We're here for you: A message from Canadian Chicken Farmers regarding COVID-19

The Hill Times Response

An impassioned plea for the updating of farm animal transportation regulations is one thing, but slamming the government and carefully avoiding any reference to the constant care the poultry and egg industries pay to their birds is both unproductive and unacceptable. Using loaded language and heavy suggestion, the editorial crafts a vision of animal agriculture in which abuse and neglect is common, rampant and seemingly unchecked; this is patently false.

Canadians want fresh, high-quality, Canadian poultry and egg products that have been raised in a safe and humane manner, and our farmers are proud to deliver on those expectations.

The Canadian poultry and egg industries work closely with all partners, including the Canadian government, to ensure that stringent regulations related to the care and handling of our birds are met and followed. After all, it is in the best interest of all industry members to ensure that all of the birds are raised the best way possible.

The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Chickens, Turkeys and Breeders from Hatchery to Processing Plant is a nationally developed guideline for the care and handling of farm animals that serves as the industry’s national understanding of animal care requirements and recommended practices. Updates to the Codes of Practice, including a section on preparation and loading for transport, are currently underway, and will be completed by early 2016. Canadian poultry organizations are integrally involved in this revision process.

Farmers who raise chickens for table eggs and poultry for meat have also developed auditable animal care programs, based upon the Codes of Practice, to further ensure the proper handling and care of our birds. As for federally registered processors, they are constantly inspected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for humane handling and slaughter practices. Chicken Farmers of Canada, for example, has created a program to demonstrate and maintain the high animal care standards of Canadian chicken farms, and over 95% of Canadian chicken farmers are currently certified. Over 40 stakeholder organizations were consulted during CFC’s program development process and, to date, support for the implementation of the program has come from animal welfare organizations, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the Further Poultry Processors Association of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers and Restaurants Canada.

Transportation regulations are also imperative to ensure the continued welfare of our birds. In the vast majority of cases, catching and transportation is coordinated by the processors who purchase the live birds from the farmers. This is regulated by the CFIA, which is in the process of updating the transportation regulations as per the Health of Animals Act; the Canadian poultry and egg industries have been consulted throughout this process.

Our industries invest annually in poultry research through the Canadian Poultry Research Council. Since 2010, a number of studies have been funded to improve the transportation process. Study areas have included: weather impact on birds, risk factors during transport, and moisture as a hindrance/guide to transport. The results from this research will help guide our policies to further improve upon our mortality rate during transport (which currently stands at 0.4%).

Let us be clear: We do not condone the abuse or mistreatment of animals. We will not stand behind those caught doing so, farmer or otherwise, and instances such as these are neither common, nor representative of who we are.

The simple fact is that it’s in best interest of everyone involved, from the farmer to the consumer, to ensure that our birds are treated well, have a comfortable environment and that animal health, cleanliness, and safety is upheld throughout the production cycle. The entire industry continues to work hard to make that possible.
What doesn’t help is undermining the efforts of farmers and vilifying agricultural partners.

Dave Janzen, Chair, Chicken Farmers of Canada

K. Robin Horel, President and C.E.O., Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council

Peter Clarke, Chair, Egg Farmers of Canada

Mark Davies, Chair, Turkey Farmers of Canada

Jack Greydanus, Chair, Canadian Hatching Egg Producers