14, 2003: Pork producers have launched an initiative
to ban the use of meat and bone meal in the diet of Ontario
pigs by March of next year. The new policy can be linked to
the discovery of one Alberta cow with mad cow disease back
in May. The link is not a scientific one. Feeding recycled
animal products back to animals has developed a perception
Recycling animal products has become a sensitive issue. In
1997 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency banned the feeding
of recycled products from ruminant animals back to other ruminants,
like cattle, sheep, goats, bison, elk or deer. Pigs are not
ruminants but our pork sector is taking the ban a step further.
Pork producers will be buying more expensive protein supplements
for their pig feed.
American pork producers are feeling no need to follow suit.
After all, their country is still officially BSE-free. They
will continue to use meat and bone meal as a cheap source
of protein in pig diets; giving them a competitive advantage
over our farmers. They will continue to send pork to Canadian
While Canadian farmers go out of their way to produce a quality
product with added features, someone else's product, that
meets lower standards, will be on the shelf right beside it
-- at a lower price.
This happens again and again. Canada has not approved the
use of a bovine hormone that boosts milk production. American
milk producers use it and can send their milk products to
our grocery store shelves. American fruits and vegetable growers
have access to pesticides not approved in Canada, but their
fruits and vegetables comes north by the truckload.
This scenario is repeated in other countries. British farmers
are required to meet high animal welfare standards but pig
meat from around the world is filling their superstore shelves
-- at lower prices. The European Union is proposing to ban
atrazine, a cost effective herbicide for corn production but
U.S. corn, grown with atrazine, will continue to feed European
Our first instinct is to label these situations unfair -
good intentions and hard work undermined by cheap imports
produced to different standards. Solution? Demand a level
Is this really the best solution? A level playing field implies
competing strictly on price - joining the race to the bottom,
a treadmill to ever lower prices.
Marketing the uniqueness of farm products stands a much better
chance to deliver financial rewards for good intentions and
hard work. Ontario Pork is on the right track in its study
on costs and consequences of the ban on meat and bone meal.
It will also study marketing advantages for Ontario pig meat.
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