Pork producers implement tracing program
Many of Glengarry’s pork producers are in the midst of implementing plans so their product can be better traced to its origins to meet new government regulations.
“The Canadian pork industry is the first out of the gate to have a traceability program that includes the identification of animals but also movement reporting. We actually got a leg up on the Americans who do not have this in place,” says Oliver Haan, a pork producer from the Belleville-Kingston area, vice-chair of Ontario Pork, and Ontario Pork Association board director for Zone 4, representing producers from the Highway 400 area in Ontario to the Quebec border that includes the Glengarry area.
Traceability was one of the issues discussed at the recent local Glengarry- Prescott pork producers' annual meeting held February 11 in Alexandria.
As part of the program, the Canadian pork industry needs to locate all its pork producers to be able to identify their premises. Then the producers will need to record the movements of their pigs.
Mr. Haan says the traceability program is important because consumers are asking for it. On the one hand, on a local level many people are looking to connect directly with their farmer who provides the product.
Mr. Haan says 75 per cent of Canadian pork is exported and “meat buyers are looking for that traceability protection.”
“It’s a huge level of comfort,” he adds..
He observes Canadian pork producers are fortunate to have access to so many markets to sell their product.
Recently he had the opportunity to visit Tokyo, Japan and Korea last year and met with meat buyers.
He says he was overwhelmed with the keen interest in the program, especially in Japan. “They really want to be able to trace back the meat that they are bringing into the country.”
He comments Korea has such a highly comprehensive trace- ability program in place that consumers there are able to identify the time of the meat production, the location where the meat was processed as well as the location of the farm where the animal originated, when they are purchasing their meat at the grocery store.
“Canadian pork is one of the first out of the gate with this program,” adds Mr. Haan. “A key step in that is finding out where all our producers are.”
He says producers are expected to begin taking steps to become familiar with the traceability program. The government and the industry aims to increase awareness and education about the program, but at some point in the future the government will impose fines on producers who don’t implement a traceability program for their farm.
While most producers already tattoo their animals to identify them in fulfilling the first part of the traceability program, farmers also need to report their animals’ movements within a seven-day period and submit a report indicating the numbers of pigs that left the barn, including the actual licence-plate number of the truck used for shipping them to the processor. Then, within seven days the processor who received the animals will need to submit a report also.
Mr. Haan says currently about 50 per cent of pork producer premises are participating in the traceability program, and adhering to the legislation that is administered under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Eventually, all producers are obligated to enrol in the program. While there is no cost to participate, producers agree to invest a bit of their time in completing their reports.
“My key message is: if you haven’t done it yet, while the snow is on the ground and you are in the house trying to stay warm, take his opportunity to get your traceability program in order because the regulations are there,” Mr. Haan says.
He adds a large part of the value of the traceability program is that it will provide increased protection in disease control and prevention to ensure greater food safety.
Looking at the local pork industry, Mr Haan says the number of producers in the Glengarry area has been fairly consistent for the most part in recent years.
Pricing values increased for Ontario hog sales as a result of reduced supply mainly in the US. market and in parts of Canada over the past year. In 2014 the average return to producer per pig was $209 while a producer’s input cost per pig was about $177, resulting in a $30 or almost $40 return for a market animal. In comparison, while the average input cost to producer was up 1.1 per cent from 2013, the average price, called the formula price, per pig increased by 25 per cent from 2013.
A large factor in the increased pricing is that the U.S. and Canadian pork industry was impacted by porcine epidemic diarrhea virus last year. Mr. Haan says there were far fewer cases of the virus in Canada compared to the impact the virus had on the U.S. market where it originated in 2013. He says the significant shortage of hogs in the U.S. market particularly resulted in increased prices for Ontario producers, adding that in this province numbers of pigs produced was actually slightly higher that the previous year.
Mr. Haan says the virus does not impact food safety and as a result of the prevalence of the virus last year producers are increasing their diligence with their bio security efforts in their barn operations.
While producers are “not out of the woods” entirely in eliminating the virus they are seeing fewer cases as a result of increased awareness of the disease.
“You have to keep your guard up and do what you have to do to keep the virus out of your facilities,” he adds.