Advancing healthy choices and environmental, social and economic sustainability
Yorkshire Valley Farms’ network of family farms includes about 18 chicken farmers, 12 egg farmers and four turkey farmers, and James Sculthorpe knows them all. “I’ve been on every farm and had coffee in every kitchen,” he says. “We have a deep respect for each other, with engagement on all levels of the supply chain. We really are in one boat together, rowing in the same direction.”
As the president of Yorkshire Valley Farms, a leading Canadian organic poultry producer, Mr. Sculthorpe is passionate about the common goal of serving loyal customers while, at the same time, extending the scope and reach of organic products.
Liz Kowpak, Yorkshire Valley Farms’ director of retail marketing, says, “Over nine years ago, we started with a portfolio of fresh chicken. Then, over time, we were able to expand our product line to include frozen items like chicken breasts and breaded chicken tenders,” she says. “Now, we also have things like chicken pot pie, sliced deli and turkey hot dogs, and we’re planning to add more products that appeal to a broader consumer base.”
In a recent consumer survey, respondents cited health benefits as the primary reason for choosing organic poultry, which doesn’t surprise Ms. Kowpak. “Canadians are very engaged with what they and their families eat. They read labels and do research,” she says. “They are interested not only in the ingredients but also the providence of their food – the practices behind raising the animals and food manufacturing.”
Many consumers choose organic because of substances they want to avoid, says Ms. Kowpak. “Studies show that pesticide residue in foods is making its way into our bodies.” Recent court cases have raised the profile of Roundup, for example, and consumers are taking note.
In organic poultry production, birds are raised on non-GMO organic grains (grown without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides) with no added antibiotics, she adds. And their health profile is tightly linked to animal welfare, says Mr. Sculthorpe. An environment with lower stocking density, where birds can roam in barns with natural light and ventilation and have access to outdoor pastureland when possible, means they experience less stress, increasing their ability to stay healthy by relying on their own immune system.
With over nine years of production, Yorkshire Valley Farms’ legacy is already impressive. Mr. Sculthorpe estimates that during that time, the program has resulted in displacing about 100,000 litres of glyphosate (Roundup) as well as approximately four million kilograms of synthetic nitrogen, both of which would have been used in a conventional poultry farming supply chain.
“That’s our downstream ripple effect from raising organic poultry,” he says. Besides health, environmental and animal welfare benefits, there is an additional pillar to Yorkshire Valley Farms’ success: economic sustainability. The organic model, which ensures that farmers get an organic premium, provides family farms with a solid foundation for succeeding from generation to generation, believes Mr. Sculthorpe.
Ms. Kowpak adds, “Much has changed for our business from the perspective of growth, but our values – and the high level of trust and transparency – have stayed the same.”
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