Pig time for breeders

Pig time for breeders

DAY

What is happening on Quebec farms is outrageous. Pigs are piling up on farms, and more than 800,000 chickens have been euthanized and thrown away in the past two weeks. 

I put on my rubber boots, last Tuesday, to see the ordeal that livestock breeders are going through. Direction: the Méloporc farm in Saint-Thomas de Joliette. 

This is far from my first visit to a pigsty, but I have never seen anything like it. Oversized pigs, crammed into overcrowded pens and forced to step over each other screaming. 

“It's heartbreaking,” farm owner William Lafond told me bluntly. . We have 2,000 pigs waiting because the slaughterhouses are not supplying on demand. We overflow. I have $500,000 worth of cattle stuck in my buildings. »

What is happening at Mr. Lafond reflects the tragic reality experienced by hundreds of pig farmers in Quebec. This situation is explained by the slowdown in activities in slaughterhouses, caused by a shortage of workers, which is aggravated by the Omicron wave.

Poultry too

The situation is also critical for poultry farmers. Two weeks ago, I learned that processor Exceldor was forced to euthanize and throw away more than 800,000 chickens. 

One of the causes of this shameless waste comes from the shortage of chicken catchers, who are, for the most part, foreign workers from Guatemala. The federal government has been slow to issue permits to these workers. They are the ones who put the chickens on the trucks heading for the slaughterhouses. 

The consequence of this situation is unchanging: animals grow in an environment that is not adapted to their needs. They often even become too big for the processing machines, and therefore, unsaleable. 

Reform in the south  

The pandemic has put highlight the shortcomings of the Quebec agricultural model. Two players enjoy a virtual monopoly. Olymel and Exceldor share the slaughter of 96% of the chickens. In the pork sector, Olymel owns 80% of the activities. 

As soon as one of the two processors experiences difficulties, whether it's a strike or a temporary closure, the entire livestock sector suffers the repercussions. 

It's time to think about this model, to try to improve it. In the United States, Joe Biden has just initiated such a process. 

“Capitalism without competition is exploitation. This is what we see in meat and poultry,” the US president said last week.

Our neighbors to the south will spend a billion dollars of public money to support the development of “independent” meat processors, and thus increase competition in the sector. 

Is this an idea that could make its way in Quebec? 

Maybe. 

Solutions

Regardless of the organizational solution that will be found, the problem of manpower in slaughterhouses must first and foremost be resolved. Even with an increase in the number of temporary foreign workers, as recently authorized by the Government of Quebec, the shortage of employees is likely to persist for months or even years.  

We must ensure that the die is more resistant to disturbances. We must accelerate automation and robotization. This will have the effect of treating slaughterhouse employees better, offering them more attractive jobs than line cutting under pressure. We must also attract private investors to stimulate innovation, technological development and better competition. 

If nothing is done, breeders like William Lafond will continue to experience the ordeal of managing thousands of extra pigs in their farm buildings. And the consumer who pays $10 for a pack of bacon will end up finding it a bargain! Especially if the same package ends up costing him $15 a few years from now.

Pig time for breeders

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