Codes of Practice for BC Farm Animals
In BC, livestock producers follow the National Farm Animal Care Council of Canada Codes of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals. These Codes of Practice cover the animal’s environment, feed and water, animal health, husbandry, transportation and euthanasia practices.
The Codes include Requirements which are either a regulatory requirement, or an industry-imposed expectation outlining acceptable and unacceptable practices relating to the care of animals. Requirements, at minimum, are to be implemented by all persons responsible for farm animal care. There are also Recommended Practices that complement the Code’s Requirements. Recommendations promote producer education and encourage the adoption of practices for continuous improvement in animal welfare.
BC ranchers and farmers meet and exceed these practices.
Animal Welfare in BC
Our BC farmers and processors care about animal welfare and most exceed the Codes of Practice. You can help support and understand the animal welfare practices of BC farmers by following them on social media, on our BCMeats website and Facebook page.
Understand what practices qualify for animal welfare certification and support our hard-working BC farmers who have a passion for improving the lives of the animals they raise.
Animal Welfare at Processing
Meat processing plants in BC must meet provincial and federal animal handling regulations which are amongst the highest in the world. These regulations ensure that animals are humanely handled and processed.
The regulations include:
– The use of tools to handle animals
– An animal health assessment at arriva
– Pen densities and safety
– Access to water upon arrival
– Feeding requirements
Those establishments with a government meat inspector on site during processing have their animal welfare practices monitored by the inspector. Many BC processors are also third-party certified for animal welfare.
Animal Welfare Certification Labels
There are many different animal welfare labels, such as ‘Animal Welfare Approved’, ‘Animal Welfare Certified’ and ‘Certified Humane’. It’s hard to know which ones truly have a positive impact on the welfare of farm animals. Here’s how you can keep farm animal welfare at the top of your priority list:
Check for certified animal welfare labels that:
– Certifies farms that raise farm animals to higher standards of animal welfare than the minimum National Farm Animal Care Council of Canada Codes of Practice
– Verifies their standards are being met through inspections of farms, carried out by independent third-party auditors
– Provides transparency to consumers as their standards are posted online for public viewing
Although some BC farmers and ranchers may not be certified humane by a third party, they still can follow excellent animal practices. Ensuring proper animal welfare practices not only benefits farm animals in BC, but also benefits BC consumers as they can buy with confidence.
Terms Used When Raising Animals
Although these terms are not certified or regulated, they do demonstrate higher animal welfare considerations. Check for them when you are Buy BC.
Cage-free: Animals are not housed in cages.
Cage-free labels are usually seen on egg cartons and applies to egg-laying hens, not meat birds. This label can also apply to pork and could include labels such as ‘crate-free’ or ‘stall-free’.
Free-run: Animals are raised cage-free and indoors.
For poultry, this label only has meaning for egg-laying hens, not turkeys or chickens raised for meat. It is standard practice for all Canadian turkeys and broiler chickens to be raised free-run. You may also see this label on pork since it is standard practice in BC for young pigs to be raised in groups.
Free-range: Animals are raised cage-free with outdoor access.
The amount of time spent outside and the quality of the access can vary widely.
Pasture-raised or Pastured: Animals are raised outdoors on pasture.
This label does not necessarily mean that the animals spent their whole lives on pasture.
Grass-fed, or grass-fed and finished: Animals have access to pasture and a diet made up of forages (grass and hay).
It is important to note that the grass-fed label does not mean the animal was fed grasses for the entirety of its life.
Grass-fed can include any animal that was fed grass at some point during its life. Look for labels that are more re-assuring such as ‘100% grass-fed’, ‘grass-only’ and ‘grass-fed and finished’. None of the grass-fed labels are regulated in BC or Canada and there is no definition on how these claims can be used on meat. Get to know and understand the feeding practices of your BC producer to ensure you are getting the grass-fed meat you want.
Hormone use in Animal Production
Hormones occur naturally in all animals, people and plants so there is no such thing as hormone-free meat. However, you may see labels that say “no added growth hormones”. This means that added hormones were not used during production.
In BC, growth hormones are only approved for use in cows for beef production (beef cattle). They help to produce leaner beef at a lower cost to consumers by enabling cows to convert the food they eat into muscle more quickly and easily.
In BC growth hormones are not permitted for use in poultry, lamb and pork production or in cows that produce milk.
Health Canada sets maximum levels of hormone allowed in beef. These limits are set at levels far below the amount that could pose a health concern. Routine tests are done in BC to make sure these are followed and to ensure our meat is safe.
Raised without Antibiotics (RWA)
In order to display the label ‘raised without the use of antibiotics’ the animals used for producing this type of meat must not have received any antibiotics at any time. In addition, no antibiotics can be administered to the mother of the animal in question. In order to ensure the health and wellness of animals, any animal that requires antibiotics for health reasons must receive them, however these animals will not be eligible to be sold with the RWA claim and are removed from any RWA program.
It is important to note that all animals sold in BC for meat that have been treated with antibiotics must undergo a withdrawal period which is a specific period of time where no antibiotics can be used prior to going to market.
BC and Canada have strict regulations on how much time passes between when an animal is last treated with antibiotics and when it is sent to a processing plant.
This withdrawal period ensures that antibiotic residues aren’t present in the meat.
We are being asked if all antibiotics used on animals are bad for us, but in fact, the solution is responsible use of antibiotics. Responsible use ensures that antibiotic resistance does not become a greater threat to the human population. From an animal welfare perspective, it also means sick animals can still receive the treatment they need to get well.
Health Canada and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) have developed a plan to counteract antibiotic resistance and created regulations and restrictions that focus on what types of antibiotics farmers can use and when.
All BC farmers wishing to buy any antibiotics must get a prescription from a licenced veterinarian. This ensures farmers find different tactics for managing animal health such as employing good biosecurity and well-managed living conditions, instead of relying on antibiotics to prevent disease.
Antibiotics should only be used on sick animals when a veterinary prescription has been given. Using antibiotics only when needed helps prevent the creation of antibiotic resistant bugs.
BC Meat Processing
Establishments in BC that process live animals are either provincially licensed or federally registered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The BC Government works to ensure that meat produced at provincially licensed establishments in BC is safe for consumers through the Meat Inspection Regulation. It ensures that:
– Animals are humanely handled at processing
– Meat is processed in a clean environment
– Meat is packaged and stored in ways that reduce contamination risks
Some BC provincially licensed animal processors have a government inspector on site during the animal processing day. These inspectors provide independent, third-party pre- and post- slaughter inspection of each animal to ensure only meat fit for human consumption is produced. Other provincially licensed establishments are lower volume where risk-based inspections occur periodically, but there is an audit of slaughter records.