Is the Meat Industry Equipped to Handle a Pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted industries across the world. One of the main sectors that’s concerning experts is the meat and agriculture industry. This concern intensifies in Western Canada since much of the land there is farmland. The imbalance of supply and demand is affecting present-day agricultural production. However, farmers and industry leaders are focused on what is still to come in the future.
From labour shortages to potential outbreaks during production, the future of the meat industry is unclear. The outcome will depend on several factors: government aid, the spread of the virus and COVID-19’s behaviour — which is often unpredictable. Ultimately, the present handling of the meat industry may impact its future and relationship with consumers.
The Government of Canada recently decided to assist farms across the country with federal funding. These farms rely on the production and exportation of meats like beef, pork and chicken to reach supply and demand needs. However, as the virus continues spreading, farmworkers need to maintain physical distance and increase sanitation practices. The government’s funding will compensate workers during this time.
For Canada, part of the stress on the industry comes from the exportation needs. While farmers need to meet country-wide demands, Canada is also an international exporter, especially for the United States.
While the industry is currently suffering from labour shortages, production remains relatively stable. Farmers are adapting to meet new supply and demand requirements. For instance, since restaurants are closing, demands for certain foods, like cheese, will decrease. As workers fall ill and farms need to enforce social distancing, though, production is slowing down.
The funding from Canada’s federal government is supposed to help workers, especially those who are newly arriving. Migrants from Mexico and the Caribbean make up a large portion of Canada’s agricultural workforce. However, whether this funding will be enough is yet to come to light. Additionally, ensuring the even distribution of that money to migrant workers is another issue.
The Industry’s Future
Many experts are focusing on the road ahead. While the current path is fluctuating, the future may hold a more dangerous outcome for the industry. If the virus continues spreading at its current rate, farms may see more issues than ever before.
One of the main factors is the labour shortage. Currently, Canada’s farming labour force is lacking. Production is slow, and workers don’t have the resources and help they need to meet demands. In the future, this could worsen as fewer employees are available. For instance, the poultry sector faces significant demands every day. Part of the process of raising chickens includes weeks of tending to them. If there aren’t enough people to do this job, consumers will see the availability of chicken drop.
The issue of perishables will also present itself. As meat processing must be quick, slower production means more goods will go to waste. Meeting supply and demand requires healthy workers to keep the chain going.
The other major factor that will affect the industry is the spread of the virus. That depends on how the Canadian government handles COVID-19 and how efficiently people practice social distancing. Federal funding will aid production, but if the virus remains present, it will continue spreading. If it reaches processing plants, contamination will become a more serious issue than it already is.
To increase resources and support for farmers and migrant workers, the government will need to provide more emergency funding. This step allows the agriculture industry to invest in more tools, sanitation products, financial support and benefits for all workers. Monitoring the spread of the virus is also crucial. If the government can properly track and isolate cases, COVID-19 will dwindle in its effects. Then, meat industry workers will not have to worry about contracting or spreading the coronavirus.
Daryl McIntyre talks Equine health Thursday at 7PM on the “Raised With Care” sessions
“…The more we know about our animals and our responsibilities to them, the better care we can provide. This, in turn, helps produce a better product and a stronger industry…” Alberta Veterinary Medicine Association
The Raised With Care sessions are a series of live-streaming interactive conversations with Alberta livestock owners about stewardship strategies that contribute positively to antimicrobial stewardship and animal welfare.
The sessions will explore four main areas of animal health: Vaccines, Healthy Facilities, Identifying Issues in Animal, and Impact of the relationship with veterinarians, veterinary technologists and the team at veterinary practices.
“We are talking equine health on Thursday with Dr. Greg Evans,” says host Daryl McIntyre. “The focus is on anti-microbial (anti-biotic) stewardship and general horse health.”
Sept 10 | 7PM – Equine
Sept 17 | 7PM– Apiculture
Sept 24 | 7PM– Dairy
Oct 1 | 7PM – Small Ruminant Animals
Oct 8 | 7PM-Poultry
Oct 15 | 7PM– Pork
Oct 22 | 7PM– Backyard Agriculture
Oct 29 | 7PM– Companion Animals
Experience Alberta Agriculture with Open Farm Days 2020
Open Farm Days returns to Alberta this Saturday and Sunday for its 8thannual provincial agriculture event. Hosted by the Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies in partnership with the province and Travel Alberta, Alberta Open Farm Days is an invitation from farmers, ranchers and brewers across the province for locals to come experience a day in agriculture.
Alberta is home to 31.3% of the total farmland across Canada, and the Alberta agriculture industry employs more than 50,000 people throughout the province. On August 15 & 16, Albertans will have the opportunity to meet those responsible for putting food on their table, while exploring Alberta’s agricultural roots and how they inform daily life across the province and the country.
Visitors can explore everything from produce, meat and dairy production, to the machinery and technology behind planting and harvesting crops, to what goes into their favorite local beers. Open Farm Days gives locals the chance to learn about and experience first-hand the processes that provide them with the products they rely on.
Every year, thousands of people province-wide venture outside of city limits to take part in Open Farm days. This year, 75 farms from Grand Prairie to Lethbridge will be participating, offering activities, demonstrations, tours and hands-on experiences for all ages. “It’s a great opportunity for people who are not familiar with farming to connect the dots between local agriculture and their products,” says Nicola Doherty, Marketing Coordinator for the Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies, “it really fosters an appreciation for all the products grown and produced here in Alberta.”
Along with promoting agricultural education and awareness, Open Farm Days also increases support for Farm to Table and Support Local initiatives by allowing people the opportunity to experience local products straight from the farm. “People are often shocked by the amount of work that goes into these products,” says Doherty, “for farmers, this is their every day – but for non-farm folk, they are in awe.”
In order to operate safely within provincial guidelines, Open Farm Days will look a little different this year. To remain in compliance with COVID-19 regulations and ensure proper social distancing, Alberta Open Farm Days has transitioned to scheduled visit times for this year’s event. Learn how to schedule your visit here.
This weekend, take the opportunity to escape the city and do something different – spend the day on a farm! Visitors are encouraged to bring cash, a cooler and dress for the weather.
For more information on Alberta Farm Days 2020, visit https://albertafarmdays.ca.
For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.
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