If anyone in Canada is skeptical of how chickens are raised in the country should be able to consumer Canadian chicken with confidence after a recent transparency project from Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO).

A group of Canadian food bloggers were invited to tour a broiler chicken farm in Ontario. A video highlighting the tour and the reaction of the bloggers can be found on the CFO YouTube channel.

In the video, which was posted about a month ago, a farmer named Jacqui, explained why she felt it was important to open up her farm, which appeared immaculate both inside and outside of the barns, to the visiting writers.

“I am super proud to be a chicken farmer. It’s really become something that I like to advocate for,” she said. “There’s so much misinformation on social media right now, and its really important for people to hear from the source – the farmer – that we can get great chicken here in Canada, that is sustainable, ethically raised and humane, and all chicken farmers in Canada should be proud.”

Jacqui explained the importance of biosecurity, and had the visitors put on coveralls, hair nets and shoe covers to put those biosecurity principles in place.

She showed them the computerized system that regulates temperature, and also monitors water consumption patterns for the chickens. If the consumption levels drop, that could be a signal that there could be health issues in the flock. She also showed them the drinkers, how they work, and how she can raise the water lines in a way that is appropriate as the chickens grow.

Bloggers learned more about the feed that the chickens eat, as well as the feeders from which they eat.

Jacqui also made it a point to tell the bloggers that no Canadian chickens are raised with added hormones, and not to buy into the hype when they hear of “hormone-free” poultry products.

What the bloggers thought

All four of the bloggers shown on the video spoke favorably of their experience on camera, and when it came time to put their thoughts up on the computer screen, they also had good things to say.

Here are excerpts from each of the bloggers and links to each of their posts:

“It made me feel really good seeing that the chickens are being raised in a clean, spacious and temperature-controlled barn. They’re eating high quality, natural chicken feed, running around free and being very well taken care of. There are no hormones or steroids used, I found out that they’re actually banned which is good to know. I took so much away from this visit and really enjoyed the farm experience. I left feeling really good about feeding our family Canadian chicken.” – Renee M. Leblanc, reneemleblanc.com

“I had no idea 90% of chicken farms are owned by families just like you and me! They are not domination by large corporations. I also learned firsthand the safety measures that are enforced among all Canadian chicken farmers. Barns are clean and the chickens are treated with care.” – Georgia Eliopoulos, extrasparklesplease.com

“These farmers really do always keep in mind that they are producing chicken for Canadian families just like their own. Because of this, they hold their work to the highest standard. … What impressed, and frankly amazed me, was the efficiency of the technology used in these farms today. Everything is centrally controlled by a computer system to ensure the optimal environment for the chickens to live. Air quality and temperature, plus the natural, nutritious feed and water are all regulated by automated systems and if the slightest thing goes wrong, the farmer gets an alert on her cell phone to respond.” – Barry Parsons, rockrecipes.com

“When we were growing up, our parents had friends who were local chicken farmers. I often think of visiting their farm when I reach for a package of chicken at the grocery store. But it had been years since I stepped onto a chicken farm, so a few weeks ago I was excited to visit a family owned and operated Canadian chicken farm in Ontario to find out what chicken farming in Canada is all about. … On our farm tour, we learned about how committed Canadian chicken farmers are to animal care. Chicken Farmers of Canada’s Animal Care Program has strong, mandatory requirements to ensure high animal care standards and 100 percent of Canada’s chicken farmers are certified on the mandatory Animal Care Program. All elements of bird care are covered by the program, including feed and water, environment, bird monitoring and handling, and more. And to make sure the program’s requirements are maintained, farmers are audited annually by a third-party.” -- Susan Carraretto, 5minutesformom.com

Blogger Susan Carraretto of 5minutesformom.com holds a chick during a recent visit she made to an Ontario chicken farm. (5minutesformom.com) 

Blogger tours a great idea

We all should know that transparency is arguably the best way to instill consumer confidence in food products. Earlier this week, my colleague Mark Clements wrote of how opening up your farm can help tackle misconceptions about agriculture, highlighting the Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) Open Farm Sunday initiative in the U.K. LEAF Open Farm Manager Annabel Shackleton noted that when farmers engage with the public, misinformation can be cleared up.

Opening up farms to bloggers is one way to do that.

CFO isn’t the first farmer organization to do this.

Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB) and Kansas Soybeans in the past have organized what they refers to as “Influencer Tours,” in which the organizations have invited bloggers to come out to farms and other agriculture-related businesses, to see these operations in person and to have their questions answered. Speaking at the 2017 Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit, Meagan Cramer, KFB director of communications and marketing, said the tours were so successful that plans were in the work for more of them.

If you are part of an agriculture organization, whether related to the poultry industry or not, you would be wise to consider doing what CFO and the Kansas organizations have done.