by SUSAN MANN
Ontario consumers are largely unaware chicken is produced using the supply management system, according to survey results released at the Chicken Farmers of Ontario annual meeting Thursday.
When asked what agricultural products are produced under the supply management system, just three per cent of survey participants pointed to chicken, said Martin Redfern of Enterprise Canada, the public relations firm that did the survey last year. Given a list of foods in another question and asked to identify the supply-managed produced ones, only 13 per cent said chicken. Other products participants said were produced using supply management included apples, beef, honey and wheat.
“What this tells you is they’re largely guessing,” Redfern said.
When read a brief description that supply management matches supply and demand plus limits imports, survey participants reacted positively, Redfern noted, adding their main concern was that the system was fair to farmers.
Some of the advantages participants listed to the supply-managed system included:
- Preserves farms and farm jobs in Ontario.
- Produces safe, healthy food.
- Protects consumers from unregulated, foreign foods.
The survey on Ontarians’ perception of supply management included online interviews with 650 people along with eight focus group meetings with a total attendance of 76. The participants came from urban and rural locations, were drawn from both sexes and represented a wide range of ages, he said. The survey’s accuracy is plus or minus four per cent 19 times out of 20.
Redfern said according to the survey total support for supply management is 68 per cent while 14 per cent oppose it and 18 per cent are unsure.
The survey also found:
- Chicken prices are not a major irritant for people.
- American chicken was considered to be cheaper but of poorer quality than Ontario chicken, while there was deep suspicion of foreign-produced chicken, especially product from China.
- The line between farmers and processors is unclear.
Redfern said there are people in Ontario “who think that the processors own the farms.”
Henry Zantingh, Chicken Farmers chair, said in an interview at the meeting “doing this work informs us on how we might want to communicate with consumers so that’s one area that helps us.” The survey results can also be used when Chicken Farmers is talking to politicians about the benefits of the supply management system.
Consumers have noted they care about the family farm and food safety, he says. “It informs us on how people think and we can use that in our communications.”
Zantingh says he wasn’t surprised or concerned that Ontarians are unaware of the supply management system.
This year, Chicken Farmers is celebrating 50 years of supply management in Ontario’s chicken industry. The three pillars of the system are: matching supply with demand, import controls and fair pricing for farmers.
In 2014, Ontario’s 1,138 commercial chicken farming premises, operated by 1,020 farmers, grew 471 million live kilograms of chicken with a farmgate value of $759 million, according to the Chicken Farmers annual report released at the meeting. The production level in 2014 was up by 13 million live kilograms, or 2.8 per cent compared to 2013.
It was the second year in a row the production level in Ontario “experienced tremendous growth,” the report said. The average growth rate over the past two years was 2.6 per cent, “which is significantly higher than the average annual growth rate of 0.2 per cent in the preceding 10 years.” BF