let's talk farm animals

Even Livestock are Getting in on the Tech Craze

Jean L Clavelle

RFID 2 PICAccording to StatsCan as of January 1, 2014 there are over 12 million beef and dairy cattle, almost 900,000 sheep and lambs, and nearly 250,000 bison in Canada.   Which is a lot of animals.  Bet you didn’t know that each and every one of those animals can be identified by its own unique number (much like our own Social Insurance Number).  The next question might be why…?  Why would livestock need to have their own number?

Well it is simple really.  With individual animal numbers we are able to easily track where any one animal came from in Canada.  The ability to identify animals and their origins during an animal health or food safety emergency is paramount to the success of the response operation and the protection of human and animal health.  Meaning it gives us the ability to prevent the spread of disease and further, to eradicate disease as it arises – to protect not only Canadian livestock but consumers and customers as well.

It was initiated in 1998 by beef and dairy industry leaders who recognized the importance of protecting our national herd and assuring consumer confidence which lead to the establishment of a national identification program.  On January 1, 2001 the Government of Canada passed regulations for compulsory animal identification for both cattle and bison. The Canadian Sheep Identification Program (CSIP) followed suit with its own industry-led trace-back system introduced in 2004 applicable to all ovine animals in Canada.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on April 14th, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Animal health,Beef cattle,Bison,Dairy cattle,Sheep,Traceability,Uncategorized
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How to make research papers less painful – from a former university student

By Kristen Kelderman, Farm & Food Care Animal Care Coordinator

It wasn’t that long ago that I was a kid in school (although maybe I’m humouring myself here). But when it came to midterms and the end of semester, I vividly remember being buried in an endless overload of papers that I had procrastinated writing. Obviously this was my own self-inflicted pain; I was the only one to blame for staying up all hours of the night to write that last concluding paragraph.

LivestockWelfare.com is a Canadian farm animal welfare resource centre.  The four Farm Animal Care Councils have come together to provide information to those looking for accurate information and research on how farm animals are raised in Canada.

LivestockWelfare.com is a Canadian farm animal welfare resource centre.
The four Farm Animal Care Councils have come together to provide information to those looking for accurate information and research on how farm animals are raised in Canada.

As I wrote paper after paper, I would get into the groove of essay writing. It’s quite rhythmic when you think about it: pick your topic, decide your position and make a plan of attack by developing your thesis and supporting points. And then comes the most cumbersome part of essay writing – research and providing references. This was how I would tackle essay writing.

Searching endless sites for peer-reviewed journal articles on the internet and flipping through books in the library seemed like a colossal waste of time. Reading through countless abstracts only to find that you had to pay for the journal article was monotonous and frustrating. Depending on the topic it could be very difficult to find the exact information I was looking for. Looking back now, I wish I had known about www.livestockwelfare.com.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on April 7th, 2014 :: Filed under Uncategorized

Three generations working together on Barrie egg farm

Harry's been farming since he was 15, but his grandson Colton has him beat. He's been helping on his family's egg farm since he was four.

Harry’s been farming since he was 15, but his grandson Colton has him beat. He’s been helping his family on their three generation egg farm since he was four.

 

By Pat Grotenhuis

(Innisfil) – Like many children his age, ten-year-old Colton Wohlgemuth enjoys playing hockey and baseball. Unlike many of his friends, though, he also has been helping on his family’s egg farm since he was four.

Wohlgemuth enjoys having the chance to work alongside his parents, grandparents and sisters on the family’s egg farm. His grandfather, Harry Eisses, is proud of the fact that three generations of his family are now involved in the business.

“It was always a family farm, and when our daughter and son-in-law came back to work with us it was thrilling,” says Eisses.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on April 4th, 2014 :: Filed under Uncategorized

The Distance from Farm to Plate

 

be Jean L Clavelle

Since becoming involved with social media over the last year I have begun to take note of people’s attitudes, opinions and knowledge as it pertains to agriculture and food production.  I grew up on a farm, attended an ag college and subsequently worked in agriculture so I’ve been surrounded by like-minded people my entire life.  However, agvocating has opened my eyes to the realization of just how little the From AgricultureMoreThanEver.cageneral public knows about where food comes from.  It is fascinating (not to mention a little scary) to delve into the general public’s belief system and knowledge base in this area.

To clarify I am pro conventional agriculture, organic farming and alternative production practices.  I believe in new technologies and in providing the consumer with what they desire and believe there is room for multiple types of systems.   It is surprising though at how little understanding there is of contemporary food production practices by the general public regardless of what type of system we discuss.

Now, at every chance available I ask questions.  Whether it is on Facebook, Twitter or in an actual real life face to face conversation (I know, how old school).  This is not to be antagonistic, just to understand an individual’s perspective – and sometimes position – on food production and possibly to dispel some misconceptions or false information that seems to be endemic in the populous.  I also ask so as to understand why and how they developed their beliefs.  Where did we fail in our society that such a basic life necessity is so distanced from that of every other day to day need?

A recent conversation of animal welfare versus animal rights included a discussion about what happens at a slaughter plant.  Surprisingly I was asked if I understood what “actually” happens there.  Now, I do not object even the slightest to someone’s choice of being vegan though I was thoroughly astounded about the question of whether or not I’d considered what happens at a slaughter plant.  We raise animals to eat and with that comes the understanding that the death of those are animals are inevitable and it is our responsibility to be respectful of and honour that animal’s life.  For this person the thought of that many animals dying on a daily basis was just too overwhelming and simply too much to bear so adopted a vegan lifestyle.  Despite the intrinsically dark nature of animal slaughter it never occurred to me that this essential step in getting meat from the farm to the plate should come as a surprise to anyone.

Stats Canada stated that almost a third of Canadians lived on farms in 1931 and in 2006 that dropped to 2%1.  How did we go in one or two generations to be intimately involved in supplying our own food to now having so little idea as to be completely oblivious.  And that is only going to become more evident in future generations.  My cousin told me a few years ago that her young daughter wanted to take the “wrapping” off of her peas – she wanted to take the shell off the pea pod.  If we are so distanced in garden vegetables how shocking must a barn filled with thousands and thousands of laying hens seem?

So in conclusion, my friends, I offer no suggestions here.  I only request that we all continue to speak out in an honest and respectful way.  To seek out what really drives a person’s belief system so that we can help to dispel those myths and to continue to keep producing food in the best way possible.   Because it is essential that our customers and our society understand what it means to do so.  That we are not forced to do it in a way that would not be beneficial for our children, environment or our future.

  1. Found at statcan.gc.ca
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Posted by Farm and Food Care on March 31st, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,AgVocacy,Canada,Consumers,Education and public awareness,Misconceptions,Social media,Speaking out
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Dear Wayne Pacelle

Guest blog by Carrie Mess, Wisconsin Dairy Farmer (www.dairycarrie.com)

Reprinted with permission

Dear Wayne,

I hope you’re not offended by my calling you Wayne. You don’t know me but my name is Carrie Mess and I am a Wisconsin Dairy Farmer. A few weeks ago you posted an open letter to Agriculture Journalists and Leaders. While I’m just a blogger and don’t consider myself anywhere near a journalist, I do think of myself as a leader in my community, so I am taking your letter to be directed towards me and my peers.

After reading your open letter, I had a few thoughts that I wanted to share in response. I like your format so I figured an open letter back would work well. Your letter is pretty long winded so I’m just going to pull out a few bullet points to discuss.

  • It’s quite obvious that you don’t care for Rick Berman and Humane Watch. If I was in your current  position after years of being fast and loose with the facts and I suddenly had a group calling my organization out, I wouldn’t like them much either.  I find it funny that you call out Rick Berman for being a lobbyist when HSUS spends millions on lobbying each year.
  • You state that the HSUS is governed by a 27 person board of directors and that those  directors are unpaid volunteers. That sounds about right for a nonprofit  organization to me. However, according to the HSUS      2012 tax filing you make $347,000 a year. Your organization has  another 38 people making over $100,000 a year. I know that my local human society  would be able to make a world of difference with just a fraction of your  salary. How many animals would be helped if you took a pay cut and sent that money on to local shelters?
  • You claim that HSUS has the highest charity rating from the Better Business Bureau  and Charity Navigator. Never mind that the Better Business Bureau is Pass/Fail and seems      to have serious issues with your organization. In the last 12 years, HSUS has only been ranked at the top of Charity Navigator’s scale 50% of time. You also leave out your D grade from Charity Watch.

To read the rest visit http://dairycarrie.com/2014/02/10/dear-wayne-pacelle/

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on March 24th, 2014 :: Filed under Activism,Agricultural Advocates,Animal care,Misconceptions
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Why I Agvocate

Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Sarah Shultz author of NurseLovesFarmer.com blog.  When I read it I thought this to be an excellent message of keeping the “Agvocating” message positive and certainly worth sharing.  If you want to see additional posts from Sarah please check out her blog!

Jean L Clavelle

 

Why I Agvocate

It’s been almost a year since I started writing about agriculture on my blog. Sure I had posted dozens of pictures during seeding and harvest times and blogged about our family farming life, but I hadn’t ever really taken the plunge into blogging about the business of agriculture. I started off by asking my Facebook friends if they bought organic food, and Sarah Schultzwhy or why not. I got a varied set of responses and asked my friend Lyndsey from RealAgriculture.com do a guest post for me as I knew the majority of my readers (moms of young kids) would be able to relate to her as she’s also a mom of young kids and a professional in the agriculture industry. I then had my farmer husband write a post on his thoughts on organic and non-organic food from a producer’s perspective. These posts received good feedback and gave me the confidence I needed to keep agvocating.

What It’s Really Like to Speak Up for Agriculture

It is like an emotional roller coaster with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. A little background info to that is that in the late spring of 2012 in my mommy blogging world I came across a Twitter party which was a plight to get a baby formula company to be a leader in the industry by removing GMOs from their formula. It really bothered me that such fear was being spread among my parenting peers, so I attended this party in an attempt to try to be the voice of reason for agriculture and science, even simply as a farmer’s wife & mom. This would be the first time I was indirectly called a shill for agriculture when a participant asked me if I was being paid to attend this party. I had no idea what they were talking about and attempted to talk to these participants that GMOs were not harmful and that worldwide scientific consensus stated the same, but no one would listen. At that point I decided something needed to be done on my part because it was not right that so many parents were being lead astray thinking that they were causing harm to their families by feeding them “evil and poisonous” GMOs. This is when I started researching GMOs and how I could best agvocate and teach my readers about biotechnology in agriculture. My first post merely posing my reader’s questions for GMOs entitled “Do You Have GMO Questions?” received 136 comments, mostly from people of the anti-GMO nature. Immediately I questioned “what have I gotten myself into?!” as my anxiety shot through the roof at the negativity my blog was receiving. Cami Ryan, my mentor and now good friend, gave me lots of invaluable advice and many counseling sessions via email!

Overcoming Challenges

Educating about ag when I’m not really in the industry is a challenge. On one hand I lose credibility as “just a mom” and blogger…but on the other hand a lot can appreciate where I’m coming from because I’ve taken the time to do my own research as a mom. I’m a farmer’s wife and I’ve learned a ton through my husband, people in the industry via social media, and mostly by reading articles and researching myself. Trying to maintain composure and confidence when it feels like most people are attacking and fighting back gets very draining on the nerves. If you want to agvocate or be a positive voice for anything you feel strongly about, I highly recommend having a mentor and joining some Facebook groups who talk about whatever your interest is. I’ve connected with a lot of other farm wives, farmers, and ranchers who blog and that are on Twitter that I know I can rely on for support and to help agvocate in the comments sections of my ag posts. I always disclaim these blog posts that I’m not an expert in these fields and that I’m happy to connect my readers with people who can properly address their questions and concerns. I overcome these challenges by educating myself and having the confidence to do so. I know most of the tricks up their sleeves and how to dispel a lot of myths.

Speaking of Negativity…

As a blogger I have to be professional and ethical as I represent a lot of brands, but I’m also representing myself and my family too. I could get snarky and mouthy, but I always remember that our words can heal and be life-giving or our words can be hurtful weapons – so I strive to abide my the former. Fighting fire with fire just doesn’t get anyone anywhere and if the naysayers keep coming at me with snark and negativity, in the end it makes them look like fools and discredits them. I’ve absolutely had to grow a thicker skin since I started agvocating, which is a good life lesson anyway, and I have learned that it’s okay to not address every single comment and it’s okay to delete comments that are just plain vulgar and destructive. I have been called a pawn or a shill for big ag, I have been called a bad mother, I have been called an irresponsible blogger for sharing “misinformation”, and most recently I have been called a “stalker” for responding to the misinformed tweets of an anti-GMO blogger. That’s okay because I have the confidence in myself and in what I blog about, and I don’t feel the need to fight with these people anymore to defend what I know to be true. I have also decided to not engage with anti-GMO activists anymore as their minds and their ideals won’t be changed and it’s not worth being put through the ringer and dealing with the stress it brings.

nurselovesfarmer card pic

This thoughtful card from AgMoreThanEver came at a much needed time!

Should We All Agvocate?

Simply answered – no. I strongly feel that if you cannot engage with people in a positive and respectful way, you shouldn’t attempt to agvocate. There’s no need to name-call or assume that people know anything about the agriculture industry, and that if they don’t they are ignorant and stupid, because so many don’t have a clue about anything in ag, and that’s okay. When we put our knowledge out there we must be accurate, accountable, and authentic, as I heard Cami Ryan recently shared in her presentation at Farm Tech, and I wholeheartedly agree. We must remember to agVOCATE and not to become an agTIVIST, there is a huge difference between being an advocate vs. an activist. Let us share our knowledge in agriculture, be proactive, respectfully dispel myths, avoid feuds, and just be positive. Share your story.

I also have to update this to add that I have made some absolutely amazing friends, especially my fellow female ag bloggers, who are some of the most kind, funny, and passionate women I have ever ‘met’ in my life! Love to you all!

 

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on March 17th, 2014 :: Filed under Activism,Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,Media,Social media,Speaking out
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Understanding your food choices

 

by Jean L Clavelle

Purchasing meat these days can be confusing if not overwhelming.

In the car, on the drive to the grocery store you hear ads offering specials on “grain fed” meat, then you stop at the coffee shop and see they are selling sandwiches using “all natural antibiotic free chicken”, finally at the meat counter you see packages labelled as “hormone free” and “free range” and “organic”.  What does it all mean?!  What’s the difference?!

Well Chicken Farmers of Canada was able to break it down for us.

Free Range birds must have access to the outdoors. However, since there is no legal definition of free range in Canada, this can vary from farm to farm. Be wary of “fresh” free range chicken in stores when it’s -30 degrees outside, it may have been frozen product defrosted for sale and should not be re-frozen.

Free Run is different than free range in that chickens do not necessarily need to be raised outside but they are required to be able to move around freely within the barn. Though there is no legal definition of this, all chickens raised for meat in Canada are considered free run.

Grain Fed Since all chicken in Canada is given a feed that consists of at over 88% grain, this term is typically just used for marketing. Chicken labeled as “grain fed” is stating the obvious, though some brands boast special types of grain, such as vegetarian grain.

Hormone Free and/or Steroid Free - Though it is rare, some marketers still classify their chicken as “hormone-free.” This is little more than a marketing tactic, since the use of hormones in raising poultry has been banned since the 1960s in Canada.

Kosher products refer to the content and production requirements, not necessarily to any specific cuisine. In Hebrew, kosher means “fit” or “proper,” indicating that the food products meet the dietary requirements of Jewish law. The Jewish dietary laws are collectively known as the laws of kashruth and deal with what foods may be eaten together and how those foods are to be prepared. 

During the processing stage, salt and water are used to prepare the chicken for market. The guidelines for kosher certification are strict and the product must still pass through government inspection in order to be sold in stores or shipped to restaurants. Kosher products are sold across the country and are widely available. For more information, you can visit the Kashruth Council of Canada at www.cor.ca.

Organic Chicken- Chicken that is sold as “organic” is raised to a specific standard as laid out by the Canadian General Standards Board, in addition to the standards set by a reputable organic certification board. Since these boards vary from province to province, there are slight differences in the rules for organic farming in different areas of the country, but in general, organic chicken must be raised with at certified organic feed that contains no animal by-products or antibiotics and any supplements, such as vitamins, must be approved by a certification body.

Raised Without Antibiotics on the label means that the chicken was not treated in any way with antibiotics. For more information on the use of antibiotics in raising chicken, visit the Chicken & Antibiotics section on the Chicken Farmers of Canada website.

Vegetarian Grain Fed, on the other hand, means that the feed given to the flock contains no animal by-products, which are often added to feed as a protein source. In these cases, the feed contains only vegetable protein such as soy, which can alter the flavour and colour of the meat. While chickens are omnivores, chickens can be raised on vegetarian feed, as long as an appropriate protein level is achieved.

So now you know the real story and hopefully the next trip to the grocery store won’t be so confusing. For additional information or to see the whole article go to Chicken.ca.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on March 10th, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Chickens,Consumers,Education and public awareness,Food,Food safety,Uncategorized
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My meat journey

by Kristen Kelderman, Farm Animal Care Coordinator, Farm & Food Care

Over the last two years that I’ve worked with Farm & Food Care, I’ve been asked a lot of questions. Most of which have come from volunteering at public events. I’ve had great conversations with moms, kids, dads, grandparents and teachers, who all love farm animals and want to know more. Some common questions being ‘how big is that cow?’, ‘how many eggs does a chicken lay?’ and my personal favourite of ’are you a real farmer?’

Others are more complex like ‘why are pigs kept in stalls?’

But there was one question that I will never forget . It was a question that caught me off guard and one that I have not stopped thinking about since that day. A mom approached me at the CNE and asked ‘how can you care for your animals and then eat them?’

Now that’s a tough question. She was not a vegetarian; she ate meat, but genuinely wanted to know.  I can’t remember what I said to her on that day, but on my drive home that night it kept cycling through my head. How do we justify this decision? I never really considered it that much.

As a young kid growing up on my family farm I became very familiar with life and death. I marveled at the miracle of a new calf being born and also mourned the life of a cow after she had died or been put down. Many times I watched and helped my dad put down a sick or lame cow. Life and death is part of everyday life on a farm. It was something that I never really questioned and I continued to think about this question long after.

It was not until recently on a tour of a Cargill beef plant that I had a “light bulb” moment. I began to piece together my thoughts as I walked through and watched how cattle are turned into the beef you see in the grocery store. Watching the workers do their jobs and trim a small part of the carcass at each point along the way was amazing. Very little goes to waste; even the hooves are processed into products that you buy for your dog at the pet store.

A couple of times our tour guide turned around and checked to see that I was alright. I was the only girl on the tour, but probably the one most fascinated by the whole process.

I left Cargill that afternoon with a renewed confidence in our food system. Regardless of what you read, hear or watch, I can say with firsthand experience that the animals who produce the meat we eat are raised and treated in the most humane manner, from the farm through to your plate.

If I had a time machine, I would go back to that day in August and when that mom asked me ‘how do you eat the animals that you care for?’ I would tell her the following:

We (as farmers) owe it to our animals to provide them a healthy comfortable life, but when the time comes we also owe them a quick and painless death. Farm animals are raised in Canada for food.  Whether it’s beef, chicken, pork or turkey meat that I eat, I know that the animal was well cared for and respectfully treated. I will confidently continue to eat Canadian.

 

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on March 3rd, 2014 :: Filed under Animal care,Beef cattle,Feeding the world,Food,Food safety,Meat/slaughter plants,Uncategorized
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Idle hands are hard to find for this young farmer

(Winterbourne) – Ninety-eight percent of Canadian farms continue to be family owned and operated, but if you are looking for the definition of a family farm,  just look to Scott Snyder and his family.

Scott is a sixth generation farmer in Waterloo Region, working with his father, grandfather and uncle doing everything from producing eggs and grains to feeding beef cattle and boiling maple sap for syrup. “Idle hands isn’t something my family believes in,” says Scott.

Scott Snyder farms with his family in Waterloo Region.

Scott Snyder farms with his family in Waterloo Region.

Like a lot of Ontario farm kids, Snyder enjoyed growing up in an environment where he learned from his family to care for the cattle and chickens or help drive a tractor that was being used to plant a crop. “Growing up with it, being surrounded by it, meant I could appreciate it,” as Snyder thinks back to his childhood. “I had friends who didn’t grow up on a farm, but always wanted to come out to help. That helped me realize how lucky I was to grow up the way I did.”

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on February 25th, 2014 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Beef cattle,Crops,eggs,Farm life,Future of Farming
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Lets Get Talking!

Jean L Clavelle

Alright.  I believe it is time to dust off the old soap box and step back on.

Many organizations reporters and marketing programs recently have expressed opinions about what is the “ideal” regarding animal production in Canada.  “Better Beef” from A&W, the W5 report regarding egg layer operations, PETA, HSUS throw around ideas and words intended to pluck at the strings of the consumer’s heart to show that they are better, that they care, that they are not the enemy while big business – agriculture – is trying to simply make an extra buck.  Phrases such as environmentally friendly, sustainable, humane, antibiotic free are tossed around like so much feed in a pig barn.

Although I group these organizations together, their underlining intent is often not the same.  PETA and HSUS want to eliminate the use of animals altogether, A&W wants to drive sales, W5 well I’m not entirely sure why a “news” organization would publish such a one-sided sensationalized commentary other than to increase viewers.  The common denominator is that they are all focused on currying the favour of society and the consumer at the expense of producers and livestock.

Deep down my dirty little secret is that I truly don’t have a problem with a company creating a marketing campaign that targets the needs and wants of the consumer or when a news article provides a balanced article detailing the pitfalls of a production system.  Where I do draw the line is when an organization does not support the Canadian producers that are purchasing their product, the people that have reliably supplied them with a safe healthy food product for decades.  For example the A&W campaign that openly sourced product from suppliers outside of Canada.  I suspect that had the lines of communication been open, Canadian beef producers would have happily agreed to provide whatever beef product A&W requested.  However to imply that the beef industry is not willing to adapt or evolve or cannot supply what is needed is simply erroneous.

Now, that brings me to the point of this story.  Why are the lines of communication not open?  Why are we not telling our story?  Why are we not working with our consumers to identify new trends and supply that product?

I am at a loss as to why livestock agriculture is so afraid to seek out the needs and opinions of its consumers.  Is it because we are afraid that we will not stand up under scrutiny?  Is it because we are afraid we will have to eat humble pie and acknowledge maybe we might have to change?  Agriculture by its very nature is the epitomy of adaption and evolution.  This should be something we in livestock agriculture are excitedly engaged in!

So come on agriculture.  Step up.  Let’s figure out what consumers and society wants.  If that means seeking out consumer’s opinions, and asking questions well then lets get asking!  If that means changing then we may just have to change to meet their needs.  I fear that if we do not, we (and therefore animals and society in general) are going to lose out because the misguided and misinformed may force us to go down the wrong path.

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Posted by FACS on February 17th, 2014 :: Filed under Activism,Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,Animal care,Canada,Consumers,Education and public awareness,Future of Farming,Misconceptions,Speaking out
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