Buy Our Cluckin' Birds: BC Chicken Farmers Unite in Campaign
The British Columbia Chicken Growers' Association is receiving public funds to provide a marketing package touting the health and vitality of its member farms' chickens.
Below you can see key excerpts from the BC Chicken Growers' Association press release, along with annotations from a self-appointed consumer advocate, i.e. me.
VICTORIA - An educational video, which will provide consumers with factual information on how chicken is produced in British Columbia, is receiving Buy Local program funding.
The BC Chicken Growers' Association will receive $15,500 to help with the cost of producing the short movie and the literature to support it. The video will showcase B.C. family-run chicken farms and the responsibility and care they take in ensuring animal welfare, bio security, food safety and the environment.
In other words, a consortium of chicken farmers is using your tax money to create a commercial. That commercial will say, "Buy our chickens!" That said, $15,500 doesn't get you much. Video production is breathtakingly expensive, even in the digital age, and even if they figure out how to use chickens for labor.
Before we go any further, I must insist that the BC Chicken Growers Association doesn't follow the example of the Egg Farmers of Canada. Their "Egg Man" video is an exercise in what-the-cluck. (Write this down: there is only one Egg Man. He is also the Walrus. Goo-goo-g'joob.)
Myth - B.C. chicken producers use hormones and steroids.
Fact - the use of hormones and steroids in the production of chicken is illegal in Canada and has been since the 1960s.
Myth - B.C. broiler chickens are raised in cages.
Fact - They are not raised in cages. They are free-run and have free access to feed and water.
"Free run" can be quite a deceptive term, sort of like "organic". "Free run" does not translate to "chickens clucking with glee as they bound across verdant fields of green". Technically, the zombies in Hershel's barn were free run.
"Free range" is equally vague, with the only requirement being that the chooks must have some access to the outdoors. How much access? Not legislated. Think cement pens, like a polar bear gets at the zoo.
To be fair, the Chicken Farmers of Canada ("Chicken.ca!") don't obfuscate this fact. However, it's best to know that the food you buy has a history, and you're best served by knowing that history.
That said, just about anything is better than factory farming, which is as close as an animal can get to Hell on Earth. So, yeah, bonus points for free run, and also for keeping our chickens off steroids and hormones. They'd be humiliated to be stripped of their cycling titles.
The poultry industry is the second-largest agricultural industry in
British Columbia with farmers generating just under half a billion
dollars in total combined revenues in 2011. The chicken produced in
B.C. is popular both locally and internationally. Asia is a key
market. The Philippines was the biggest importer, receiving more than
$10 million in B.C. chicken products.
The Buy Local program offers successful applicants matching funds up
to $100,000 to launch or expand local food marketing campaigns.
British Columbia's biggest agricultural earner is the dairy industry.
Well, that's not really true.
Dairy is actually in second place, and poultry in third. The real number one agricultural product in British Columbia is marijuana... to the tune of an estimated $6 billion per year.
Actually, only half a billion of that is coming from BC residents: maybe the Lower Mainland's grow-ops need their own Buy Local video campaign.
Sustainability, Sustainability, Sustainability
Whether we're talking about milk or chickens or ganja, the overall message of "buy local" is a positive one, especially as the service economy eclipses BC's primary industries.
If the BC Chicken Growers' Association really wants to win us over, a chicken-farm coloring book won't be enough. The group should focus on environmental impact and sustainability. If we're gonna eat chicken, it may not be enough to be told that our nearest chicken farm isn't run by Mrs. Tweedy. We also need reassurances-- and proof-- that the agricultural industry is minding the health of the province we call home.