BSE’s impact on the Canadian pork industry

CANADA - The occurrence of a single case of mad cow disease in Alberta this spring has been devastating for the nation.s cattle industry. While the brunt of the hurt has been shouldered by both cattle and dairy producers, and continues on to this date, the BSE incident has also impacted other red meat sectors.
calendar icon 24 October 2003
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The Canadian pork industry first felt the fallout of the BSE incident when processors across the nation, including Brandon.s Maple Leaf Pork, prohibited meat and bone meal (MBM) in the rations of hogs entering their plants. This prohibition was done in response to foreign market demands and not because of any food safety concerns. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) maintains, and the processors agree, that there are no scientific or food safety concerns with feeding rendered proteins, including MBM, to pigs.

New impacts continue. Pig farmers in other provinces now have to pay to have their deadstock rendered, although Rothsay continues to pick up free in Manitoba. Ontario Pork has recently banned MBM in all hog feed in that province and will be conducting a study to examine its economic impacts on hog farmers. If MBM prohibitions become commonplace throughout North America and renderers markets for MBM disappear, the impact on pig farmers will be significant.

A recent study completed for the Canadian Pork Council indicates costs for pig farmers would rise at least $4.71 per hog if rendered proteins were banned, and by as much as $25.33 per hog if all animal by-products were removed from both human and pet food chains. Alberta Pork has flagged decreased demand for pork as having potential for serious consequences for pig farmers. They have also been in contact with western Canadian grocery distributors to share concerns and urge their help.

Here in Manitoba some producers have already been faced with paying disposal surcharges when they take their animals to local butcher shops or abattoirs for processing. These facilities maintain that they are simply passing along new costs they are now facing because of BSE.

Because they also slaughter beef cattle and dairy cull cows, the trimmings and offal from beef and pork are mixed; this mixed product now has no value to renderers and they are now charging for pick up and disposal.

With the recent push for increased provincial beef slaughter capacity, Manitoba hog farmers are now facing another challenge - the proposal to convert Best Brand Meats into a cattle processing plant. Recently, Council Chairman Marcel Hacault urged the provincial government to take action to attract new additional hog slaughter capacity and maintain the Best Brands killing floor capacity.

In media interviews, Hacault went out of his way to make it clear that Manitoba.s hog farmers are not opposed to increased beef slaughter. "Manitoba's hog farmers support new or expanded beef processing, but not at the expense of reducing slaughter capacity for pork," said Hacault. "We are sympathetic towards the plight of the cattle industry."

"It is our view that all meat sectors must work together with government in seeking solutions to this challenge. The last thing we want is to turn a beef crisis into a meat industry crisis," he said.

The BSE disease outbreak underscores the importance of livestock groups working together on a common Foreign Animal Disease strategy. In many people's minds, the BSE incident was a wake-up call for the entire Canadian livestock industry.

Source: Manitoba Pork Producers - 24th October 2003

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