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The EATEN PATH: Running a-fowl of reality

Abbotsford chicken farmer Ravi Bathe (left) and Chris Kloot of Chilliwack are the main characters in Chicken Squad. - Submitted
Abbotsford chicken farmer Ravi Bathe (left) and Chris Kloot of Chilliwack are the main characters in Chicken Squad.
— image credit: Submitted

From growing food at home to the politics of the ALR, The Eaten Path is a new, ongoing feature that looks at what we eat, how it is produced and the path our food takes to our table.

Chris Kloot is a mild-mannered realtor by day and an elite special agent by night, fighting evil forces that want to taint British Columbia’s poultry industry.

OK, only half of that is true.

Kloot is a realtor, but his special agent duties are fictional and part of a unique marketing campaign to help change the image of chicken farmers.

The Chicken Squad campaign centres around a 10-episode documentary-style series of videos, which will culminate in an action movie trailer parody on May 12.

Along with Kloot, there is a heavy Chilliwack presence in the campaign created by the BC Chicken Growers’ Association and the BC Chicken Marketing Board: long-time Yarrow chicken farmer Dave Janzen; Bram and Sandra Middelburg who farm locally; and fellow Chilliwack chicken farmers Carolyn and Lance Nickel.

There are also three Abbotsford farmers involved and one from Armstrong.

The campaign’s main goal is to correct two major misconceptions B.C. chicken farmers say are prevalent among the public.

“We have a bit of an image problem when 64 per cent of people believe that hormones and steroids are added to chickens,” Kloot said this week. “That’s completely false and it’s been that way for half a century.”

The 64 per cent number comes from research conducted by the BC Chicken Growers’ Association. But it’s a misconception that frustrates chicken growers since the use of hormones and steroids has been banned in Canadian poultry since the 1960s.

The second misconception is that broiler chickens—chickens raised for meat—are raised in cages. While most are not free range (outside) they are all free run inside large barns with ready access to water and food.

“We need to make the public aware of that,” said Kloot, who farms with his wife Nella in Rosedale. “The food they are buying in the grocery store is of the highest standards in the world.”

While there is a serious message behind the Chicken Squad, and a real marketing campaign funding it, they are having fun.

“We are basically protecting B.C. chicken products from evil masterminding,” Kloot said of the “movie” plot. “It’s going to be really fun.”

The project began with auditions in November, then shooting started in December one day a month for four months. The main characters in the story line are played by Kloot and Abbotsford chicken farmer Ravi Bathe who is also president of the BC Chicken Growers’ Association.

For a number of weeks the Chicken Squad website has been releasing behind-the-scenes episodes that show some of the filming, but also some of the personality, background and family life of the local chicken farmers involved.

• To watch the Chicken Squad episodes, including the May 12 full movie trailer, visit www.chickensquad.ca.

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The dfference between free range, free run and organic chickens

Free Range means that the bird has access to the outdoors.

Free Run means that a bird is able to move freely throughout the barn and is not confined in a cage. All chickens grown in Canada for meat purposes are free run.

Organic chickens are birds raised using certified organic feed and fresh, untreated drinking water. The Certified Organics Association of BC (COABC) also requires growers to allow their birds access to pesticide free pasture for a minimum of six hours a day, weather permitting. These chickens may have started out as conventional chicks. A list of all certified organic producers can be found on the COABC website at www.certifiedorganic.bc.ca. There are no certified organic broiler chicken producers in Chilliwack.

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Fast facts:

14.5 per cent of B.C. agriculture jobs are in chicken production

154 million kilograms of meat produced annually

331 chicken farms in British Columbia

3,797 people employed by chicken producers

$37.9 million chicken producers pay in municipal, provincial and federal taxes

$351 million in farm cash receipts

$2.4 billion in economic output and $712.4 million in GDP to B.C.’s economy generated by the BC poultry industry value chain, including chicken and turkey producers, processors and allied industries

- source, 2011 Economic impact of B.C.’s dairy, chicken, turkey, hatching egg and table egg industries

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