Trust and Transparency
In last week's blog post, '5 Things to think about when buying chicken', I talked about the decisions we made about how we would raise our chickens and briefly mentioned the Artisanal Chicken Program.
On Tuesday, we had our official audit as part of this program and we're going to do something unusual - share the audit report with you. While full traceability in our mainstream food system is not possible, we understand that one of the reasons that you buy from us is that you want to understand exactly where your food is coming from.
Day-old chicks feeding in the brooder building. Chicken butts can you tell a surprising amount about a bird's health (Photo credit: Ben Marans Photography)
Background on the Artisanal Chicken Program
Chicken in Canada is supply-managed, meaning that there are only a certain number of chickens produced each year. To raise chickens, you must have a license - called 'quota'. Quota has become something that can be bought and sold, and over the decades as companies both purchased quota and contracted farmers to raise chickens, the price of quota has soared. The result is that small & medium sized farms had two options: take on significant debt to buy quota OR only raise 300 chickens without quota, which was allowed under the 'Family Food Program'.
The cost of quota usually means that chickens are raised 'conventionally', though there are more barns being constructed as 'free-range' (which if you read my last article could mean 50,000+ birds per acre) and/or organic. If you are only raising 300 chicken then it's your side hustle, as no farm can survive by selling 300 chickens.
A campaign called 'Flocking Options' started in 2012 to advocate for an increase to the 300 non-quota limit. After much rejection and persistence, it succeeded in 2016 in convincing the Chicken Farmers of Ontario which introduced the Artisanal Chicken Program as a way to respond to consumer demand for more diversity in our chicken choices. With special permission, small farmers can now raise up to 3,000 chickens without quota.
Requirements of the Artisanal Chicken Program
Kendal Hills Game Farm submitted its application in April, 2017 to be one of the new farms joining the program in its second year. Included in our application was a water sample and an explanation of how we would meet all of the requirements of the 158 page Free-Range On-Farm Food Safety Assurance Program and Animal Care Program (we printed & spiral bound it and keep it in the poultry barn).
As part of the application review process, the program manager visited the farm to assess our ability to raise 3,000 birds in a humane and biosecure way (biosecurity is the industry term for limiting disease on farm and between farms).
Once approved, we agreed to keeping detailed records, on-going training and on-going audits.
Our first audit was Tuesday, September 26th and it went very well. Below are links to the actual audit report (will only a PDF in a separate window).
1. CFO Audit Report for Kendal Hills Game Farm - Free Range Animal Care
2. CFO Audit Report for Kendal Hills Game Farm - Free Range On-Farm Food Safety
Results of our Audit
Animal Care Program: There are 93 items, 74 apply to our farm (19 are not applicable to non-quota operations). 7 items were assessed as 'needs improvement'.
On-Farm Food Safety Program: There are 130 items, 107 apply to our farm (23 are not applicable). 7 items were assessed as 'needs improvement'.
Needs Improvement with Actions Required
7 of them have to with our 'flock specific records' and 'form 3000' - two documents that the Chicken Farmers of Ontario require us to maintain and that we were not completing properly. When we clean and disinfect a brooder room (where the young chicks stay until they move outside), we were putting those dates on the flock record of the flock that just moved outside. They are supposed to go on the flock record form of the next flock.
1 requires us to write our own biosecurity plan to detail how we avoid contamination from other farmers after visiting the hatchery or processor.
Needs Improvement with no Action Required
Validation by a veterinarian of our on-farm euthanasia plan is a new requirement as of June 2017 that unofficially does not apply, yet, to the Artisanal Chicken Program and so the auditor had to mark as 'needs improvement'.
Ammonia monitoring and water meter are 'highly recommended' items, not mandatory, and we decided that neither were necessary for our operation as we live on the property and check our flocks 2-4 times per day.
They would prefer (highly recommend) that we do not raise any other birds on the property. We respectively disagree and think that diversity is our strength.
The last two items, of adding organic acids to the drinking water before shipping (to the processor) and having a physical barrier between our 'controlled access' and 'restricted' areas, are also highly recommended with no action required.