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Poultry, Dairy Family Farms anchor B.C. Agriculture: Report

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(NC) — British Columbia’s dairy and poultry sectors have long provided a much-needed source of stability in the province’s turbulent farm sector. This role has expanded to a point where they now account for nearly half of all agriculture employment, according to a report released by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The province’s dairy, poultry and egg farmers added 3,350 jobs between 2007 and 2011, for a total employment of 31,726, representing 1.4 per cent of B.C.’s total job count.

The PwC report, “Economic Impact of British Columbia’s dairy, chicken, turkey, hatching egg and table eggs industries – 2011 update,” credits the system of supply management that oversees these sectors. By working with industry and government to set production levels, the system ensures the fair and predictable returns farmers need to make the investments that are expanding payrolls

In contrast, the rest of B.C.’s agriculture sector shed 9,400 jobs between 2007 and 2011, a 27 per cent drop. As a result, PwC estimates that 45 per cent of all agriculture jobs are now in sectors that are supply managed, up from 25 per cent four years earlier. These sectors, made up of 1,100 family farms, added $1.6 billion to the provincial GDP and supporting $5.6 billion in economic activity.

“The lesson is clear,’ says Dave Eto, on behalf of BC’s Dairy, Egg and Poultry Industries (BCDEPI). “Farming is a highly volatile business. Supply management eliminates the boom-bust cycles and allows us to focus on producing high-quality food that is produced on local family-owned farms.”

Critics of supply management argue that the dairy and poultry sectors ought to be opened up to foreign competition. That would mean competing head to head with U.S. where farms, which are much bigger, to take advantage of economies of scale, and receive billions of dollars in government subsidies.

In the U.S. dairy sector, for example, government subsidies account for 40 per cent of total farm revenues while Canadian dairy farmers do not receive a penny in government support.

Size is also a big difference, and small means local.

Take eggs. B.C. has 136 egg farms with an average flock size of 19,400 laying hens, slightly below the national average of 20,200.

Conversely, the U.S. egg sector is dominated by massive operations. Fifty-seven egg producers have flocks bigger than 1 million hens and account for 87 per cent of the country’s entire output. Within that group, 16 companies have more than 5 million layers.

B.C. has a total of 2.5 million hens, so a single U.S. factory farm could supply all of the province’s eggs and still have enough left over to meet the entire demand of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The situation is similar with dairy and poultry producers.

“When you do the math, you quickly see that opening up B.C. to massive and highly subsidized American producers threatens our entire existence,” explains BCDEPI’s Eto. “Not only does this threaten thousands of jobs, consumers will no longer enjoy food produced on local farms. Their staple foods may be coming from as far away as Ohio or Pennsylvania.”

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Beyond mommy guilt: Is Canada’s growing meal-kit mania here to stay?

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TORONTO — Celebrities like Beyoncé, Oprah Winfrey, and NSync’s Lance Bass are now in the meal kit business, and for some that’s a sure sign the online subscription-based food startup phenomenon has hit its peak.

A plethora of the new e-commerce meal companies have popped up in Canada and the U.S. in the last couple of years, and subscribers have been joining the services in droves.

While the biggest player in the space, New York-based Blue Apron, does not operate in this country, a number of meal kit services are available locally and nationally for Canadians seeking a quick meal fix: Chef’s Plate, Goodfood, MissFresh, The Jolly Table, Cook It, Kuisto, Fresh City Farms, One Kitchen, Dinnerlicious, Fresh Prep and Germany’s Hello Fresh, to name a few.

There’s even a subscription-based startup for breakfasts, Montreal-based Oatbox, which delivers granolas, ‘overnight’ oats and granola bars to customers.

The convenience factor is undeniable. For about $10 to $13 per meal, customers receive a box of chilled, portioned food and recipes for an easy meal assembly.

The whole industry in the U.S. was founded on mommy guilt

Home chefs are able to cook dishes that evoke an au courant restaurant menu in less than half an hour: lentil mushroom tacos with jicama carrot slaw; mint sumac chicken with sautéed snap peas and carrot, parsnip and cucumber salad; Cajun tilapia over quinoa with a corn and tomato succotash.

But two recent initial public offerings by meal kit companies — including Blue Apron, the biggest player in the United States and Montreal-based Goodfood Market Inc. — ended up looking like a failed soufflé. Skeptics have drawn parallels between the spate of subscription startups and the faddish dot-com failures of the early 2000s.

Indeed, on Friday, Blue Apron announced it is cutting almost a quarter of its staff as it struggles to become a profitable business.

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‘Toronto’ New Restaurant is a Paradise for Bao Lovers

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This cleverly named restaurant makes a dizzying array of bao and banh mi, from pork belly to Japanese fried chicken. There’s also banh mi and a host of Asian-inspired appetizers like Bulgogi Kimchi Fries that’ll have you eating until you’re stuffed.

Read my profile of It’s a Bao Time in the restaurants section.

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‘Toronto’ At This Toronto Cafe you Can PWYC for Coffee

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One of Toronto’s quirkiest cafes has just become a bit more “kooky” in the words of its founder Liz Haines. Formerly called the Intergalactic Travel Authority, the espresso bar was designed to support Story Planet, a charity modelled after Dave Egger’s 826 Valencia, which provides writing and communication workshops for kids from age six to 18.

Operated as a social enterprise, the Intergalactic Space Authority was never about making tons of money, but the cafe was the economic engine that made running Story Planet out of a storefront space possible. Now, just over three years since it opened, the concept has proven insufficient to fund the operation.

Rather than close up shop, Haines has decided to try something unconventional. “While our social enterprise (formerly known as the ITA) has been an amazing community hub, it has not been financially viable. We have let the espresso machine go and are operating it, for the next little while, as a pay-what-you-can, serve-yourself community lounge,” she notes.

Aside from the loss of the espresso machine, the space remains the same as before, and there’s still drip coffee on offer. The space has always been available to rent ($30 an hour), so the new model isn’t radically different than before, but the notion of a PWYC cafe and lounge is intriguing.

“We’ve been surprised by the incredibly warm reception to this slightly kooky idea,” Haines writes in a blog post.

It will, however, need plenty of support to remain viable. Story Planet is trying out the concept for the month of April, after which time it will decide whether to keep the storefront space at 1165 Bloor St. West or close up shop and continue its programming in schools and community centres.

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