Second Look

When a vocal minority calls the shots

The parallels between Prohibition and the animal welfare movement are chilling and consumers will pay the price


On Jan. 16, 1919, the 18th Amendment became enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Fewer than 394 days to get the approval of 36 state legislatures were required for it to become law, less than half as long as it had taken for 11 of the first 14 states to approve the U.S. Bill of Rights. Simply stated, with the 18th Amendment saying that “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors . . . importation . . . exportation . . . is hereby prohibited . . . ,” the United States became a dry country.

Producing more pork and eating less

Changes in pork production and consumption in Ontario point to the success of our industry’s exports


In 2011, Ontario’s annual total pig production (hogs processed in Canada plus live pig exports to the United States) was estimated to be 6.1 million head or 117,000 per week from an average sow inventory of 343,000. It is interesting that these figures are similar to where the industry was at in 2000. However, between 2000 and 2011 industry trends have changed.

In 2000, per capita pork consumption on a carcass weight basis was 28.69 kg per person. The average market hog carcass weight was 88.4 kg. In 2011, per capita consumption had dropped to 20.8 kg while the average market hog carcass weight had increased to 96.3 kg.

What has been driving land price increases?

Land value increases over 10 years have been matched by productivity as measured in better corn yields


In 2010, Statistics Canada data showed the average value of farm land and buildings in Ontario was $5,062 per acre. The 10-year period from 2001 to 2010 has seen land values increase an average of 5.5 per cent annually in Ontario. Productivity over the same period has seen the average corn yield increase 5.9 bushels per acre or five per cent annually in Ontario. The 10-year average yield in bushels per acre is 136.7. Land values appear to have kept pace with productivity increases.

Who speaks for producers on sow gestation stalls?

Better Pork’s December cover story prompted an angry response from one reader. Here’s what he had to say


The cover story in Better Pork’s December issue caused a stir. It was about sow gestation stalls and the National Farmers Union (NFU) in Manitoba joining with an activist group to have them banned by 2017. The matter was going to be discussed at a national NFU convention in London.   

The article featured Ridgetown producer Rock Geluk, an organic producer and a member of the NFU, on the cover of the magazine. Geluk essentially agreed with the Manitoba effort.

How much have productivity gains offset the downsizing impacts?

Industry downsizing has been painful for producers but it has helped prices


The Canadian hog industry has undergone a restructuring by significantly downsizing. Since Jan. 1, 2005 the total Canadian breeding herd has shrunk by 300,000 sows (19 per cent) from the peak of 1.6 million head. In Ontario, sow numbers have decreased 90,000 head (21 per cent) from the peak of 433,000 during the same period.

How do Ontario hog prices compare to the U.S.?

Comparison of close to a year’s data suggests that Ontario producers in 2011 do have price equivalency with U.S. producers


Ontario’s hog supply, relative to processing demand, has changed significantly over time. Ontario has shifted from a region producing many more hogs than were processed within the province to today’s situation where hog production is much more in balance with processing. In 2011, Ontario processors have found that they have had to pay more to procure hogs.

The discussion as to whether Ontario hog producers have price equivalency with the United States has been going on for a long time. Historically, the comparison of Ontario prices with U.S. prices has not been straightforward.

High expectations versus the real market

Our governments and consumers have high expectations of this industry and its ability to survive, but they place obstacles in the way that make it difficult for it to compete in the actual marketplace


In his book, “Fixing the Game,” Rodger Martin examines the way executives receive compensation based on the expectations market (or stock value) and the real market (or the old fashioned concept that if the company produces products that consumers buy, there will be rewards based on profits.)

Livestock producers have to communicate with the consumer

Myths and biases about livestock production are rampant. Who will fill the information gap?


The story goes that four soldiers were driving their jeep in the Vietnam War when they came upon a tree fallen across a narrow road. As they stopped, the guerillas opened fire on them. They scurried into the woods, soon realizing they would have to return to base if they were to survive.

The leader said they had two options: to fight to the end or run to the jeep, each pick up a corner, turn the jeep around and get the hell out of there. But if they opted for the latter, they had to make no mistakes. Lo and behold, they did lift and turn the jeep and survived.

Will the new Risk Management Program preserve market access?

Farm groups who have participated in its development believe that it will and that its design will minimize the risk of trade actions


On March 29, the Ontario Government announced new program funding for agriculture. The development of the voluntary, multi-commodity, self-directed Risk Management Program (RMP) has been years in the making, beginning with the Grains and Oilseeds pilot in 2007 and continuing with the work of individual groups and the Ontario Agriculture Sustainability Coalition (OASC).