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Results: 1 - 15 of 32
View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
I think the industry, though, is not in favour of the check-off. They've told me that very clearly. They do favour a perishable commodities act.
I met with the Ontario section of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, and they're quite frustrated with your government's cut to AgriStability and AgriInvest. They're worried when AgriStability will be needed it will not meet the needs of the Ontario cattle industry. That's one thing you can respond to.
View Gerry Ritz Profile
Let me start with RMP. We've always been very clear we're not going to fund at a federal level anything new like RMP, because it's countervailable. The national cattlemen's association actually has come out with very good statements—and I can get those for you—saying, don't do this, it's going to lead to countervail, especially with the U.S. looking for a pushback on COOL.
When it comes to the Ontario livestock, I had the same meeting with Dan Darling and his guys. The problem isn't with us and the changes at AgriStability. Everybody told us for years that this is not bankable, it's not predictable, and to do something better, so we did. We made some changes to AgriStability to allow us to bring forward an insurance program for livestock, and Ontario has not picked that up. That's the problem. If they want to actually do some lobbying, it would probably be best directed at the Ontario government, which has not implemented the livestock insurance side of it and which of course would give them that bankability and predictability that they're looking for.
View Randy Hoback Profile
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you, Minister, for being here this morning.
Minister Ritz, you've been very aggressively promoting Canadian goods abroad. We thank you for that, our beef producers especially. I've had them come through my office quite regularly, and they are really complimenting you on the work you've done. I want to pass that on to you, because it's made a world of difference. I think you can just imagine what it was like, not three or four years ago, when somebody would mention the words “bred cow” and they would all run away because nobody wanted anything to do with them. Today if you say “steer” everybody is running to it.
Can you just give us an update on the beef sector in relationship to COOL and let the committee know where that's at right now?
View Gerry Ritz Profile
The next step.... Of course, we have won all three challenges at the WTO and the appeals that the Americans have brought forward. My gut feeling is that they will appeal again, simply because they'll ride this to the bottom. They'll go as far as they can with it. That would be unfortunate, because it just delays the inevitable at the end of the day.
The WTO is meeting again on November 28, and I understand this will be an agenda item. The Americans wanted it pushed off until January or February; we've held it to this meeting. They may ask for a week or 10 days to get their papers in order. I'm hopeful that we can keep the pressure on them.
Everybody recognizes now that this is a political fix to a problem that really doesn't exist. American consumers have the ability now to know where their product is coming from. If somebody wants to address it and say “Product of the U.S.”, they can. It doesn't have to have a full passport attached to it that shows it was raised here, born there, moved there, and all that, because of the integration of the North American market.
The harm we have seen on the Canadian side is mirrored on the American side as well, and the American administration tends to look the other way and try not to see what's happening. But three major plants have closed and three more are on life support, simply because they do not have the capacity, without the economies of scale of Canadian and Mexican product moving down there.
When you talk to guys like Roger Johnson, who was the head of the NFU down there and is now an adviser to Tom Vilsack, it appears that the whole purpose of this was to save the small farm. Well, it hasn't, not at all. It is ridiculous policy, very bad policy.
There's a growing agreement that they have to do something about this. Secretary Vilsack is now saying he's working within the letter of the law. Well, you're the administration; change the damn law. He's asking for time to negotiate. There's no negotiation. All I want to talk about is how soon they're going to fix this, because we're not going to see this hurt continue.
We still rely on the Americans for some 70% of our processing capacity. It's very valuable to us, and the processing sector down there needs it. We've seen Tyson stop buying Canadian cattle simply because of the way they have to be segregated and discriminated against, and that's the very argument we keep winning at the WTO.
We'll keep the pressure on. We have a very vibrant list of retaliatory measures. We hate to do it, but I'll tell you, at the end of the day we're not polite Canadians; we are proud Canadians who want to see this fixed. We'll continue to underscore how this is harmful on both sides of the border and does not serve anyone at any time.
The retail councils, the wholesalers, the processors, the ranchers, and the vast majority, for the most part, in the U.S. are with us on this. They've taken their own government to court, working with our industry in that regard. They lost the initial suit and they're going back with an appeal. This time around they have more than 100 congressmen and senators signing on to that appeal, asking the administration to fix it. It can't be ignored much longer.
View Randy Hoback Profile
Well, I'll leave that with the NDP at this point in time.
Minister, the other thing is that when you were abroad.... I'll go back to the fact that you went into a lot of markets and got rid of a lot of various cuts that Canadians did not necessarily want to eat. What impact does that have on the—?
View Gerry Ritz Profile
That's the great thing about all of the markets we're in. The Europeans are looking for the high-end cuts. Of course, we eat those domestically as well. It has always been the second- and third-tier cuts that we've had a problem moving. Much of it was going as trim to the U.S. to be ground into hamburger. Now much of it is being diverted to the Pacific Rim—to Korea, Japan, China, and so on—for hot pot. They'll take many cuts that, as I said, were going down as hamburger trim for very little money and are now going as AA beef into the hot pot over there. It has made a difference of a couple of hundred dollars per animal. It's keeping everybody else honest when they're bidding on our animals.
We're paying a little more over the counter here than we ever did before, but still less than 12% of your disposable income is going to the food basket. Europeans pay in the 30% range and so on. It's still a good value when you look at the quality we have and the consistency.
We've done a number of cooking demonstrations throughout China. They just love our beef. They love the grain-fed part of it. I sat down in an interview with some agricultural magazines' writers when I was in Guangzhou, I think it was, the last time. We had done a cook for them on some steak, and they all tried it and just loved it. It's a better quality of beef. I was explaining to them that what they've been buying from the rest of the world—Australia, predominantly—is grass fed. These animals are 44 to 45 months old. I said it's hard to put on weight when you're eating salad all the time, and that's basically what grass-fed animals do.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Hon. Gerry Ritz: No, that's no slam on vegetarians.
But when you top it up with good barley you get a sweeter meat, a better-marbled meat, and that's exactly what they're looking for.
They view short ribs as a luxury, and of course here nobody eats a lot of beef short rib, so there were tremendous opportunities to market a lot of that.
View Bob Zimmer Profile
Thank you, Minister, for coming before committee today.
I know you were up in Dawson Creek, up in my neck of the woods, in the B.C. Peace. Some of the farmers there talked about traceability. Initially it was looked at as a bit of boat anchor, something that they had to do. But the more they looked at it the more they realized it's a positive in terms of trade and it's definitely an advantage to Canadian producers. But also we noticed that you had announced that $7.5 million was being invested into that field. Could you speak to that amount of money and the positive that it really does bring?
View Gerry Ritz Profile
That was the second investment when it comes to the Canadian cattle identification and we're going beyond that. It's all livestock now. This will build the capacity to put all the data together so that we actually have flow. Right now there's a separate system in Quebec, which is an excellent system. We've patterned the rest of the country on that, using that as an anchor. Now the data is being exchanged. As you know, cattle aren't born, raised, and slaughtered all in the same area. They move. They're very transient. So we're able to trace them now.
We have a growing recognition of the value of genomics throughout Canada so we have a good database when it comes to genomics. One of the major sectors, and I was just at Agribition this Monday, with buyers from all around the world. I know the stats for last year. I haven't seen them for this year yet because it's not over, but we had 800 representatives from 65 different countries at Agribition looking at genetics, every type of breed of livestock you could think of there. A lot of good contacts and sales were made. We continue to see genetics growing in demand in all the emerging markets like China as well as back to Europe. I mean, a lot of the initial cattle stocks, Hereford and Angus, came from Europe and were developed here with offshoots now to Simmental and Polled Hereford and all that and they're being bought back into Europe.
I met with a group from Great Britain at the show because they were buying Speckle Park, which of course is a breed of beef animal that was developed in my neck of the woods. They have a bit of a track record. They were coming back to renew some of their bulls and cows and continue to build that herd. The pool of resource here, when it comes to genomics and traceability.... Canada is now number one again, simply because of the work that we've done as a government working with industry. As you said, at first a lot of ranchers thought it's going to cost them $4 an animal so they weren't going to pay it. Now they look at it as a tool in order to continue to open up and access markets.
View LaVar Payne Profile
View LaVar Payne Profile
2014-11-27 11:57
I understand, Minister, that there's a new beef facility up around Calgary that is specifically targeting the European market. I wonder if you have any comments on that.
View Gerry Ritz Profile
It's targeting all markets around the world. As I've been saying to the livestock guys for years, we have to sell what our customer wants, not what we have. We have to learn to cut the beef. We have to learn how to package it, and so on, so it's prepped for their market. That's value-added.
We're shipping 16-ounce T-bone steaks into Japan. Those would feed a village, not just one person. They don't eat beef to the same extent we do, but there are so many more mouths to feed that of course that 16-ounce T-bone doesn't go very far.
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
Good, thank you very much.
Let me just shift gears a little; let me comment on food safety. My colleagues are probably aware that a recent third-party report indicated Canada had the best food safety system in the world, and then recent polling within Canada showed Canadians have extremely high confidence in our food safety systems here.
I noticed that the estimates are also moving additional funding into food safety, biosecurity, and traceability, and traceability is certainly a core element of our food safety system.
Could you perhaps share with the committee how the increased funding in traceability, biosecurity, and food safety will help the department do the work it needs to do in these respective areas?
Frédéric Seppey
View Frédéric Seppey Profile
Frédéric Seppey
2014-11-27 12:40
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for the question.
When you look at it in terms of competitiveness and market access and exports, it is very important for Canada to be able to rely on a strong regulatory framework on food safety and animal and plant health. In that regard, a good illustration is the work on traceability we are doing with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. We're trying to move forward and introduce and implement a national livestock traceability system, working with the sector and the provinces, because good animal health is very important for food safety in Canada, but also it provides assurances that our international trading partners, the buyers, look for when they purchase commodities and goods from Canada.
In terms of traceability, we already have a system for hogs, and efforts right now are focusing on implementing cost-effective traceability of the movement of other livestock. We are focusing on sheep, bison, cattle, goats, working very closely with industry and building on initiatives that exist in the industry to strike the right balance to provide the benefits of traceability and also to make sure it is done in a way that is feasible for the sector.
That is an illustration.
View Bob Zimmer Profile
That's a perfect segue, because my question to the minister was about traceability as well. Originally, what was perceived as a boat anchor, the term I gave it, is actually a benefit to us in the trade files. People are looking for this in our global markets. They're looking for these kinds of things, so it's a benefit in a couple of ways.
Yes, please speak to this.
Frédéric Seppey
View Frédéric Seppey Profile
Frédéric Seppey
2014-11-27 12:51
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It's true that given the type of products that we're exporting, we are highly dependent on having both the right science in Canada, and ensuring that the framework that's based on regulations in Canada and abroad is based on science. As an example, Mr. Meredith mentioned that the wheat that we export has benefited from the research done by AAFC. We are the leader in cattle exports. It's very important in terms of the genetic engineering that went into that.
We can have market development, resolve market access issues, negotiate trade agreements, but it's very important as well that through scientists, through the work of veterinarians at CFIA, we're able to influence the development of new standards internationally. This is one of the efforts we're making, especially when we talk about trade. That's why, for example, we are very active at the World Organisation for Animal Health, to ensure that with regard to issues such as BSE or the BSE status, we get the right status that allows us to export; or at the Codex Alimentarius Commission under the FAO, where we developed maximum residue levels for pesticides, where we discuss issues related to ractopamine, and where, with regard to drugs that are approved, we ensure that other countries are basing their restrictions and their policies on science rather than on other elements.
Given the importance of animal products in our mix, this is something that is extremely important to promote.
Tina Widowski
View Tina Widowski Profile
Tina Widowski
2013-05-30 12:21
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My name is Tina Widowski and I'm a professor of animal behaviour and welfare at the University of Guelph.
I know that this week you've heard quite a bit about science-based codes and science-based standards, so today I'd like to give you a little bit about the scientist's perspective and how we go about this process.
For the last 20 years, I've been focusing primarily on the welfare of pigs and poultry. More recently, my research program has focused on the laying hen. I've had the opportunity to sit on three of the scientist committees for the codes of practice. That includes codes for pigs and also poultry—meat birds. Also, I'm chairing the committee for laying hens, which is in progress right now. I'm also on the steering committee for the animal care assessment model. This is the model that's being developed to do on-farm assurances based on the codes of practice.
The concern for farm animal welfare is not new. This has been going on for over 50 years, beginning in the U.K. Today, animal care concerns and farm animal welfare are shaping the way that eggs, meat, and milk are being produced and marketed around the world. I've provided some details on historical development. I'm not going to go through it now, but if you want to look over it, you can get some perspective on how this has been sweeping across the world.
The interest in this issue in Canada is at an all-time high, and I would not expect it to go down anytime soon. Canadian livestock and poultry producers are facing a number of challenges. They have invested, and will continue to invest, in new housing systems, new practices, and standards of care that will address the concerns of consumers and the broader community.
If we look at the various livestock and poultry sectors, we can identify some of the main areas of concern that people have about modern animal agriculture. The issue that is probably most visible to the general public is that of housing animals in ways that restrict their movement or their behaviour. The close confinement systems that you're probably most familiar with are sow stalls and the conventional battery cages for laying hens. This would include tie stalls for dairy cows and systems in which dairy cows don't have opportunities to graze.
Another issue comes to light once we move into group housing systems—the amount of space we allow them. This concerns many of the livestock sectors. Mr. Dungate referred to this while talking about the standards that the CFC use.
A third issue concerns management practices routinely done on farms that cause pain and distress to animals. These practices occur in a number of livestock sectors and include surgical procedures done without anesthesia or analgesia, as well as transfer and slaughter procedures. These procedures pretty much affect all the livestock and poultry sectors.
All of these are very emotional issues, and all of these are issues that people have different perspectives about. The task for animal welfare scientists like myself is to try to introduce objective measures that will inform ethical decisions about the quality of life for Canada's farm animals. To do this, we use a variety of validated scientific techniques, which I will go over very briefly right now.
One approach is to evaluate the basic health and functioning of animals. We look at their health, disease, and mortality rates. In laboratories, we can look at their stress physiology, which tells you how they are responding to different environments or procedures. We also evaluate the subjective experiences or feelings of animals. We now know from our studies of neurobiology in animals that they share some of the same basic emotions as humans. Some emotions help us survive. We study states of distress like fear, frustration, and pain, as well as states of pleasure like contentment and comfort. We combine behavioural, physiological, and neurobiological measures in order to gauge if, and to what degree, animals experience these states in different housings or when they are subjected to different procedures.
Finally, we identify specific behaviour patterns that animals may be highly motivated to engage in. We identify these, and then we determine how their housing system might affect their behaviour and what we can do to improve conditions.
Some of the most contentious issues, for the general public at least, involve housing systems like conventional cages and sow stalls. We have to remember that these systems were initially developed to provide benefits to the animals, including health and hygiene, to reduce aggression, and to promote individual feeding. They also have economic benefits for producers and consumers.
Research into the subjective experiences and behaviour of the animals does suggest these systems can have some improvements. However, when we get into alternative systems, the behaviour and health of the animal...there are some welfare trade-offs in those systems. By allowing more space and freedom of movement, we also increase opportunities for aggression, injury, and disease. So switching from one system to another is a very complex matter.
Alternative housing systems also require greater capital investment, incur increased costs of production, and can have a higher environmental footprint. It's a very complicated equation.
Canadian animal welfare scientists are working on next-generation group housing systems for sows and enriched housing systems for laying hens. We're working on those that involve real improvements for animal welfare, are ethically acceptable to consumers and the broader community, and are economically feasible for both producers and consumers.
We are also assessing the amount of pain that animals experience—for example, castration of piglets—and working on developing ways to mitigate that pain. A number of workers across Canada are also looking at transportation issues of poultry, pigs, and beef. We are assessing the transport times and distances that Canadian animals experience—they are the longest in the world—and we're also investigating how we can modify trucks and change ventilation systems to improve the comfort of the animals on those trucks.
The work of Canadian animal welfare scientists directly informs public policy. The current process for developing codes, as you've learned, involves scientists. First, we do a very rigorous review of our own work and the work that goes on around the world. We provide the information to the co-development committee. We don't make recommendations; we provide what we know. Then the multi-stakeholder committee takes that scientific information and weighs it against the economic, practical, and all other factors that come into play, to determine the level of the standards that are considered to be acceptable in Canada. It's a public process.
Canada has always been a leader in animal welfare science. We have a strong reputation in this area, and we have some world-class experts working on very tough issues, serving on both national and international policy advisory committees. This includes Agriculture Canada scientists, NSERC, and industrial research chairs. We also have a Canada research chair in animal welfare as well.
Our work is supported by industry grants that are leveraged through both provincial and federal funding programs. The recent cut in AFC has resulted in a loss of some of Canada's top animal welfare scientists, both very established scientists and those that are up and coming. They've contributed significantly to policy development, and this is at a time when there is an increasing demand for science-based animal welfare standards.
Animal welfare research is key to informing the development of evidence-based animal care standards. It's key to informing the evolution of housing systems that actually benefit the animals. Therefore, it's critical that research, industry, and animal welfare policies continue to be supported at both the provincial and federal levels, to keep Canadian producers competitive but also to ensure a balanced approach to setting animal welfare standards for Canada's farm animals.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to address your committee. I look forward to your questions.
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