Ag Insight

Urban agriculture: who is minding the store?

Many cities and municipalities are considering bylaws to enhance local food production. But questions remain about the implications for animal health, nutrition, odour and pest control
and codes of practice


Urban agriculture has been receiving increased media coverage over the past year. But can backyard gardens and small livestock holdings provide a significant supply of food and at what cost? What percentage of the over five million inhabitants of the greater Toronto area and other cities and towns across Canada can be fed through urban agriculture?

Canada can play a larger role in sustainable farming and food production

The world’s food system will be under tremendous pressure in coming decades. But if Canada is to play its part, more – not less – research and innovation will be needed


Ontario and Canada should play a major role in food production to meet the ever- increasing needs of the world’s population. The demand for food to feed a growing population, the availability or lack of availability of water and other resources in some parts of the world, climate change concerns and the increased utilization of crops to produce biofuels should enable Canadian producers to play a larger role.

The world’s food system will be under tremendous pressure over the next three to four decades:

High-yield agriculture has had a bum rap

Recent studies show that, contrary to media reports, intensive farming is better for the environment than ‘old-fashioned’ methods and is key to feeding a growing world population


For years, the news media have attacked “intensive” farming practices and exploited the term “factory farming” to malign the key components of modern agriculture. 
But a recent report from Stanford University in the United States brought 
a positive message to much-maligned mainstream agriculture. It indicated that conventional high-yield farming is far better for the planet than low-yield farming.

Ag Insight - Animal rights or animal well-being?

Where animal rightists, such as PETA, believe that animals are not there to be used as food or by humans in any way, farmers and commodity groups say that society has the right to make proper and humane use of animals if they are treated with care


Animal welfare has been receiving increased publicity over the past several years and agriculture has been under a terrible attack by animal rightists.

Canada’s “farm animal welfare infrastructure” has a network of responsible organizations within Canada to address animal welfare issues. The spectrum of animal welfare issues in which it is involved, includes intensive livestock farming practices, humane transportation, humane slaughter, biotechnology and other concerns.

Ag Insight: The changing face of America’s livestock industry

Over the past two decades, operations have become substantially larger, notes a recent report, and productivity has increased. The downside is decreased competition, more worries about air and water pollution


Canadian livestock and poultry producers closely monitor what is occurring south of the border and its affect on Canadian production.

The United States has seen a shift towards much larger production units with greater specialization. There has also been greater co-ordination between input availability, actual production and processing. This shift has been most noticeable in cattle feeding and pork and poultry production.

AgInsight: The pressing need for technology transfers to the farm

The loss of extension services has made it all the more important that farmers have access to sound information on technology and the right advice to help them in making decisions


The role of government extension personnel, agribusiness and farm organizations in informing and educating all the players in the agriculture and food industry has evolved over the last century.

In the early 1900s, when the first agricultural representative was hired, many farmers questioned the need for such a position. But the extension service evolved over the next 50 years with many other staff being added.

Ag Insight: The downside to backyard poultry production

Toronto City Council has been asked to approve backyard poultry operations in the city. But, argues this livestock specialist, this could lead to lower product quality and pose health concerns for the public at large


A recent request from a group of Toronto citizens to Toronto City Council could bring about dramatic changes in poultry production in Ontario. A petition has been circulated asking that the Toronto Municipal Code be changed approve “backyard” chicken production in the city.

Ag Insight: SCIENCE OR SENTIMENT - Which will rule livestock production?

Research suggests that cage-raised birds and gestation stalls for sows improve animal welfare, as well as offering environmental and economic benefits. Yet animal rights activists and some retailers are moving against them


Livestock producers are facing many questions about the production methods used in commercial farming operations. Canadian-developed Codes of Practice are in place for all livestock and provide guidelines accepted by all interest groups. Additional constraints are being placed on farmers by processors, retailers and some consumers at a time when almost all commodities are under financial pressure.