Response – The Hill Times – Chicken farmers care about food safety, think supply management works well

Re: “When our food system fails, who pays the price?” (The Hill Times, July 23, p. 14). This oddly circuitous piece is misleading. It seems like yet another attempt to cut down the hard work of Canadian farmers, their excellent management practices, and their ability to earn a fair wage for their work.

The piece also appears to call into question the very system that allows the implementation of effective, science-based welfare and food-safety programs on every chicken farm across Canada. No other programs can achieve this reach.

The Animal Care Program, for example, is a mandatory, enforced, and third-party-audited program that has a credible, science-based foundation. It includes standards found in the Code of Practice developed by the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC). The NFACC is a world leader in bringing together stakeholders with different perspectives—farmers, veterinarians, processors, transporters, animal welfare associations, researchers, and provincial and federal governments—to develop robust and sound codes of practice. The process involves a full scientific review, which is used to draft the code that then undergoes a public consultation process. In this way, all Canadians have an opportunity to contribute to the final code.

As for trade, Canada has successfully negotiated many free trade agreements that have secured greater market access for other sectors. Over the years, Canada has negotiated 14 bilateral or regional trade agreements that include 51 countries, while maintaining supply management. We are confident that the government and Canadians will continue to support Canadian farmers and ensure that supply management is maintained through the NAFTA negotiations.

Despite what’s suggested in the piece, supply management works well; Canada’s chicken sector continues to grow; chicken is Canada’s top protein choice, and consumption levels have increased by more than 33 per cent in the last 20 years.

Regarding the question about how Canadians feel about supply management, we can point to a recent Leger research study that highlights:

  • Canadians believe it’s important for the government to support Canada’s dairy, poultry, and egg farmers (88 per cent). They believe that Canadian food is unmatched when it comes to food safety and quality.
  • Canadians trust Canadian farmers (89 per cent). Canadians feel good about buying food from Canadian farmers (91 per cent) and the overwhelming majority trust the quality standards of Canadian farmers (89 per cent).
  • More than 90 per cent of Canadians believe it is important that the chicken, eggs, and turkey they buy is from Canada.

We all buy food for our own reasons, and Canadians have a lot of choice. The point is: farmers are ready to adapt to a changing Canadian palate—but not when the changes are driven by those pretending to seek changes in the best interests of animal welfare, when they’re really trying to destroy the livelihoods of Canada’s farmers, and dictate to Canadians what they can and can’t eat.

Michael Laliberté
Executive Director
Chicken Farmers of Canada