Monday, January 30, 2012

Cattle producers have wide eyes for Japan

Jamie Woodford
It only took nine years, but Canadian beef is finally making a comeback. South Korea lifted its ban last week that had been imposed after the 2003 BSE outbreak. Now the industry is looking to widen Japan's doors.
The island nation began accepting Canadian beef in 2005, but currently only allows import of cattle under 21 months.

As the third-largest beef-importing market in the world, Japan, along with its strong currency and consumer purchasing power, is a lucrative market, according to Steve Molitor, head of Cargill Meat Solutions.
He spoke about production trends and global market opportunities for high-quality beef products at feedlot conference held in Lethbridge Wednesday hosted by Certified Angus Beef and Elanco Animal Health.
"Japan is a great opportunity from a currency standpoint. It's still a very big buying power for Japan to buy U.S. beef. Their currencies have appreciated pretty high, and so they're still buying beef today like they bought beef six, seven, eight years ago in prices," he said. "So from a price standpoint it's a very good, strong market." More

‘Humane slaughter’ doesn’t have to be an oxymoron

Last week, the United States Supreme Court struck down a California law requiring slaughterhouses in the state to immediately euthanize “downers” — animals that can no longer walk or stand.

The judicial decision was based on the relatively boring grounds of federal pre-emption doctrine. Essentially, states can’t make laws in areas that the federal government already has covered. But the case also raised the more lively public issue of “humane slaughter” — how animals should be treated when (and in the moments, hours or days before) they are killed for their meat.

Activists in the U.S. are complaining that current federal regulations are inadequate to protect sick or injured animals from egregious abuse (not to mention protecting consumers from tainted meat). The California law in question was passed after the Humane Society of the United States released a disturbing undercover video showing downer cattle being kicked, prodded with a forklift and having water shot into their nostrils from a high-powered hose. Animal protection groups such as Farm Sanctuary point out that meat packers have an obvious financial incentive for keeping downers alive as long as possible so that they might be processed. More

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Researcher at heart of bird flu studies controversy reveals details of his findings

TORONTO - A scientist at the centre of a raging controversy over bird flu transmission studies has broken his silence, in the process revealing information about his study that has not been made public previously.
In a commentary in the journal Nature, flu virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka argued the work he and other high level influenza scientists do to try to puzzle out why some flu viruses spread in humans while others don't is too important to be shelved.

"Our work remains urgent — we cannot give it up," wrote Kawaoka, who up until now has made no comment on the controversy that is pitting flu scientists against the community of biosecurity experts, some of whom insist no further transmission studies on the dangerous H5N1 flu virus should be undertaken.

In his commentary, Kawaoka revealed that his laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison made a hybrid virus, fusing the hemagglutinin protein (the H in a flu virus's name) from H5N1 onto the human H1N1 virus that caused the 2009 pandemic.

The H1N1 virus spreads easily among people but H5N1 currently does not.

They found the viruses came together readily, and spread easily among ferrets kept in separate cages. Ferrets are considered the best animal model for predicting how a flu virus will act in humans and that type of study is meant to replicate the conditions under which flu viruses transmit among humans.

But while it was highly transmissible, the mutant virus did not kill the ferrets, Kawaoka reported. In fact, it was no more pathogenic to the animals than the 2009 H1N1 virus, he said. More

Philippines gained for Canadian cattle

OTTAWA, Ontario – New access to another international market has been gained for Canadian cattle, sheep and goat producers. The Government of Canada has secured live-ruminant market access to the Philippines, announced Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and International Trade Minister Ed Fast.

Each year, the Philippines imports $9 million (US$8.9 million) worth of cattle and approximately $300,000 (US$296,496) worth of sheep and goats. In 2010, the Philippines imported more than $235 million (US$232 million) worth of Canadian agricultural and agri-food products.

Last week, South Korea announced that Canadian beef less than 30 months of age can re-enter its market. Link

No (legal) backyard chickens for Toronto anytime soon as city committee defers study

The backyard hen issue has gone to roost — for now.

On Wednesday, the city’s licensing and standards committee voted to “defer indefinitely” a request to study the feasibility of allowing backyard chickens in Toronto.

Residents are already raising hens on their property for their eggs, and advocates say it makes sense to legalize a practice that is in lockstep with the growing local food movement.

The committee heard from a number of hen supporters, including an urban food writer, a public health researcher and two Grade 9 brothers who joined a club in their high-school dedicated to changing the city bylaw. “Our generation is really into knowing where food comes from,” said Matthew Patel, who goes to Upper Canada College and has four hens at home.

Lorraine Johnson, author of City Farmer: Adventures in Urban Food G
rowing, said Toronto does not have to forge a new path, it can simply look to what other cities such as Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles and Kingston have done in removing restrictions on keeping hens in urban areas.

But members of the committee raised various issues with the birds, including noise, possible public health risks, nuisance to neighbours, animal welfare, and sapping strained city resources. Some worried it could lead to residents wanting to raise other farm animals in the city.

“This is the craziest thing I have ever heard in my life,” said Councillor Frances Nunziata.
“I think people who want the farm experience can grow some tomatoes,” said Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker. More

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Equine biosecurity workshop to teach disease prevention

By Adam Jackson

Security in any environment is a good idea and on the farm where animals co-mingle, it is import to protect your animals against disease.

A free equine bio-security workshop scheduled for Jan. 26 will help farmers, ranchers and hobbyists do just that.

“What we’re hoping to do is teach people about bio-security and keeping their horses safe,” said Alberta Equestrian Foundation equine biosecurity project manager Mikka Shatosky. “It’s about keeping their horses, themselves and the communities safe.”

Dr. Aleeta Haas of West Country Animal Clinic and Bear Creek Animal Clinic will be the guest speaker for the event.

Shatosky says that one of the main goals for the workshop is to promote processes that can help with disease prevention within the farming community. More

Scientists pause research with lab-bred bird flu

WASHINGTON - Scientists who created easier-to-spread versions of the deadly bird flu said Friday they're temporarily halting more research, as international specialists debate what should happen next.
Researchers from leading flu laboratories around the world signed onto the voluntary moratorium, published Friday in the journals Science and Nature.

What the scientists called a "pause" comes amid fierce controversy over how to handle research that's high-risk but potentially could bring a big payoff. Two labs — at Erasmus University in the Netherlands and the University of Wisconsin-Madison — created the new viruses while studying how bird flu might mutate to become a bigger threat to people.

The U.S. government funded the work but last month urged the teams not to publicly reveal the exact formula so that would-be bioterrorists couldn't copy it. Critics also worried a lab accident might allow the strains to escape. The researchers reluctantly agreed not to publish all the details as long as the government set up a system to provide them to legitimate scientists who really need to know. The National Institutes of Health is creating such a system.

"We recognize that we and the rest of the scientific community need to clearly explain the benefits of this important research and the measures taken to minimize its possible risks," lead researchers Ron Fouchier of Erasmus and Yoshihiro Kawaoka of Wisconsin wrote Friday in the letter. They were joined by nearly three dozen other flu researchers. More