© AgMedia Inc.
by BETTER FARMING STAFF
After a meeting of former PKI contract holders that took place here on Saturday, Wagler showed reporters a cooler filled with trays with two squab each, sitting on a bed of rice.
He says “Sicilian style” squab sells for $125 a plate at a restaurant in Montreal.
Security was tight as the former contract holders met behind closed doors. Stern-faced doormen checked the names of breeders against their list. Media and the public were expressly excluded from the room at the new agricultural society building. One doorman says breeders wanted to be able to speak freely in the meeting and became angry when a photographer took pictures of the crowd waiting for access. The meeting itself lasted nearly three hours.
“The purpose of the meeting, says Wagler, was to bring something “out of the ashes” of PKI, which collapsed financially earlier this week. “It has been tragic for everybody,” he says. The meeting was not about “just winding the industry down,” he says.
Committees were formed with a mandate to deal with legal issues, government, and food processors.
In the meantime, Wagler says, there is a short term need. “There are people here with no money to buy food for the coming week,” he says.
Wagler told reporters PKI had 381 breeding contracts in Ontario and perhaps as many as 400,000 birds, including breeders and their offspring.
He says he hasn’t been in contact with his former boss. “That has been the hardest thing to accept,” Wagler says. He refers to his relationship with his former boss as “close” friends. “The fact that he hasn’t picked up the phone to call has been hard for me. I am responsible for these people being here today. I feel indebted to them.” Perhaps Galbraith is “grieving” for the loss of his business, the former salesman suggests.
As far as legal authorities are concerned: “There are things happening that we are somewhat aware of. I would rather not comment.”
”We know that (police) investigations are taking place. That could take months. We can’t just sit.”
Wagler says volunteers called the meeting using the breeder list. Some breeders have as few as 50 pair. Some have as many as 1,000.
“The meeting never once got out of hand. Everybody was calm, cool and collected. There were emotions, sure.”
Wagler says he doesn’t know how many breeding pairs are in Ontario. “I could give an approximate and be way off the wall.”
Releasing the birds “is not an option,” Wagler says. “Arlan seemed to think it was an option. I think that is just a hasty thought on his part. That would cause tremendous problems.”
The birds Wagler showed to reporters were processed Friday by someone associated with a federally inspected HACCP plant located “nearby.” The owner “prefers to remain out of the equation until we get channels working here,” he says.
Wagler says the processing plant operator claims offspring from the breeding operations “can be easily handled” by his plant. He also notes that a breeder from New York State at the meeting wants to tap the New York City and Eastern Seaboard market.
Nevertheless, Wagler says the profit in pigeons “will never be where it was,” under PKI. Breeding stock is always worth more money that meat animals, he says.
“Arlan’s plan was to make it a food for ordinary people. He wanted to bring the price down.”
Wagler says costs of raising birds will go up as feed costs rise. He claims it costs $4 including feed for the meat bird and the parents to raise a bird to 20 weeks.
Marketing and transportation will take a good deal of the profit, Wagler says. “Those guys are always going to get more than we are.”
Arlan’s plan was to get farmers a rate of return equal to an industrial job, Wagler says.
Some breeders left the meeting early. While passing reporters, one said “there is no money and no one wants my birds.” BF
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs pigeon information page