Author (#31): February 2009 Archives
Word at the coffee shop is that Jeff Kucharski is gone as CEO of the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA). I haven’t seen that announced officially yet, but I figured it was a good rumor to spread if nothing else.
Kucharski who has been with Alberta Agriculture for more than 20 years and worked mainly in the international trade area, has only been at the helm of ALMA for the past few months. I don’t know if his departure means there was trouble in paradise, or there could be any number of other reasons from better job opportunities to personal reasons.
I don’t have my hand on the pulse of the beef industry, but I know there were a few letters and phone conversations with producers in my office, who, shall we say did not have Kucharski on their Christmas card list.
ALMA is an agency created last year to help relaunch or renew Alberta’s livestock industry - not just beef, but pork, poultry, sheep, bison, elk and other meat sectors. While the agency mandate was geared to improve production standards and ultimately marketing of Alberta meat products, the agency had a broader impact because essentially if you were from another province but had livestock fed or processed in Alberta, you needed to meet ALMA standards.
Kucharski’s departure likely doesn’t affect ALMA’s operation. In fact the government agency was converted to a private company just a couple weeks ago. It is now Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency Ltd. The board of directors reports directly to the minister of agriculture.
Joe Makowecki, president of the Edmonton-area Heritage Frozen Foods (Cheemo Brand products) is chairman of the board.
For more information on ALMA and to read the February newsletter visit the agency website at: http://alma.alberta.ca
Congratulations to a Calgary-area ranching family who fought Imperial Oil for what they believed and won.
A $70,000 judgment from the courts in favor of Ball Ranch, after a seven year dispute and court case, certainly won’t put them on easy-street, but it will give Craig and Susan Graham, and Susan’s mother Agnes Ball, some belief there is justice.
In a ruling yesterday (February 12) the Alberta Court of Queens Bench ordered Imperial Oil to pay the Grahams $70,000 for damages after the ranch experienced its worst calving season ever, following a ruptured sour gas pipeline on the ranch in 2002. A lawyer for the ranch says considering losses and legal costs they should have been awarded as much as $150,000.
"We had weak calves, premature calves, sick calves, dead calves and we lost some cows, as well,” said Susan Graham in an interview with The Calgary Herald. “We had never experienced anything like that with our herd – ever.”
The sour gas line had been leaking in or near a pasture where the cattle were grazing, and when the company came into repair it several barrels of water from an excavation were pumped out onto the pasture, although the water wasn’t tested for hydrocarbon contamination.
The court ruled in December that at least some of the ranch’s cattle had been exposed to hydrocarbon contamination, which resulted in calving losses and yesterday made the damages award.
While Imperial Oil says it is proud of its environmental record, a University of Calgary law professor says part of the court’s ruling suggests this case could have been settled out of court much faster and at much less cost. It suggests, says the professor, “that oil and gas companies will play hardball with landowners.”
I don’t know if farmers and ranchers listen to music, but I suspect they do. My wife and I tuned into about half an hour of the Grammy Awards last night and we both said ‘what the hell was that?’
How old am I? There was a time when I could watch the Grammies and relate to 90 percent of the music and the various performers and be entertained, and now it is like watching a variety show from a different planet.
Thank God there were still a few familiar names like Robert Plant and Allison Kraus (that is one CD I did have), Paul McCartney, the Eagles, Kenny Chesney, James Taylor and a few others. Even Dean Martin got a 14 second mention for a lifetime achievement award. I guess in this day and age that is all 50 years in showbiz is worth, 14 seconds. (Although you wonder what took so long for his career to be recognized. He died in 1995.)
But beyond a very short list of the old timers I had no idea who these people where, and to a large extent, I had no idea what they were singing. I think they were singing.
Adele, Cold Play, Ne-Yo, Lady Antebellum, Jay-Z, Lupi Fiasco, Big Boi, Lady Gaga, Young Jeezy, Ludacris, Nas, - who are these people? And who told them that was music? Someone by the name of Katy Perry – who was introduced as a bi-curious Lesbian – had the auditorium whipped into a frenzy of fan support.
And then there was something by the name of M.I.A., who was 10 months pregnant, who came out in some sort of a sheer, poke-a-dot short set, to belt out an unintelligible Rap song, along with three other male Rap performers. She got a standing ovation. I don’t think we’d ever see Anne Murray do that.
I am old. I have become my parents. Someone please shoot me. I know I run the risk of loosing my last audience, but at my funeral, could someone please play a few bars of Forever Young by Rod Stewart, or even Am I Blue by George Strait. It would be nice to go out with just one familiar tune in my head.
Man, I had lunch the other day with a couple Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) types, and I don’t know what to think. One had a chicken quesadilla and then conveniently left her wallet in the car, and the other one had the All-American burger. No wonder this industry is in trouble.
I think it should be mandatory in letters’ of employment that all CCA employees be required to eat Canadian beef three times a day (or at least have beef when out in public).
Actually I made up the part about the All-American burger. It was a tasty burger, but I’m not sure if it was American or Canadian or from Uruguay for that matter. This was a White Spot Restaurant and they do have AAA Canadian beef steak on their menu. They may serve AAA Canadian burger.
Ever since this COOL issue (Country of Origin Labeling) has been forefront in the news it has increased my interest in buying Canadian. Travis Toews a Beaverlodge, Alta. rancher and CCA trade committee chair, says the CCA isn’t worried about U.S. consumers not wanting to buy meat products labeled Canadian. The main issue is because of the hassle of segregating and separate processing of Canadian cattle (separate from U.S. cattle) that U.S. feedlots and packers won’t want to handle Canadian cattle. Or if they do it will be at a great price discount.
Toews says the spirit of NAFTA and the intent of World Trade Organization regulations is that if an imported product has to be substantially processed before it goes on the retail shelf, it should carry the name of the country that does this processing. He says that’s what happens to U.S. cattle coming into Canada for processing. That meat is packaged as product of Canada.
I know not every Canadian farmer and rancher agrees with that thinking. Some have said U.S. beef sold in Canada should be labeled as such – and hopefully be allowed to rot in the grocery store retail case. Oh, man where is our compassion and brotherly love for our southern neighbor?
The issue that at the moment worries me more is it may be a new CCA policy that all employees conveniently leave their wallets in the car when going out for lunch. This could put tremendous financial pressure on the struggling publishing industry.
I think if there is any organization, in my memory, that has handled a bad situation well it has to be Maple Leaf Foods. They don’t need to be made heroes, but in my view they’ve handled the whole tainted meat issue with compassion and professionalism.
This issue that erupted in August 2008 with the discovery of some cold packaged meat products containing listeriosis could have been marred or made ugly by all kinds of denial, and “no comment” comments.
But right from the get-go you could tell this was a company that wanted to accept responsibility, first of all to stop the spread of the tainted products that ultimately caused 56 people to become ill and played a role in the death of 20 people, and then to clean up what ever problem there was in their meat processing line and make sure it never happened again.
Maybe I just watch too many Law and Orders, but often enough I run into companies and even industry associations that figure the best policy in dealing with a negative subject is either to deny it or at least ignore it. Play dumb and the problem will go away.
I don’t know if I ever lost faith in Maple Leaf products during this whole affair. I am sure some people did. My 23-year-old son, for example, who is a bit of an odd ball - when it comes to food choices - anyway, won’t eat any cold meat products now unless they are fried to ‘kill the bacteria’. But, if I ever was a bit leery about Maple Leaf products last fall, I certainly now have every confidence that they are producing completely safe food products.
And a large part of that has to do with their belief in “honesty is the best policy.”