Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO) has provided conditional approval for the first group of farmers under the new Ontario Artisanal Chicken program. These farmers will be supplying up to 3,000 chickens each year to a diverse range of niche consumer markets from local farmers’ markets to regional specialty retailers and restaurants. The Artisanal Chicken program was introduced by CFO in 2015 to help meet select, unmet and emerging consumer markets for chicken in Ontario.

Despite the program being in its first year, it has received more than 100 farmer applications, from across the province, to grow in 2016. All of these applications have been or are currently being reviewed to determine whether they meet the program requirements. Farmers accepted into the Artisanal Chicken program outline their growing method, processing plans and target markets and meet all On-Farm Food Safety Assurance Program and Animal Care Program requirements.

“The Artisanal Chicken program demonstrates CFO’s strong commitment to meeting its mandate to address both new and emerging consumer markets for chicken in Ontario,” said Henry Zantingh, CFO chair. “We are extremely excited to be helping launch the first group of Artisanal Chicken farmers in Ontario and are very pleased that so many new farmers continue to express interest in seeking out underdeveloped local markets for chicken.”

“The quality of the applications we received have helped validate the need for a program which helps unleash the entrepreneurial energies of potential chicken farmers across the province,“ said Rob Dougans, president and CEO of the association. “We expect the number of applications will grow over the coming years as farm and food retail entrepreneurs focus on supplying the increasing range of local and specialty markets for chicken of all kinds across Ontario.“  

Following a preliminary inspection of their premises and an in-depth review of their growing and marketing plans, 24 farmers have received conditional acceptance into the Artisanal Chicken program so far. This group was selected from among those looking to begin growing in early 2016. Other applicants looking to start their growing season later in the year are still under active review and are expected to be approved in the coming weeks.