Three key players in the chicken industry have been holding stakeholder consultations this month on how future growth will be allocated in Ontario's chicken industry. A new national agreement has given the Chicken Farmers of Ontario the green light to grow the poultry sector by an additional 72,300,000 live kilograms of chicken. At first glance this sounds like good news for food and farming in the province. That is, until you realize that the consultations being hosted by the Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO), Association of Chicken Processors, and Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission are being held exclusively in three southern Ontario cities: Guelph, Burlington, and Mississauga.
The complete lack of consultation in northern Ontario is a shocking oversight. Within the Thunder Bay area there are but a handful of people raising chickens for food. Existing regulations require that any chicken brought to market be butchered by an abattoir licensed to process chicken. Since the nearest poultry abattoir is in Rainy River, it's too expensive for small producers to raise chicken for local market. Nearly all of the chicken consumed in the Thunder Bay area therefore travels over a thousand miles from southern Ontario to reach our grocery stores.
Instead of only focusing future growth in the poultry sector in areas of the province with established producers, the CFO and others could see this as an opportunity to encourage economic development and improvements in food security across the province.
For this reason, the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy joined stakeholders in Sudbury, Kenora, Dryden, Rainy River, Muskoka, Saulte Ste Marie, and other communities, calling on the Chicken Farmers of Ontario and Ontario Farm Produce Marketing Commission to give northern Ontarians the chance to weigh in on this important issue. The letter was also sent to Premier Kathleen Wynne and Minister of Food and Rural Affairs Jeff Leal.