Saturday, December 26, 2015

Chicken Traceability

Traceability for our food is terrible to non-existant.  There is better traceability for auto parts than food.  Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada ("SFPFC") leads the way to a new world standard for poultry traceability.  We challenge all other food suppliers to duplicate our solution and follow us, if they dare.

Figure 1:   Label on the chicken sold Farm Gate from my farm.
Click on the image for a full size version.  This label provides consumers full
disclosure on their chicken, from hatching to consumer's fork.  The Internet
link (in this case ) and
the scannable QR Code both give the URL containing all the farmer's info
on these chickens.  Scan the QR code with your Smart Phone, or click
on the link and see how it works; instant disclosure at your fingertips.
If you have a QR code on a food label like that shown in Figure 1 for my farm, you can:
  • Scan the QR code using the camera on your Smart phone using a free App on your phone (eg. a Barcode Scanner from GooglePlay or equivalent), or

  • Use WebQR (using your desktop or laptop webcam); or

  • ZXing (crawls a web page looking for an on-line QR code)
Farmers can also hand out hard copies of the document.  However consumers get to the traceability & disclosure document, they can now get full disclosure on the chicken they are thinking of buying.  If done by the Chicken Mafia, that freedom to choose well can be done right at the grocery store meat counter.

Eventually, consumer advocacy groups may pour over the detailed disclosure documents and rank chicken suppliers (eg. Green, Yellow, Red), or the Top Ten for a region, Province, or Canada overall.  This can help consumers quickly decide if they should buy, or keep walking along the grocery store aisle.

Too Much Information?

Some consumers don't want to know the squishy details of what happens to chickens as they grow, and especially when they go to slaughter.  For their sensitivities, too much info makes the meat impossible to eat.  For them, the funny QR code on the label can be safely ignored and put out of mind.  All they have to do is follow the herd (ie. the rest of their family and neighbours) who have done the detailed research and discovered the best chicken to buy.  The sensibilities of the sensitive are protected.

Farmer's Overhead & Paperwork

 Will this proposed system add unfair burdens to small farmers.  I've done it, and believe it is easily managed by all.  The steps are as follows:

Step #
Step Description
Expenses, $
Total, $
Become a member of SFPFC, and obtain a free copy of SFPFC's disclosure & traceability form, and the MS Publisher meat label template.
Fill in the form &/or customize the form for your farm
Upload the disclosure document to your farm’s website.  If you don’t have your own website, obtain a free account (or equivalent) and upload completed disclosure form.  Get the link to your document to share with the world.
Use http://goog.le to create short URL, then a QR code image to that shortened URL.  Copy the QR code image to your computer.
Place the QR code on the label you will apply to your chickens for sale.  Paste the original URL link into the label.  Print enough labels to apply to all your chickens.

The above costs and steps are in addition to the current chicken labeling system of today.  Assuming $10/hr labor rate, if a farmer is producing 300 chickens per year as a Small Flocker, assuming 2.2 kg birds, this traceability system adds $0.047 per kg to the cost of your chicken.  If you are an Artisanal Chicken farmer under CFO's new program, this disclosure form adds $0.0047 per kg. to your costs. If a chicken factory farmer is producing 200,000 birds per year, the farm gate price must rise by $0.00007 per kg.

Once a farmer has done this for their first flock, it becomes much faster & easier for all subsequent flocks to copy & paste the info.

While I am all for reducing overhead as much as possible, to me, this seems to be a reasonable and affordable cost, with huge benefits for consumers.

Canada's Chicken Mafia

Due to a marketing opportunity, CFC and CFO have adopted a "Canadian grown chicken" trademark, but refuse to provide any additional information.  By carefully reading the package, you can find where the chicken was slaughtered, but that the end of the info consumers are permitted to know.  Big national brands market the chicken, but hide which farms were contracted to grow that chicken.  They pretend that all farms, all farmers, and all chicken are identical; a fungible commodity like salt, sugar, and wheat.

Of course, the fossilized multi-millionaire chicken factory owners currently enjoy their secrecy and information vacuum, and don't want educated consumers.  They buy media time to spew their marketing propaganda.  Generalities and platitudes work well when consumers are sleeping and unduly trust their food suppliers.  That is why they have done nothing ever since I originally proposed improved chicken traceability way back in April 2013 (see Blog Posting Trace Your Chicken ).

While propaganda as summarized by Edward Bernays in 1928 was a powerful tool used by the Nazi's Minister of Propaganda Goebbels, and for other evil purposes, it isn't all powerful.  When given a voice, the truth can expose and destroy any propaganda.  I doubt that the Chicken Mafia is more powerful and devious than the Nazis regime.

False Documents

Just because a document happens to state something, it doesn't make it so.  Fraudsters well understand the power of false documents.  However any document is better for consumers than an information vacuum.  Once a document exists, that document can be checked for ambiguities, comprehensiveness, supporting and collaborating evidence from trusted sources, and other evidence or verification.  If a document is found to be silent, ambiguous, or lack comprehensiveness, consumers can complain or refuse to buy.  The complaints and lost sales can continue increasing until the supplier responds by improving the traceability and disclosure document.  Once started, the document can be improved, and then improved some more as customers compare between their current supplier and a better supplier.

If a supplier dares to issue a false or misleading document, the document (and its issuer) will eventually be found out.  At that point, we have a criminal and/or civil offense that can be prosecuted, initiated by a complaint by a government official, a competitor of the fraudster, or a consumer.  A documented traceability and disclosure system can be self policing.

The current vacuum of information can never self police.

Small Flockers Lead The Way

I now have about 400 lbs of chicken, duck, and goose meat for sale to interested persons in my small Northern Ontario community using this traceability system.  With time, I hope other chicken farmers come join me.  If you are a member of SFPFC, you can get a free copy of the form to customize it to your farm.  SFPFC membership has its privileges and advantages!

I believe this proposed traceability is in the best interest of consumers, and is therefore in the long term best interest of chicken producers.

How long will the CFO chicken fossils resist and fight against this trend?

Friday, December 11, 2015


The TPP deal has been signed, but the new Liberal government is still considering if it's a booby trap left behind by the former conservative government.

Western Producer wrote a good article about the milky future of Canada's Supply Management ("SM") system for dairy.  Many economists and Canadian farm leaders (including the Canadian Federation of Agriculture) question the sustainability of SM, and the sanity of continuing in its present form.

Our response to these issues is as follows:

Already, Canadians pay 38% to 300% more than what most of world pays for Supply Management foods (chicken, turkey, eggs, and dairy).

It will soon get worse.

This week, the Food Institute at the University of Guelph announced that food inflation in Canada is the highest in the world, topping 4.1% in 2015. It will be more of the same for the near future (see Agri007's Blog ).

The household savings rate of Canadians has dropped from 30% in 1980 to virtually zero for the last 10 years. In BC. they run at a -7% savings rate.

More and more Canadians have to make the tough choice of starve or freeze, as they can't afford to solve both problems simultaneously.

The 17,000 SM farmers have stolen the rights and freedoms of consumers and all other farmers so that their SM special interest group can become millionaires.

For example, the 60,000 or so small flock poultry farmers in Canada is one group that suffers under the despotic control of the SM system, so that 2,700 SM chicken farmers (just 4.3% of all chicken farmers) can rule the roost. See our Blog for the scary details.

As Canadians are squeezed more and more, do the SM farmers think they will find continued support for their ridiculous price gouging, or the arcane rules of SM?

Between 1990 and 2014, NZ’s non-SM dairy system enjoyed 17 times greater growth than Canada’s SM dairy system, primarily due to the export restrictions attached to our dysfunctional SM system by trade treaties. That has cost Canada and Canadians thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in lost tax revenue.

If Canada's SM system was efficient and effective, it might be worth all these excessive costs. However, SM chronically runs from mediocre to dangerous.

For example, 40% to 80% of Canada's chicken sold at retail stores is contaminated with deadly bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens. Canadian chicken farmers have a feed efficiency 25% behind the world leaders. Somatic cell counts and bacteria in Canadian milk swing wildly from acceptable to terrible, but on average Canadian milk is 21% worse than US milk for somatic cell counts (ie. puss in the milk).

Fortunately for SM farmers (and unfortunate for consumers), few Canadians understand the propaganda and trickery used to keep them asleep and in support of SM.

When some crisis finally wakes them up, Canadians will be shocked at first, then upset that this cheating, corrupt, and dysfunctional SM system was allowed to continue as long as it has.

Glenn Black, President
Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada

Will anybody listen before it's too late?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Excessive Use of Farm Antibiotics

World Health Organization ("WHO") operated by the United Nations, has surveyed 12 countries about the opinions of the general population on farm use of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance.

As a Small Flocker, I rarely use antibiotics to treat any of my animals, mainly because they aren't getting sick and therefore have no need for these dangerous drugs.

Animals, like humans, have all they need to naturally thrive.  If animals (or humans) get chronically sick, this would indicate that the farming system is flawed, and must be improved so that the animals (and farmers) can naturally thrive within that farming system.

It is not sufficient reason to avoid fixing the root cause of the problem (ie. dysfunctional CAFO farming methods), by the use of powerful drugs that force the problem onto everybody else downstream, thereby creating problems which are orders of magnitude larger and more dangerous.

Witness that experts estimate that 75% of all human diseases are caused or contributed to by poor diet or nutrition.  It is today's farming that produces that food raw material. For the most part, it is multi-national huge corporations that process those farmed foods into processed foods that are distributed throughout the world at great profit for a few special interest groups.  If these systems are causing or contributing to 75% of human disease &/or death, is that not reason enough to force change of this dysfunctional system?

Agri007 has provided an excellent review of the survey findings:
"Sixty-four per cent said antibiotic resistance is an issue and 73 per cent said farmers should reduce their use of antibiotics.

“The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis, and governments now recognize it as one of the greatest challenges for public health today,” says Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“It is reaching dangerously high levels in all parts of the world,” she said. “Antibiotic resistance is compromising our ability to treat infectious diseases and undermining many advances in medicine.”

The survey asked 14 questions on the use of antibiotics, knowledge of antibiotics and of antibiotic resistance, and used a mix of online and face-to-face interviews.

It was conducted in Barbados, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, the Russian Federation, Serbia, South Africa, Sudan and Viet Nam.

While not claiming to be exhaustive, this and other surveys will help WHO and partners to determine the key gaps in public understanding of the problem and misconceptions about how to use antibiotics to be addressed through the campaign.

Some common misconceptions revealed by the survey include:

Three quarters (76 percent) of respondents think that antibiotic resistance happens when the body becomes resistant to antibiotics. In fact bacteria — not humans or animals — become resistant to antibiotics and their spread causes hard-to-treat infections.

Two thirds (66 percent) of respondents believe that individuals are not at risk of a drug-resistant infection if they personally take their antibiotics as prescribed. Nearly half (44 percent) of people surveyed think antibiotic resistance is only a problem for people who take antibiotics regularly. In fact, anyone, of any age, in any country can get an antibiotic-resistant infection.
More than half (57 percent) of respondents feel there is not much they can do to stop antibiotic resistance, while nearly two thirds (64 percent) believe medical experts will solve the problem before it becomes too serious."
Based on these survey results, it is clear that the WHO and governments have some urgent priorities.

Mother Jones suggests that antibiotic resistance and Superbugs kill 700,000 people per year globally, on pace to expand to 10 million deaths per year by 2050.

Don't look to Big Pharma to come to the rescue.  WHO reminded us in 2011 that:
 "Antibiotics…have a poor return on investment because they are taken for a short period of time and cure their target disease.  In contrast, drugs that treat chronic illness, such as high blood pressure, are taken daily for the rest of a patient’s life."
As usual, Big Pharma cares more about their precious profits, not the lives lost.  Since government sides with corporations, not the people, don't expect any help their either.

However, Small Flockers will help.  Here is what SFPFC suggests:
  1. Each government must educate their populations on the scientifically known facts (not speculations, not farm propaganda, nor half baked theories) about farm antibiotics and all forms of antibiotic resistance.

  2. Governments must re-survey their populations to verify and validate their knowledge and opinions on these important issues.

  3. Repeat Steps 1 and 2 until the populations are well informed, and a consensus has developed.  Since 73% are already against excessive use of farm antibiotics, it is doubtful that this sea change will disappear.

  4. Using the newly gained expertise of the public, develop sustainable plans to rapidly improve the situation, ensuring that social, environmental, and financial interests are balanced.
  5. Figure 1:  To be sustainable, all systems must balance the economic, environmental, and social issues.  Of course, that is exactly opposite to what the lobbyists and the special interest groups want to occur, so they spray their propaganda everywhere, and whisper into the ears of the politicians and bureaucrats so they obtain or retain their monopolies and advantages against the best interest of the people and the planet.

.Here is a quote from 1970 that seems like it was said yesterday:

"A society that blindly accepts the decisions of experts is a sick society on its way to death. The time has come when we must produce, alongside specialists, another class of scholars and citizens who have broad familiarity with the facts, methods, and objectives of science and thus are capable of making judgements about scientific policies.  Persons who work at the interface of science and society have become essential simply because almost everything that happens in society is influenced by science."
Scientist-Philosopher Rene DeBos,
Rockerfeller University "Reason Awake:   Science for Man",
Columbia University Institute for the Study of Science in Human Affairs, 1970, 280 pages, P. 227