Not so COOL

    With three companies in Canada, H. J. Heinz Canada, subsidiary of H.J. Heinz headquartered in Pittsburg, PA, claims it is, “Canada’s leading processor and marketer of high quality ketchup.” That being the case, why would Ottawa propose a tariff on ketchup, as it has, in retaliation for the U.S. refusal to abide by a World Trade Organization ruling on Country of Origin Labeling? Not COOL. We can hope there are other items on the list of 38 from the U.S. we’d target that would place a hardship on one or more of their industries comparable to COOL’s cost to our cattle industry – estimated to be about a billion dollars a year, according to a report in The Globe and Mail June 6.

    The COOL controversy is complex, and one not adequately explained or addressed in short media takes. Using plain language, Charlie Gracey dissects some of the key and confusing issues in his “State of the Industry” report found on page 14. At bottom is a reality of the injustice that arises in any supposedly just system when one party is far wealthier than the other. 

    We can and will fight COOL on WTO grounds. We will pay more for some odd list of U.S. products, and eventually some sort of compromise will be worked out. Gracey recommends we look for new markets for our beef. I agree, and (with far less authority) would take the argument farther to suggest Canada sever those tangled relationships with feedlots and abattoirs and processors south of the border and become fully independent producers of gold-standard chemical-free beef and beef products. I believe that in less time than it will take to eradicate COOL we could turn it to our advantage creating a demand for our beef comparable to that once enjoyed by Canadian bacon (not the movie), Tatamagouche butter, Nova Scotia lox, Malpeque oysters, etc. We would proudly label it “Canadian born, raised, processed, and packaged,” and sell the pants off beef from anywhere else.  

    Europeans want hormone- and antibiotic-free beef. (Equine-free, too.) They appear divided on the question of irradiated beef, which should be enough for us to steer clear of the practice – despite what some in the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association are saying in the aftermath of the XL Foods debacle. The report of an independent review committee on what went wrong can be found online at Inspectors (both government and industry) were not doing their job. How like Westray. How unlike Westray we can hope the response to XL will be. Rather than come down on those who failed to do their job leading to the mine disaster, government enacted yet more safety regulations, even to the point of forcing small businesses like ours to have a designated “safety officer.” Paper cuts are a constant worry.

Kevin Veinotte who farms on a Lunenburg County drumlin north of Bridgewater, N.S., very kindly opened his gates to the Atlantic Beef/Sheep crew last week for a farm and woodlot tour. Veinotte’s cattle and sheep are on the cover of this issue of the magazine. The Belted Galloways suit his grass-fed and finished beef program, and sheep – leading, following, or at times, as in the photo, running together on pasture – meet his objectives for land use and lamb and beef production. The Suffolk in the background staring Chassity Allison’s camera down may have found a new home since. Kevin has opted for hair sheep, Katahdins in this instance, as he has found the cost of hiring someone to shear sheep exceeds the value of the wool. 

    John Duynisveld (“Pasture Notes,” page 28) offers a wealth of information based on his experience pasturing sheep and beef on his farm near Pugwash, N.S. I have to take issue with his use of a gas-powered whipper-snipper to clean fence lines. Come to Rural Delivery’s 10th anniversary Maritime Hand Mowing Championships at the Ross Farm Museum in New Ross, N.S., the weekend of August 24,25 and see how easy it is to trim around with a scythe!

    Forty grand in new money has been found to continue work with grass-fed cattle on Nova Scotia’s Cape John Community Pasture, with Alan Knight enlisted to collect data. Way back when money was first being sought for work at Cape John I was sure there was a hope that funding for improvements on other community pastures might follow. I asked about that possibility a short time ago and the only response was shrugs. Maybe I was imagining things. Bill Murphy of Shorthorn and Maine-Anjou fame was nonplussed that government, renting pastures to community groups, did not assume responsibility for fencing, at least. He compared it to renting a house from a landlord who lets the building go to ruin expecting the tenant to pay rent and maintenance, too. 

    Reports coming from Atlantic Beef Products in Borden, Prince Edward Island, are so very encouraging. The kill is up, and perhaps most important the spirits of those who have stuck with the company through thick and mostly thin are buoyed. I believe I heard on radio that Loblaw’s Superstores are, or will soon be, stocking beef from the plant. If true, that is wonderful news. Once the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) gets around to licensing the renovated Brookside Abattoir in Bible Hill, N.S., we’ll have federal inspection for sheep as well.

Good cropping, and watch out for bobolinks (see Rural Delivery, May and June issues for ways to make hay without harvesting wildlife at the same time.) DvL