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.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Chicken Exporters for the World

Who exports chicken so as to help feed the world?  How does Canada compare?  Since we lost most of our manufacturing jobs and GDP to China et al., agriculture production is the biggest boost for Canadian GDP.  That means jobs.  Canadians need jobs.  Agricultural jobs could be a help to improving prosperity for Canadians.  Unfortunately, we have Supply Management which kills all that potential.

Broiler Chicken Production

US Dept. of Agriculture ("USDA") keeps track of the world's food production.  Index Mundi reports those data as shown below in Figure 1.

We can see that the USA is the world's biggest producer of broiler chicken meat, 17.752 Million metric tonnes per year.  The US is followed by Brazil, Chine, EU-27, India, Russia, and so on, and eventually you find Canada in 16th place.

The US population is 318.9 Million, so that broiler production is 55,666 MT per million population.

Jaguafrangos chicken process plant in Londrina,
Parana, southern Brazil.
Brazil, the world's #2 chicken grower, has a population of 202.034 Million.  With 13,115,000 MT of broiler chicken grown, that a per capita production of 64,914.8 MT/million population, which is 16.61% higher that the US per capita production.  Brazil is a chicken powerhouse!

Economic challenges are affecting Brazil and its chicken industry.  The Brazilian currency (viz. the Brazilian Real, BRL) has been devalued by 28% since Aug. 2014 which helps Brazilian exports, including chicken.

Canada, with 35.345 Million citizens and just 1,100,000 MT of broiler production, has a ratio of 31,121.80 MT per million population; which is just 55.9% of what the USA produces.  Do you think Canada only produces 55.9% of the US per capita broiler production because of our backward Supply Management system?

What is wrong with Canada and our chicken exports?  I previously discussed Canada's chicken exports, as compared to the other OECD nations, and we suck on that basis too (see Blog post "Why not Export Canadian Chicken?" ).

I suggest that exporting is hard work, and takes decades to establish.  Canada's Chicken Supply Management Millionaires would rather sit back, take it easy, and pick off helpless Canadian consumers with the Chicken Mafia's poor quality chicken and price gouging.  This easier work is made foolproof when you have paid lobbyists and friends in high places.

Growth in Canadian Chicken Exports

Figure 2:  Growth Rate in Broiler Chicken Exports, by Country.
Canada had a 2.04% annual growth, putting us in 28th place.
Canada barely beat Guatemala.
Maybe what Canada lacks in volume, we make up for in rate of growth.  Here is the world data from Index Mundi:

Nope, sorry.  Canada  is in 28th place.  No gold, no silver, no bronze medals for us.

However, we did beat small, yet tropical Guatemala, for what its worth.

Chicken Exports

Chicken exports by Canada puts us in 9th place amongst the 28 countries that export chicken into the world, exporting just 155,000 Metric Tonnes per year.  I guess that is better than being dead last amongst the OECD Nations for chicken exports.

Can We Learn From Brazil?

If Brazil can do it, why not Canada?

Brazil started exporting chicken in 1975.  Brazil increased their exports by an average of 12.81%/yr, doubling and re-doubling every 5.5 years.

If Brazil can, why not Canada? All we have to do is get rid of Supply Management.

Figure 4:   Brazil's chicken exports, starting from zero in 1975, has become the largest
chicken exporter in the world.  If Brazil can, why not Canada?