Monday, October 19, 2015

Sustainable Chicken Farming for Canada

Many talk about sustainable development, and/or agriculture, but don't dig too deeply into what they mean by that.  If you ask what they mean by that platitude, or ask for an example, the whole discussions goes off the rails.

Some think that "Sustainable Growth" can be achieved.  The leading astrophysicists believe the universe continues to expand ever since the Big Bang.  If you assume that when continuous growth forces us beyond Planet Earth and into the ever expanding universe, then I guess growth can continue for a very long time.

However, if you assume that to be sustainable, growth must be sustainable while limited to just the available resources on Earth, and Earth's ability to absorb, treat, handle, recycle, and repair its environment and resources, then there is no such thing as continuous and unlimited growth.

Growth in populations tend to move exponentially, like an explosion.  For example, if we assume that house flies can lay ~6 batches of 25-100 egg (a geometric mean of 50 eggs), with an average generation time from egg to adult of 7 to 10 days and each female can lay up to 500 eggs in total.  If we assume all eggs hatch and each generation reproduce similarly between April to August (5 month duration), Hodge (1911) stated 191,010,000,000,000,000,000 flies ( 191 Quintillian, or 1.91 x 1018 ) would have been created. Allowing 1/8 of a cubic inch to a fly, this number would cover the earth (land and ocean surfaces) 47 feet deep in flies.

It appears humans are attempting to give flies a run for their money, for we now have 7 Billion humans and growing.  As long as population growth is occurring, sustainability is impossible without relying upon the strip mining of an expanding universe.

The World Bank has previously funded hundreds of projects that had questionable economics, improbable environmental acceptability, rarely considered the social impacts, had numerous unintended negative consequences,  often hurting the majority to benefit the few special interest groups.  For many decades, aid from foreign governments and NGO's has been hurting Africa more than helping (see Wall Street Journal article).

Figure 1:  One definition of "Sustainable Development" is the nexus of Economics, Environment, and Social factors
To solve these important issues, and to more consistently achieve Sustainable Development, I suggest the simple model shown in Figure 1 above.

If a project sufficiently meets  the economic and environmental issues, but creates social inequity (or doesn't improve current inequities), the project may be viable, but isn't sustainable.  If a project is good for the environment, and maintains or improves social issues, then the project may be bearable but isn't sustainable if it is uneconomical.  Only when a project adequately meets all issues (economic, environment, and social) can it be considered sustainable.

I suggest that agriculture in general, and poultry raising in particular, must be sustainable to adequately serve farmers and their food customers, and all those directly and indirectly involved (eg. feed mills, abattoirs, equipment suppliers, farming communities, etc.).

If this sustainability model is accepted, does CAFO or Small Flock systems best serve sustainable poultry farming?

Certainly, CAFO systems have significant problems with environmental issues on the farm, and for the neighbours around the farm.  CAFO poultry farms are weak, fragile, and highly susceptible to infections from wildlife, heat, and cold.  They are out of sync with the environment.

CAFO poultry farms are excellent for the Supply Management farmer, but everybody else has to pay the high price for that highly concentrated benefit.  Food affordability and locally produced food are big issues.  The Chicken Mafia think that they can rape and pillage Canadians as long as they plunk down a few free chickens donated to the local Food Bank. Unfortunate for the Chicken Mafia, more and more people realize that food banks wouldn't be so busy if the Chicken Mafia stopped their tyranny, and served Canadians.

Canada's CAFO Chicken Mafia system under SM has slowed degraded and become mediocre on the economics side.  For example, chicken FCR (Feed Conversion Ratio) is 25% worse now than the world leaders, in spite of Canada being one of the world leaders in poultry in the 1950's.

Canada's SM chicken farmers are 2,700 strong in Canada.  However, there are about 66,000 small flock chicken farmers who had their income, rights, and freedoms stripped away so that small minority of SM chicken farmers could benefit.  I therefore suggest this is a significant social inequity.  Therefore, this alone means Supply Management is not sustainable.

Supply Management must be significantly improved, or abolished.

Small Flockers must prepare themselves to ensure we don't make the same mistakes as the Chicken Mafia.  Small Flockers must be sustainable.  We need the policies to ensure Small Flockers understand, support, adopt, and flourish under sustainability.

In the comments section below, please provide your comparisons and contrasts on sustainability between CAFO Chicken Mafia vs. Small Flockers.

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