ont.

Dr. Prescott was on a Health Canada committee that recommended 13 years ago to end regulatory loopholes that:
  • allowed any Canadian (including farmers) to import foreign drugs that aren't approved for use in Canada, provided those imported drugs are only used for "personal use" (ie. not re-sold to others).
  • allowed farmers to prescribe, medicate and treat farm animals (even for animals that are destined to be sold, slaughtered, and become food for the general public) without the oversight of a veterinarian.
Prescott said it is a mystery to people working in this field why those loopholes still exist 13 years later, and  "I think it probably relates to lobbying."

Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Britain, and others have recently tightened up the use of antimicrobials on farms.  Today they only allow antibiotics to be used on farms when prescribed by a veterinarian.

Just how big is the problem, and where is it the worst?
Figure 1:  Antimicrobial Use in Canada, as of 2009

Figure 1 at the right shows data presented by Canadian Beef Farmer.  Perhaps the data has been massaged to present their friendly beef farmers in the best light possible.

Note that feedlot cattle predominately use Class 4 antimicrobials, ones that have a low importance to treating humans.  Note that dairy cattle and non-feedlot beef are not presented here separately, they are lumped into "All Animals" category.  There is some use of Category 3 antimicrobials, but less than 10% of the total.  There are even Class 1 and 2 drugs used, but miniscule in comparison.

There is no mention of tonnages of animal feed, just percentages of the antimicrobial classes used.  Dairy and beef cattle eat huge volumes of feed, more than all other animals combined.  Therefore I'd reserve my opinion on this factoid until I see the same data in kg/year, not percentages.

Note that CAFO (Concentated Animal Feeding Operations), chicken factories with 200,000 birds or more) are likely one of the biggest offenders in the excessive and questionable use of antimicrobials.

Mother Jones reports 74 percent of the medically important drugs being consumed on farms are delivered through feed, and another 24 percent go out in water. That means fully 95 percent is being fed to animals on a regular basis, not being given to specific animals to treat a particular infection.

When a specific animal is unwell, it would be treated individually, not wholesale treatment by putting the drug in the central feed and/or water system that supplies the whole flock.  Note that just 4 percent of drugs used are administered via injection, 1 percent orally; indicating the flock is OK, but an individual bird is sick.  We therefore conclude that 95% of the antimicrobials used are administered to the entire flock.  This 95% use would indicate the dirty habit of using antimicrobials as either a growth promotant, or as a propholactic crutch to help the animals survive the terrible living conditions in a CAFO.

The All Animal category uses significant amounts of all antimicrobials in all 4 classes.  This is obviously an area for improvement.

Note that the Human (retail pharmacies) graph likely excludes hospitals, Long Term Care Facilities (ie. Nursing Homes), clinics, etc.

Will the Auditor General's report help Health Canada suddenly pass the necessary regulations?  Will the regulations ensure a more prudent use of antimicrobials?

Natural Resources Defense Council's Avinash Kar, said 70 percent of medically important antibiotics sold in the US go to farms.  In the US, the FDA, alerted by the Ceftiofur Incident in Quebec (see Finally! CFC Bans Ceftiofur Injections in Eggs & Chicks ) has already asked for a voluntary cutback on the use of antimicrobials on farm animals.  In spite of this formal, yet voluntary request to do what is right, Mother Jones reports the growth in antimicrobial use has continued.  Between 2009 and 2013, the use of medically important drugs on US farms grew by 20 percent.
Figure 2:  Antimicrobial drug sales in Denmark since
2001.  Denmark phased out antimicrobial use between
1994 to 1999

It isn't just the US.  It's a world-wide problem.  Figure 2 shows the antimicrobial drug sales in Denmark for cattle farms since 2001.  Denmark phased out antimicrobial use between 1994 to 1999, so this graph should show the new, improved methods after the antimicrobial controls are fully implemented, similar to what Health Canada is proposing.

On Denmark's antimicrobial leadership experience, Beef Research says:

"Since 2001, there has been a clear trend of increased use of prescribed veterinary antimicrobials. There has been a drop in the [farm] use of Medium Importance antimicrobials that are rarely used in humans anymore. However, the use of High Importance antimicrobials [on farms] has increased. Without the use of growth promoting antimicrobials, the need [on farms] for antimicrobials that are important to human health increased. In addition, there has been no clear trend towards decreased antimicrobial resistance [of bacteria] in Danish cattle or beef."

Lesson Learned:    Once the antimicrobial genie is out of the bottle, it's hard to put the genie back in the bottle.

If a CAFO farmer has a million dollars invested in his CAFO livestock, and the government takes away the antimicrobials that allows the CAFO animals to survive the poor living conditions on your CAFO farm, what are you going to do?

Small flock methods such as pastured poultry generally don't need antimicrobials, but CAFO's do.  Currently, CAFO's must have antimicrobials to allow the animals to survive the poor living conditions in the CAFO, thereby minimizing the risks to their huge CAFO profits.  Without continuing the administration of antimicrobials, corporate profits and thousands of CAFO jobs could be put at risk.  If you can somehow use antimicrobials, you can continue your crazy CAFO ways, and obtain the huge CAFO profits.  CAFO operators see that as an easy choice, and therefore refuse to consider pastured poultry as a viable alternative.

It seems obvious that the CAFO farmer will call up the local Veterinarian, and tell the Vet his concerns.  The Vet has likely been dealing with that CAFO farmer for a long time, selling the Vet's professional services to the CAFO farmer, and wants to continue to do so.  Eventually, the Vet writes a prescription for the CAFO farmer.  The CAFO farmer uses that prescription to purchase the antimicrobials he wants to continue feeding his CAFO animals.  The CAFO farmer continues doing what he always did before, without missing a beat.  The only difference is, the CAFO farmer has a slightly different paper path through the bureaucracy.

The only thing that will stop this scenario from occurring is a Vet with a backbone.  The Vet will have to risk sacrificing himself and his personal profits for the greater good of the public.

If a Vet has a personal friendship and decades of income from one or more CAFO farmers, can the Vet resist the temptation to give the CAFO farmers what they want?  If this Vet doesn't give these CAFO farmers what they want, the CAFO farmers will likely go shop their need around to other Vets, eventually finding a Vet who will give those CAFO farmers what they want.

Some Vets are full-time employees of Big Ag. or Big Food producers who raise millions of animals for profit.  If the Vet's bosses order the Vet to issue a prescription for the millions of animals raised by the corporation, will the Vet risk his job and regular pay cheque by saying:


Frankly, I'm not sure what I would do under those circumstances.  Thirty years ago, in a similar circumstance to this tough choice facing the Vets of today, I raised an issue as a Professional Engineer with the corporation that employed me.  At that time, I and most of the peers in the industry recognized my corporation as an excellent corporate citizen who generally did what was right, just, & proper.  Eventually, I was able to get the corporation to reverse course and do what was morally & professionally correct at an additional cost of about $50,000 to the corporation, but that stand I took eventually cost me my job.  A Vet standing tall today could force a decision that risks millions of dollars and thousands of jobs for their corporation; orders of magnitude greater forces at play than in my circumstances 30 years ago.

What would you do?

Currently there is no system to publically "Name & Blame" Vets who cave in to these CAFO pressures.  In a dark, secret world of non-disclosure, Vets are unlikely to be blamed and disciplined by their peers.  If all Vets are mandated to publically disclose the kg and percentages of prescriptions they write for the 4 Classes of microbials every Quarter, some or most Vets will comply and stand tall.  Even then, some Vets may cheat for personal profit, or rebell against this bureaucratic intrusion into their professional discretion and freedom.  Rigorous auditing of all Vets will have to be done to ensure that the numbers publically reported by each Vet are true.

Is Health Canada and all the Vet Colleges of Canada prepared to go there?  If not, then we can expect many Vets to cave to the CAFO pressures that will eventually occur under the proposed tightening of Health Canada regulations.

In Denmark, that is likely why the use of "High Importance" drugs is rapidly increasing, and the Medium Importance antimicrobials are on the decline (the ones the CAFO farmer had previously been using on his own).  Obviously, the regulatory actions of the Danish government did not achieve the intended improvement.

If Health Canada passes knee-jerk, naieve, or superficial regulations, those regulations likely won't work here either.  It appears that this is what Health Canada intends to do.

By the time we get serious about the improper use of antimicrobials, it may be too late to save millions of additional Canadians who will become infected by Superbugs.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Superbugs: CAFO-Induced Infections, and a 10-step solution

Nosocomial is defined as "acquired or occurring in a hospital".  Superbug infections are some of the worst nosocomial events.  Now Canada's Auditor General Spring 2015 report has joined the discussion, reminding us that Health Canada has failed to act on Superbugs, even on the priorities that Health Canada has identified for themselves.

This Blog has been pointing out the risk of Superbugs in both community and hospitals for two years, risks mainly caused or contributed to by CAFO factory farms (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

Twenty-two posts in 2 years, just on Superbugs and antibiotics.  Now I clearly see why I'm behind on getting my farm chores done.  It's not that I am trying to be a broken record.  This is a critical issue, and a complex issue.  These two simultaneous factors create many issues that need to be examined in great depth to properly understand the overall subject of Superbugs and antimicrobials.
Ignore the warnings of this man (and the eventual wrath
of the public) at your own peril.

Canada's Auditor General Michael Ferguson is not happy
with the bureaucratic foot dragging of Health Canada on
antimicrobial misuse, and the resulting Superbugs.  CAFO
farms are the root cause of these deadly Superbug diseases.
Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

The CAFO Caper

CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), both within and outside of Supply Management for chickens, turkeys, and dairy, are the epicenter of causing or contributing to Superbugs that infect &/or kill Canadians.

CAFO's are well known for creating Superbugs, usually due to the crazy, indiscriminate, or illegal use of antibiotics so as to make higher profits for these greedy CAFO operators and their Big Food partners.

CAFO's are known reservoirs of Superbugs, CAFO's store Superbugs they created themselves, and/or Superbugs imported from elsewhere.  These Superbugs are stored inside CAFO's due to the dysfunctional processes of CAFO's.  Slowly & continuously, these Superbugs bleed out into the community as unwelcome hitchhikers on the movement of the CAFO animals, the CAFO employees as they go back and forth from home to work, and on suppliers who visit the CAFO.

As Superbugs from CAFO's bleed out into the neighbouring communities, people get sick from those Superbug infections.  When you suddenly get sick, it's natural to go to the nearest hospital to seek help.  Hospitals are continuously bombarded by Superbugs, one wave after another.  Most of the Superbug bombardments of hospitals originate from dysfunctional CAFO's.

Some hospitals have effective programs to prevent and control pathogens in hospitals.  However, when these "state of the art" infection control systems are continuously swamped by a tsunami of Superbugs, those hospital systems become overwhelmed.  With an unseen, microscopic Superbug enemy, it is hard to keep focused and effective vigilance by all staff and all patients on a 24-7-365 basis.

Most hospitals are far from perfect on their infection control systems, ending up adding to the resistance and strength of the Superbugs that continuously arrive at the doors of these hospitals.  Half-hearted disinfection efforts in these hospitals strengthens the resident Superbugs more and more each day, helping them gain experience at surviving all chemical disinfectants and methods that are used superficially.  Eventually, even if the hospital moves from superficial to best available disinfection, the stronger and more experienced Superbugs are resistant to even the best efforts.  The strong and experienced Superbugs can no longer be defeated by the best available methods.  More and more patients and hospital staff are infected, and some die.

Canada's Auditor-General Findings

Canada's Auditor General reported:
"... the Department [Health Canada] has not strengthened existing regulations to prohibit farmers from importing unlicensed non-prescription antimicrobial drugs that are important to human medicine for use in their own animals.  The Department does not assess these drugs for quality, safety, or efficacy. According to the Department, the use of these drugs in food animals may have serious public health implications, including the development of antimicrobial resistance. Furthermore, the Department allows certain antimicrobials that are used to treat serious infections in humans to be sold without a prescription for use in food animals"
"Health Canada is aware that regulations presently do not prohibit the importation of non-prescription antimicrobial drugs important to human medicine that have not been licensed for sale in Canada, on the condition that these drugs will not be resold. As a result, farmers are able to import these drugs and use them in their own animals. This is often referred to as “own-use importation.”
Note that the AG's statement "import these drugs and use them in their own animals" refers to farm animals that subsequently become food for Canadians (eg. beef, pork, chicken, turkeys, lamb, etc.).

 "The Department is also aware that there are few regulatory controls over the importation of veterinary active pharmaceutical ingredients — including ingredients used in antimicrobial drugs important to human medicine. Health Canada has concerns about the importation and direct use of these ingredients in food animals."
Note that "veterinary active pharmaceutical ingredients" referenced above are bulk drugs immediately prior to being packaged into veterinary drugs (eg. pills, vials, ampules, etc.).  Buying bulk drugs are significantly cheaper, and mainly escape regulatory controls though loopholes used by CAFO farmers, Big Food, and/or their henchmen.

When CAFO farms use 75% of all drugs manufactured (ie. only 25% are used for humans), you can better understand why CAFO farmers (and the animal feed manufacturers who sell to CAFO farmers), import, buy, and use "veterinary active pharmaceutical ingredients".

"Public Health Agency of Canada (the Agency) and Health Canada (the Department) have not fulfilled key responsibilities to mitigate the public health risks posed by the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance in Canada"
Canada's Auditor General made a good start, but in our opinion, didn't go far enough on this critical issue that is killing Canadians.

We'd like to add some Small Flocker icing to the Auditor-General's cake.

Small Flockers Recommendations

While the Federal Government needed their collective noses rubbed in this growing mess they helped create, what about the CAFO farmers?

Is there no social or moral responsibility to do what is right, regardless of any loopholes that may exist in the government's regulation?  Do CAFO farmers have full right and no responsibility for running amok?

I think CAFO farmers, and all others who misuse antimicrobials, need to curtail their reckless behaviours, no matter what loopholes may exist in the past, current, or future regulations.

For Supply Management regulations that enable CAFO chickens, turkeys, and dairy, there will always be a gap between available technologies newly emerged, and the regulations.  Regulations will always be behind the time, and must always catch up to latest emerging technologies, or the craziness of out of control or imprudent individuals.

Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada recommend revising Canada's Supply Management regulations to:
  1. Expressly require prudent and reasonable actions by all Boards and others who are created or regulated, including the quota-bearing SM farmers;
  2. Expressly imposes a duty on all parties who are created or regulated to always act in the best interest of the Canadian public;
  3. Expressly impose a duty for all parties who are created or regulated to consider the Precautionary Principle prior to all decisions, and periodically consider it for all duties; and apply those Precautionary Principle when it is prudent to do so;
  4. Expressly legislate that all parties who are created or regulated have no immunity, and have civil liability for their criminal acts, bad faith, conflicts of interests, negligence, and their other tortuous actions and inactions;
  5. Expressly legislate that the Officers, and Directors of all Boards who are created or regulated have unlimited personally liable for their criminal, bad faith, conflicts of interest, or negligent actions and inactions that they personally do, and are done by their organization with their knowledge and their approval or acquiescence while they hold their position;
  6. Expressly regulate civil and/or quasi-criminal penalties for non-compliance or breach of these fiduciary duties and/or the regulations.
  7. Expressly regulate mandatory planning and implementation of regular internal quality and risk auditing by competent, objective, and unbiased auditors for compliance and effectiveness; and external auditing by competent, objective, and unbiased third party quality & risk management auditors at least annually; require timely remedial actions to prevent, contain, mitigate, and remedy non-compliances and significant risks; and re-auditing of all remedial actions to ensure they are completed in a timely manner, and are effective.
  8. Expressly regulate that any fine, liabilities, penalties or damage awards owed or paid cannot be reimbursed by the public purse; nor can an individual be reimbursed by their organization for any fine, liabilities, penalties or damage awards owed or paid by the individual; nor can any fine, liabilities, penalties or damage awards owed or paid be considered as a valid cost in calculating COP (Cost of Production), reasonable profit, overhead, levies, or other fee that gets passed on to downstream customers or retail consumers;
  9. Expressly regulate that any interested party can complain and/or appeal against the actions and/or inactions on these 10 issues by all parties who are created or regulated;
  10. Expressly regulate mandatory pro-active and ongoing disclosure in a comprehensive and timely manner by all parties who are created or regulated, so as to publicly disclose all potential conflicts of interest, and be fully open, transparent, and accountable; including but not limited to the internal and external quality & risk management audits.
This 10 step proposal will ensure that CAFO Supply Management farmers and Big Food must act responsibly, or suffer the consequences.  Canadians who are injured by the reckless Supply Management system can be reasonably compensated for the wrongful actions of these reckless multi-millionaires who endanger all of us.

Let it be so.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Scams on Free Range & Organic Chicken

The Chicken Mafia are co-opting the terms "free range" and "organic" as a method of cheating and mis-leading the public, and gouging higher profits for themselves.

An anonymous poster on Better Farming was questioning the use of the term "free range", and how it is misused by some.

Free Range Chicken

My definition of free range is that the poultry has free and direct access to the great out of doors; can see the sun; can decompress and get away from their sisters; can walk through the pasture or woods at their leisure; can flap their wings & feel the wind on their feathers; eat any grub, grass, seed, or insect they happen to find; and do dust baths in the dirt of the forest floor to their heart's content. The 18" x 18" door on my coop is opened in the morning, and closed after everybody is back in the coop by dusk.

On my Small Flock poultry farm, we have LGD's (Livestock Guardian Dogs) who protect our birds, and keep them isolated.  If a crow, hawk, fox, coyote, or other wild animal is thinking about coming in to fraternize with our poultry, or steal an egg or chicken, the wildlife quickly reconsiders their plan due to our LGDs.

There are other Small Flockers who do pastured poultry on grass pastures using electric poultry netting, possibly supplemented by LGDs.

Pastured Poultry

On my Small Flocker farm, we are gearing up to do pastured broiler poultry this Spring.  Inside each 10 ft x 12 ft open air cage on a grassy pasture are 75 broiler chickens.  Each cage is moved forward every day to fresh grass for the birds to eat and scratch.  The birds receive a fresh patch of pasture during each day for their entire grow cycle.  Each patch of pasture is only re-used again after 6 weeks of rest and recovery.  Any bugs that enter through the chicken wire, seeds found, grubs in the dirt, or grass under the bottomless cage is welcome food for the birds, who then eat 40% less of the commercially manufactured feed which supplements the pasture.

Is "Organic Chicken" Better. or a Scam?

Beside free range, "Organic Chicken" is another weird definition that is used to confuse and mislead consumers.  The greedy SM cheats salivate over the 30% or higher premium prices available for "organic chicken".  The CFIA organic regulation says,

" 6.8.1 The operator of an organic livestock operation shall establish and maintain animal living-conditions that accommodate the health and natural behaviour of all animals, including:   a) access to the outdoors, shade, shelter, rotational pasture, exercise areas, fresh air and natural daylight suitable to the species, its stage of production, the climate and the environment;"

Unfortunately, the CAFO's (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and "Big Food" have lobbied, done regulatory capture, redefined, twisted, and misinterpreted the organic standard to suit their profit seeking goals.

If the CAFO cheaters open a 8" x 8" door at one obscure corner of a chicken factory barn holding 200,000 birds, and that door leads to a tiny screened-in porch, then the unholy alliance of CAFO cheats and Big Food often label their chicken "free range", and qualify for "organically raised" under the regulations.

Of course, the porch will hold only a tiny fraction (maybe a hundred birds or so) of the 200,000 birds, and even fewer birds ever discover the well hidden door.  Chickens are forced to live in the cesspool of CAFO chicken factories, the method used by most or all of Canada's Supply Management chicken growers.  CAFO birds are crammed in, cheek to jowl, as many as 196,000 birds on one farm.  The birds are forced to live in their own manure for their entire life, forced to breath the toxic dust cloud that never goes away.  They are force fed antibiotics, other drugs, and weird chemical brews so as to keep them alive in spite of the poor living conditions. 

Hopefully it will become clear to all consumers that CAFO chicken factories have found a convenient loophole in the regulations to subvert and mislead consumers, as usual.

Sooner or later, consumers will realize the fraud.  Eventually, the mounting breach of trust by SM's foul chicken factories will be exposed on these issues.  One day soon, all of those lies or half truths will totally rupture the trust between CAFO cheats and society, and the public will totally abandon this terribly flawed system.

Small Flocker Chicken Alternative

As an alternative to all of the crap, cheating, and misleading described above, small flock poultry farmers have an alternative we'd like to offer to Ontario and its citizens.

There are more than 15,000 Small Flock chicken farmers in Ontario.  If the government regulations were made more favorable to small flockers (as opposed to the monopoly of cheating and misleading Chicken Mafia henchmen), then some or most of Small Flockers would be ready, willing, and capable of growing safe, affordable, nutritious, locally grown chicken for their family, friends, and local communities.

The choice is clear.  We just need help getting the word out.  Once the public has all the necessary facts, then the public can make an informed decision.  Choice and freedom.  That's what a democracy is supposed to be all about.

That's exactly what the Chicken Mafia are fearful of, and are desperately fighting against.

Soon, you will need to stand up and make a choice as to which side you are on.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ontario's Agri-Food Export Dream Turns Into a SM Mirage

Ontario is trying to enhance its agri-food exports to help our limping and damaged economy.  Will their plan work?

Better Farming reported that Ontario's Premier Kathleen Wynne has hired an Agri-food Trade Advisor to start June 1, 2015 to enhance agri-food exports from Ontario to China.  This is supposed to help Ontario double its agri-food exports by 2020.

Figure 1:   Historical foreign exchange rate between Canadian $ and Chinese Yuan (Renminbi).
Canadian goods are now 34.8% cheaper than 10 years ago for Chinese consumers to buy.
Too bad that can't help Canada's Supply Management commodities of dairy, chicken, & turkey.
Using Bank of Canada data for the last 10 years, the foreign currency exchange rate between the Canadian $ and the Chinese Yuan (Renminbi) has dropped by 34.8% from April 2005 to today, making Canadian goods cheaper for Chinese consumers (momentary spikes were as high as 63.3%).  See Figure 1.

That would seem like an ideal reason for Ontario to hire an Agri-Food Trade Advisor in Beijing China.

Beef, other non-Supply Management commodities, Canadian technology and manufacturing seem like natural winners.

But what about Canada's Supply Management commodities of chicken, turkeys, eggs, and dairy?

Oops! Sorry, those are commodities with artificially high prices and whopping import tariffs of around 285% that Canadians are forced to pay.  Under World Trade Organization treaties that Canada signed, exporting those Canadian SM commodities would be subject to illegal dumping charges if they are sold in export markets at prices lower than the prices paid by Canadian.  That will likely lead to trade sanctions against Canada.

The Chinese aren't so stupid as to pay what Canadians are forced to pay every day; 50% to 300% higher prices for SM goods than what the rest of the world pays.

Since the foreign exchange improvements are only 34.8% in 10 years, that is equivalent to a 3.03% per year decrease on average over the last 10 years.

At that rate, it would take another 25.1 years to eliminate Canada's 285% import duty on SM products (ie. 1.0303^(25.1+10)= 2.85).

Perhaps Premier Kathleen Wynne should schedule a ribbon cutting ceremony with her Agri-Food Trade Advisor in Beijing China for a May 2040 launch of Ontario's SM products for China.

It's always good to plan ahead.  You know how quickly everybody's schedule fills up.

Until then, too bad for Canada and its dysfunctional Supply Management systems.  They hold all of us back from prosperity and Canadian jobs working in the export industry.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Bad, Bad Bird Flu

Avian influenza ("AI") has been striking flocks across North America.  Why is this happening?  Where is the source of risks that cause these outbreaks?

On Better Farming website, some anonymous postings have accused small flock and backyard chickens for spreading the avian influenza infection, pointing to "many" small flocks with  AI.

The USDA has a web page listing the site of the recent AI outbreaks.   Downloading the listing and doing some statistical analysis of the data, we get the following information.

Table 1:   Bird Flu statistics for USA
There are two major categories for bird flu infections; commercial and backyard. For some, the data on the extent of the infections has not yet been received.  These data are for the ones for which the impact is already known as of 2015/04/23.

A total of 71 flocks have been infected; 60 commercial flocks, and 11 backyard flocks.  That means that 84.5% of all the US infections are at commercial establishments.

Of course, the commercial flocks are huge CAFO's (Concentrated Animal Feed Operations), with many thousands of birds.  Of all the birds infected, 99.9% of them are commercial chicken factory birds.

Bird Flu Risk:  CAFO of Small Flockers?

In the 2012 US agricultural census, there were 198,272 commercial egg laying poultry farms, and 32,935 commercial  broiler farms, for a total of 231,207 commercial poultry farms in USA.  While that is a huge number of commercial farms, the number of flocks at small flock farms and backyard chickens is orders of magnitude larger.  Why then, are 85% of the disease outbreaks coming from commercial operations that are less than 10% of the total number of US flocks?

I suggest it's because the CAFO chicken factories are a hotbed of disease and unhealthy birds; a powder keg waiting for a wayward & negligent bird flu match to be tossed in.  CAFO's are a Bird Flu powder keg because CAFO's are based on biologically improper techniques and processes.  When you have chicken factory coop congestion, and a large number of birds than mill around amongst all others, any infection will quickly spread to most other birds.  The more birds infected, the greater the risk of infecting the remaining birds.  The infection spreads like wildfire in a CAFO chicken factory.

It has been shown that Bird Flu can be transmitted by air through aerosols and dust.  That fact applies to all the birds inside the CAFO factory barn, as well as the farm's other CAFO factory barns that are right beside the infected barn.  It also means other CAFO factory farms that are downwind of the infected farm.

Once infected, a CAFO often spreads the infection to neighbouring CAFO's, in spite of all their pontification, boasting, and false bravado about their super duper biohazard isolation procedures and quarantines.  Their questionable quarantines are like a leaky sieve; the infection easily passes through to the next CAFO victim, time & again.

Small Flockers are generally based on better methods, so the get infected at a significantly lower incidence rate.  If a small flock farm happens to get infected in spite of protection from better techniques, the infection tends to stay isolated, rather than becoming the well or vector from which the disease is spread to other flocks.

WorldWatch Institute reports
Sustainable farming advocates insist that backyard chickens are less of a concern than factory-farmed poultry, which the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production has said poses serious risks of transmitting animal-borne diseases to human populations, especially due to the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance.

"When it comes to bird flu, diverse small-scale poultry farming is the solution, not the problem," the international sustainable agriculture organization GRAIN concluded in a 2006 report.
Chicken Farmers of Ontario ("CFO") also reported that Ontario's small flock poultry farmers generally respected bio-security precautions and protocols.  See Blog posting "Are Small Flockers competent to care for live birds?" and CFO's poster which absolves Small Flockers from being the scapegoat for biosecurity risks.  It is interesting that CFO has subsequently removed that poster from their website.  I wonder why?

Alerting Small Flockers to Bird Flu Risks

As of Feb. 23, 2015 CFO declares it will communicate biosecurity risks & events to Small Flockers when there is a biosecurity alert or disease outbreak.  This is a major sea change for CFO, from their previous policy of dichotomy (or schizophrenic) polarization of ignoring Small Flockers, or harassing them.  However, here we are in an outbreak, and we have a communication blackout from CFO to Small Flockers.

It is misguided for me to judge others by my personal beliefs and standards.  However, I suggest it is reasonable to judge CFO by CFO's own standards and principles.

The only thing that CFO, Hatcheries, and the Egg Board has done is a simple, token effort of posting alerts on their Small Flock website, leaving it to Small Flockers to check back there on a daily basis to discover if there are any alerts.

Is it reasonable to expect 15,000 small flock farmers in Ontario to check that website on a daily basis?

CFO has the contact info for all Small Flockers in their CFO database.  CFO sends email alerts to their 1,400 millionaire members on a regular basis.  Is it reasonable for CFO to push a button to send an email alert to each & every Small Flocker, alerting them of incidents, recommendations, and changing risks?

On that basis, CFO gets an F- grade.

However, Ecological Farmers of Ontario ("EFAO") sent a Bird Flu alert email out to all Small Flockers listed on their database.

Active alert communications by EFAO are far superior than the passive, limp communication efforts by CFO.

Therefore, SFPFC sends out two communiques:
  • A big Thank-you ! for the enlightened concern and voluntary, helpful effort of EFAO.
  • An insulting raspberry to the semi-silence of CFO, when they should be communicating and alerting Small Flockers on an active basis.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Picking Canada's COOL Chicken

Yesterday, our Blog examined the top 6 countries from whom Canada was importing chicken (USA, Brazil, Thailand, Chile, Germany, and Israel).

There are 196 countries in the world today.  Of those 196 countries, 47 of them produce broiler chickens.  Of that 47, only 28 countries export chicken to other countries.

In statistics, you can calculate all possible permutations of choosing the top 6 countries from 28 available countries.  If you have an Excel spreadsheet handy, the formula is "=PERMUT(28,6)".  Excel tells us there are 271.3 million different possible permutations.  With only 6 chances out of 271.3 million to be a chicken supplier to Canada, that is pretty slim odds; pretty close to zero.  How then, did these 6 particular countries get chosen as Canada's preferred chicken suppliers?

It takes a lot of homework to successfully buy chicken from a foreign suppliers.  Thousands of things could go wrong, resulting in sea containers of seized chicken rotting at the Custom dock due to a hold by Canadian Food Inspection Agency ("CFIA"), or late chicken, or no chicken.  If you have something that is working reasonably well, you will do just about anything to keep it working for one month longer.

That is why you need to choose a foreign partner very carefully.  Currency instability can destroy a beautiful thing overnight.

Figure 1:   Foreign exchange rates between Canadian $ and the currency used
by the Top 6 countries exporting chicken to Canada. 
The graph above (Figure 1) is data from the Bank of Canada on currency exchange rates for the last 10 years on the Top 6 countries currently exporting chicken to Canada.  To simplify the comparison, all data is indexed to the exchange rate that existed as of April 12, 2005 (ie. set to 1.0).  From that date forward to today, we can see the relative change within that currency paired to the Canadian $, as well as between the currency of all these trading partners.

On Nov. 6, 2007 the CDN:US exhange rate hit an all-time high of 1.3372 making US chicken the cheapest due to favorable currency exchange rates (see the Black coloured line in Figure 1 above).

On Aug. 5, 2008, the CDN:Brazilian Real exchange rate hit an all-time low of 0.72 which made Brazilian chicken more expensive than any other time in that 10 year period.  Since then, the exchange rate has grown steadily, so that Brazilian chicken is cheap, and getting cheaper all the time.

Figure 2 below shows the overall statistics on these exchange rates during this 10 year period.

Figure 2:   Table of statistics for Foreign Currency Exchange rates with
Canadian $.  The Coefficient of Variation (CV%) varies between 4.6% (Chile),
to a high of 10.14% (Brazil).  This is remarkably stable over a 10 year period.
We suggest that this stability, and the excellent profitability derived by chicken
brokers keep them coming back for more.
The stability of these exchange rates over time means these are excellent trading partners.  When one goes up, likely one of the other 6 suppliers will go down.  By sending 6 emails asking your suppliers for their current prices, you are sure to find one of them significantly cheaper than the other five countries.  That is whom you place the order with this month.  Next month, you repeat the same process, and choose a different winner to ship you chicken.

Notice that China isn't in this list of chicken suppliers.  Isn't everything that China produces the cheapest in the world?  A broad assumption that may not be true for chicken.  China is the 5th largest exporter of chicken in the world.  So if China is a huge exporter of chicken, why isn't China one of the Top 6 for Canada?

Let's take a look at China's exchange rates with the Canadian $.

Figure 3:  China's Foreign currency exchange rate with Canadian $.
For the past 10 years, the Canadian $ has been losing ground against
the Chinese Yuan, meaning that chicken is becoming more and more
expensive.  Add to that China's questionable quality (real or perceived),
and China becomes a poor choice for supplying chicken to Canadians.

Based on Figure 3, China is a poor choice for supplying chicken to Canada.  I suggest this is a primary reason that China is not in the Top 6.

Canada's Top 6 chicken suppliers.  The choice is made based on maximum profits and minimum frustration for the millionaire Chicken Mafia.  It has little or nothing to do with protecting the Canadian public, or doing what's in the best interest of the public.  It's all about maximum profit and minimum frustration for the millionaire Chicken Mafia.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

COOL for Canada's Chicken Imports

Most consumers seem to believe that, unless marked otherwise, all chicken sold in Canada is raised and slaughtered in Canada.  COOL (Country of Origin Labeling) for chicken sold in Canada could expose that myth.

Canada complains bitterly about COOL in the USA being against World Trade Organization ("WTO") regulations, and a competitive disadvantage for Canadian producers exporting to the USA.

The proximity and ease of US chicken seems to be an  obvious choice, and could be assumed to be the main reason US chicken has 64.4% market share of the imported chicken.

But why and how did someone choose Brazil, Thailand, Chile, Germany, and Israel?

Thailand is almost the other side of the planet.  If Thailand, then why not China? Maybe there is prejudice against Chinese chicken, but the COOL (Country of Origin Labeling) for foreign chicken doesn't seem to be too active on retail grocery shelves.  If consumers can't tell if its from Thailand or China, then they can't discriminate, so again, why not Chinese chicken?

We examine this thorny issue in tomorrows posting.

Where Canada gets its chicken.  Millions of kg of chicken are imported into Canada each year
year, in spite of sky-high import tariffs.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ontario Whole Chicken Pricing

Since launching the SFPFC Database on Canadian Chicken Prices (see Canada's Retail Chicken Price Database), we have now completed the first statistical analysis of the data.

Please keep the data coming.

We need the same type of data for every Province & Territory in Canada, and every grocery store that serves each and every hamlet.

Figure 1:  Ontario whole chicken prices from Nov. 13, 2013 to Apr. 11, 2015 with 22 records, we see the histogram
for price distribution.  The typical US price for chicken is $1.99 per pound ($4.40/kg), so Canadian prices are typically
265% higher than US whole chicken prices.
Figure 2:  Price trend over time for whole chickens in Ontario.  No trend is discernible.
Even though this was a period with declining feed prices, no price trends can be seen.  Inefficiencies, mainly due to market monopoly for quota-based Supply Management likely stopped prices from falling.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Canada's Retail Chicken Price Database

Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada ("SFPFC") is collecting price data on chicken meat being sold at retail stores.

All Canadian consumers are encouraged to help collect these data.  These data will enable everybody to have instant information on the current pricing of chicken in Canadian retail stores.

What GasBuddy is for retail gasoline prices, this database will be for retail chicken prices.

Our primary interest is for raw, fresh whole chickens (ie. not cooked, not frozen).  Please concentrate your data collection efforts on raw, fresh, whole chicken, first and foremost.  While this is our primary focus, we welcome prices on all cuts and types of chicken.

The reasons we prefer pricing on raw, whole, fresh chickens is that they are:
  • the most widely available type of chicken that is sold everywhere in Canada; 
  • one of the lowest cost chicken on $/kg basis;
  • perishable, so it has a high price volatility due to efficient retail competition (ie. it matters if fresh chicken sells this week, unlike frozen chicken that can be stored for 6 months or more).
There is a great price differences between various cuts of chicken (eg. drumsticks, thighs, wings, breast, etc.), fresh vs. frozen, seasoned, processed (eg. chicken burgers, chicken fingers, nuggets, etc.).  To ensure consistency in these data, we need accuracy on the exact description of the chicken that is for sale so we can compare price vs. the various features (eg. is the chicken organic, air chilled, Canadian raised, imported, etc.)

SFPFC will use this data to help lobby the Chicken Mafia and all levels of government to ensure fairness for all; and safe, nutritious, & affordable chicken for Canadian consumers.

Figure 1:   Meat Inspection Legend
for Ontario Plant # 6534 (example).
Figure 2:   CFIA Meat Inspection
Legend for Establishment 429
Donald's Fine Foods, Richmond
BC), example
In the Form below, we ask you to collect data on the Chicken Processing Plant that produced this chicken, as identified in the Meat Inspection Legend shown on the package label.

Figure 1 on the left shows an example Meat Inspection Legend ("MIL") for an abattoir meat processing plant that is licensed under Ontario's Meat Regulations as Ontario Processing Plant # 6534.  The MIL for other Provinces will be similar.  In the Form below for Abattoir Establishment # , you would enter "6534" for this MIL.

Figure 2 above on the right shows the Meat Inspection Legend ("MIL") for a Federally Inspected Meat Processing plant that is licensed by CFIA.  If this was the MIL on the chicken meat for sale, you would enter "429" for the Abattoir Establishment # in the Form below.  In the Field for Chicken Processor, you'd enter "Donald's Fine Foods, Richmond BC".

The data entry form can be accessed here:  This link is recommended as a bookmark on your Smart Phone so that you can access this Internet form on your Smart Phone while you are in the grocery store, making data collection fast & simple.  This version of the form will automatically format itself to fit your screen on your Smart Phone.

The data entered so far can be seen here:   SFPFC's Canadian Retail Chicken Price Database

Thursday, April 16, 2015

OMAFRA Joins Internet Age with Google Mapping of Abattoir Data

As of Feb. 19th, 2015 we now have an OMAFRA Google Mapping of all Provincially Licensed Meat Plants in Ontario.

OMAFRA Database of Provincially Licensed Meat Plants

OMAFRA's Google Earth mapping of all Provincially
Licensed Meat Plants (Abattoirs, Slaughter Plants), just
10 months after SFPFC's suggestion.
I had done this same mapping through Google's Fusion Tables Mapping in April 25, 2014 and had sent a detailed implementation method to OMAFRA's Deputy Minister as a suggestion so they could quickly follow Small Flockers' leadership in this area.  While I implemented our map in just 2 hours for SFPFC's Blog, the wheels turn a little slower at OMAFRA.

However, we now have confirmation that OMAFRA's wheels do turn.  Miracle of miracles, 10 months later, OMAFRA has left the Stone Age behind, and joined the Internet World with the rest of us, at least in this small area of excellence.

OMAFRA decided to implement their mapping via Google Earth, rather than my suggestion of Google Fusion Tables, likely so that users can more easily sort and filter the data to just the data records desired (eg. chicken processors, not red meat processors, etc.). 

Of course, my suggest to OMAFRA may have had no effect on this miraculous occurrence.  OMAFRA may have already been working on this project ever since Google Maps was launched in Feb. 2005.  If that is true, then OMAFRA took 15 years to implement what I did in 2 hours work.  I prefer to give OMAFRA the benefit of the doubt, and say they only took 10 months to implement SFPFC's suggestion made in April 25, 2014.

Thank-you and congratulations to OMAFRA for making this significant improvement.

Guilty as Charged: CFO is a Dangerous Hypocrite

In our previous Blog Posting (see CFO Hypocrisy ), we tried to adequately define hypocrisy, and why it is such a threat and disease from which we must be protected.

Today, we will examine a small part of the growing, prima facia evidence that Chicken Farmers of Ontario ("CFO") are guilty of hypocrisy as charged.

The following is taken from CFO's Annual Report 2014.

What CFO says
The Fruits of CFO
p. 5, Message from Henry Zantingh, Chair and Rob Dougans, President & CEO
“…it is critically important that CFO remains very focused, disciplined, effective and  highly relevant to its farmer­-members, to industry stakeholders, to consumers, and to public policy.”
Whether or not CFO adequately works on behalf of their farmer-members, I will leave to those farmer-members to decide.

A Small Flock chicken farmer should be considered an “industry stakeholder”.  As a Small Flocker, I for one see and feel nothing but the exact opposite of what CFO says.

For the others, especially the consumers, I suggest they feel used and abused by CFO as well.  Witness that:

·      30% to 80% of Ontario’s chickens are contaminated by deadly bacteria.  Prima facie evidence of “poor quality chicken”.  See Contaminated Chicken
·      By denying chicken a more natural lifestyle and feed source, CFO causes or contributes to poor nutritional aspect of the chicken meet produced (eg. excess fat, excess processing water sold as chicken, high Omega-6 (bad fat) and low Omega-3 (good fat).  See Animal Fats In Our Diets
·      By CFO allowing the use of questionable drugs, feed supplements, and antibiotics, chickens grow Superbugs that further threaten the health and safety of consumers.  See Choose: Frankenstein Chicken, or Naturally Raised Chicken
·      By CFO allowing their member-farmers to gouge and obtain unjust enrichment from falsified and inflated FCR charges that vacuumed $10 Billion from consumer’s wallets from 2003 to 2013.  See: The Chicken Mafia Exposed
·      Affordability of chicken in retail grocery stores has dropped by as much as 31.7% from 1995-2005. See Unaffordable Chicken In Ontario
·      More and more, consumers want organic, free range, and/or pastured poultry, but CFO refuses to allow a system to fully supply that need.  Consumers are forced to buy CAFO factory farm chicken so that CFO farmer-members receive the profitable monopolistic benefits, at the arrogant detriment of consumers.  See Supply Management Is a Failure

There is a lot more evidence of CFO's hypocrisy, but I think my point is made sufficiently for the conviction of CFO as charged.

CFO is welcome to provide their response to these charges and the evidence.  I will publish CFO's response here in an unedited form.  Somehow, I believe CFO will continue to ignore and stonewall.  If so, then let CFO be convicted by the the Court of Public Opinion in absentia.