Supply management the enemy of food choice?

“Why you can’t find heritage poultry” by MARK SCHATZKER in the Globe and Mail:

Two chicken inspectors showed up at a farm in Southern Ontario not long ago. They flashed badges and inspected the premises and, sure enough, they found what they were looking for: chickens. About 100 of them, wandering across open pastures, pecking at bugs, worms and blades of grass.

The inspectors quickly put a stop to all that. They told the farmer to get rid of his chickens or face the consequences. Then they visited other nearby farms, issuing threats of fines (up to $10,000 a day), and leaving more than one Amish farm wife in tears.

These were not police, RCMP or public-health officials. They were employees of the Chicken Farmers of Ontario, the body that represents Ontario’s roughly 1,000 chicken farmers, and they have the legal right to “inspect the books, records, documents, lands and premises and any chickens of persons engaged in producing or marketing chickens.” In other words, they can carry out chicken busts. And on this particular bust, their suspicions were confirmed: Delicious pastured chickens were being sold without quota.

Quota is a legal requirement for marketing chickens, turkey, eggs or cow milk in Canada. Without it, the simple bucolic act of selling a block of farmstead cheese or several dozen eggs at a farmers’ market is against the law. It’s been this way for almost half a century. If you want access to the market, you have to pay for it. And access isn’t cheap.

This kind of arrangement is better known as a cartel. Cartels fix prices. Usually, they’re illegal, but not in Canada. In fact, when it comes to poultry, dairy and eggs, not being part of a cartel is illegal – as many an Amish farm wife can tell you.

The Canadian food cartel goes by its own special name: “supply management.” Critics have charged that supply management makes food disproportionately expensive (especially for the poor), cripples our agricultural sector and is holding us back from entering lucrative trade deals with Asia.

But here’s what hasn’t been said about supply management: It is the enemy of deliciousness.

If you have ever wondered why you can buy heritage chickens such as the famed poulet de Bresse in France but not in Canada, or pastured butter the colour of an autumn sunset in Ireland but not in Canada, or why it’s so hard to find pastured eggs here, the reason is supply management.

Great ingredients, as any good cook will tell you, come from small producers who lovingly tend their flocks and the land that sustains them. These artisan producers – the very people attempting to make food local and sustainable – are stifled under supply management because it requires the one thing these starry-eyed pastoralists almost always don’t have: money. A single cow’s worth of dairy quota, for example, costs about $27,000 (up to $40,000 in B.C.). Quota for one egg-laying hen can cost upward of $200.

Now do the math. A tiny egg farm of 500 hens (a typical Canadian farm has 20,0000 or more) can cost more than $100,000. (Exact prices and rules vary across provinces.) Ontario’s minimum allotment of chicken quota – 14,000 units (or about 90,000 birds a year) costs $1.5-million. And a tiny herd of 10 dairy cows costs more than $250,000. How many small farmers have that kind of scratch?…”

Read it all in The Globe and Mail.



Filed under News

9 responses to “Supply management the enemy of food choice?

  1. charles jasunas

    Only one thing to do,get rid of supply managememt.Let’s shake the cages of those elected ones that seem to do nothing.It’s time to remind them who gave them their jobs.

  2. questioning

    I become very wary when Harper and his cronies are in favour of something. Their record is a disgrace to all Canadians who wish to protect future generations and our environment. So far they have managed to give away our resources, limit our choices and rights, and line their pockets with corporate graft.

    • BC Food Security

      Questioning : You are right. Harper is the most anti-Canada Canadian PM i have ever seen. Laws or no laws , it is the spirit with which governments, corporations and a society conducts its affair that is more important. And Harper is anti-everything that is natural, human , normal and for the little guy or farmer . Motivation and intention are everything. How can anything good for our society come out of policies based on greed , ego and evil ?

  3. Sarah Mackenzie Dyck

    I thought that even with supply management, small farmers were allowed to have small farm flocks without quota? When did this change?

  4. The chicken police just found us and I get to talk to them on Friday…yipee.
    any words of wisdom??

  5. Richard Barrett

    Why are you mentioning Harper? He represents the Federal Gov.. The Chicken Farmers of Ontario police receive their authority from the Ontario Provincial Government. Would someone find what the maximum amount of chickens a farmer legally can have without obtaining a quota and post it.
    Post all the contacts for CFO so we can put the Public pressure on.
    Also the Ontario Provincial Ag. Minster’s E-mail and phone #’s.
    Can someone find out who the farmers are or who their MLA’s are.

    • BC Food Security

      “But there at last may be hope. The rumour in Ottawa is that Stephen Harper – perhaps the world’s most unlikely champion of slow food – is considering scrapping supply management so that Canada can be part of a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. It’s nothing more than backroom talk, at this point. But if it happens, this country’s reputation for blandness – at least when it comes to poultry, eggs and dairy – may finally start to change. ”
      Richard : This is the last paragraph of that otherwise poignant article. I am not sure either how Harper would have the jurisdiction to to arbitrarily scrap “supply management” if the legislation falls in the provincial realm ? Maybe the author was mixing up the wheat issue with the chicken and dairy issues. But with raw dairy we already know that the fed is part of the problem as well.

  6. Milk Wench-Pat Winter

    …some quota exempt producers with flocks numbering 500. They are members of the Mennonite community and obtained special exemption arrangements in the early years of the marketing board’s operation….
    Well, I’m a Schmidterrite, let farmshare farmers provide for their followers.

  7. Richard Barrett

    Schmidterrite, I am sure Michael did not know that he was forming a new food religion for such a time as this. We could get tax receipts for contributions just like the politicians do for political contributions.
    Sure would be a blessing to eat what God created instead of what
    man created with his G.E. foods.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s