by SUSAN MANN
Quebec pork company, duBreton, has committed to raising 300,000 more pigs crate-free by 2018 and it has room to add farmers, including ones from Ontario, to its contingent of producers supplying pigs.
Vincent Breton, duBreton president, says Ontario farmers interested in growing certified organic or Certified Humane Raised and Handled pork for duBreton can contact the company directly. Currently duBreton works with more than 300 family farms in Ontario and Quebec that produce organic and certified humanely raised pork.
Breton says some of the farmers supplying to duBreton are completely independent, while others are integrated with producer groups the company works with. “Sometimes we’ll also work under contract with some other producers. We are open to work different ways and to work different models depending on the situation of each producer.”
The company also produces conventional pork and has 150 farms raising that product. Breton declined to divulge any numbers related to how much of its business is organic/certified humanely raised compared to how much is conventional pork.
Patrick O’Neil, Ontario Pork marketing division manager, says Ontario hog producers have been supplying organic hogs to duBreton for several years. “Ontario Pork was instrumental in launching that program.”
There are dozens of Ontario farmers supplying pigs to duBreton, O’Neil says.
Farmers wanting more information can also contact Ontario Pork’s marketing division and “we can help them evaluate the strength of the option,” O’Neil says.
For the additional crate-free production, duBreton is investing $30 million. “Our investment is about converting some of the actual farms that we have to either organic or certified humane,” Breton says. “We’re still looking for independent farmers to work with us or continue to work with us to grow that business.”
Breton says “we see a bright future for those types of production.” In a Sept. 24 press release issued by duBreton, it says consumer demand for organic and certified humanely raised pork is outpacing global supply. The North American market is growing faster than anticipated.
The certification for duBreton’s humanely raised pork is issued by two separate certifying bodies. One is Humane Farm Animal Care, a United States non-profit organization. The other is Global Animal Partnership, which encourages the highest standards of animal welfare, the duBreton release says.
“We have both certifications because this is needed to sell to Whole Foods” and to some global markets, Breton says. The company also sells to Sobeys, Longo’s and Chipotle Mexican Grill. The company’s pork is sold throughout Canada, the United States and around the world to countries, such as Japan and Australia.
Breton says his company’s program for certified organic and humanely raised pork includes no farrowing or gestation crates, no tail docking, no teeth clipping, no animal byproducts in the animals’ feed and no antibiotics. “With the design of the farms, we’ve been able to” control the challenges of raising pigs in groups rather than in crates, he says.
“Giving pigs more space and allowing the animals to turn around and to have more natural behavior, we think that’s a good way to go,” he notes.
The company moved in the direction of organic and certified humanely raised pork because it’s hard to compete “on the commodity business,” Breton says. “It is very hard to be low-cost producers.”
Furthermore, there has been a lot of consolidation among retailers, processors and in other sectors in the industry. “We thought that we had to do something different to survive and go through this whole market consolidation situation. This is how we ended up working with our customers on the certification for the humanely raised and organic pork. Our customers were requesting a different type of product.” BF