Most of the information that follows was found in “Fowl Memories”, an historical review of the poultry industry in British Columbia, written by Herb Gasperdone, a former employee of the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Food and published in September, 1999.
The use of chicken as a meat bird was a spin off of egg production and this activity had been reported during the late 1800s. By the 1920s and 1930s British Columbia had developed the production of broilers as a meat bird and began to export broilers to Europe. Larger amounts of broilers were exported to Europe during the 2nd World War. During this time, and into the 1950s, broilers were still considered to be an extension of egg production. A reduced demand for commercial eggs reduced the number of birds for egg production and this in turn reduced the number of cockerels available for meat production.
In the late 1940s the egg industry and the broiler industry suffered from a reduced demand but recovered in the early 1950s. At about this time the United States processing plants were introducing evisceration on assembly lines and supermarkets were advertising eviscerated fryers. Business boomed at the retail level and consequently production increased at the plant and farm levels. New barns were being constructed and new technologies were being developed to improve efficiencies at the farm level, particularly with respect to ventilation and shortened hatch to market time. Growers got caught up in the fast flow and increased profits and began to buy feed on credit and pay after shipping. In the late 1950s the supply of broilers had outstripped the demand and prices fell to extremely low levels putting many growers in the position of not being able to pay their feed bills. The feed companies ended up taking possession of the farms. Some growers, as a way of staying in business, began to contract with the processors to grow broilers for them. Most processors at that time also owned the hatcheries that supplied the chicks and the feed companies that supplied the feed.
This was the beginning of vertical integration where all aspects of production and marketing are controlled by the one owner.
From the B.C. perspective, the vertical integration in the U.S. meant that growers had little or no say in the production of broilers in their country. The growers here became concerned that they were moving towards this type of system in B.C. and sought ways to improve their own situation. In 1958 they organized the B.C. Broiler Grower’s Association. Bob Blair was elected the first president.
The broiler production in B.C. during the late 1950s increased, as did new barn construction but by the early 1960s prices began to fall. Because of the low prices, some growers were faced with losing their business and the association asked its members to voluntarily reduce their production. Some growers did reduce production but others took advantage of the situation and increased their own production. By May 1961 production of broilers chicks had reached a new high and the broiler association was looking for a way to control production and stabilize prices. The association tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a better price with the processors and, consequently, it was then instructed by its members to explore the possibilities of a marketing scheme. A draft plan was presented to the members of the association at their August 1961 meeting.
By May 1961 production of broilers chicks had reached a new high…
The following month the association asked the minister of Agriculture (BC) to hold a referendum on a broiler marketing scheme for the province. The minister agreed and the referendum was held. The result showed that 76% of the registered broiler growers in British Columbia were in favor of a marketing board. Those voting yes represented 91% of the total broiler production in B.C.
In December of 1961 a meeting was held to select the three growers who would make up the Board and the selected growers were appointed by the Minister. These were William Van den Born, Ken Nelson and R.A. Blair who was at that time the association president and would be the first chair of the Board.
The BC Chicken Marketing Board was proclaimed on December 12, 1961 and began operation on Jan 1, 1962 under the authority of the Natural Products Marketing Act. This was the first chicken board in Canada.
The B.C. Chicken Marketing Board was proclaimed on December 12, 1961….
One of the Board’s first responsibilities was to draw up the Scheme, establish quotas and provide for licensing.
“Quota” was established on the basis of the square footage of space that had been in operation for at least 6 months. For each square foot of that space a grower received one unit or one bird of quota. The Board also established a goal of maintaining the family farm unit and set the ideal farm size at 30,000 quota units. Quota was tied to the farm and could only be transferred through a farm sale. Farms were now considered to have value where before the existence of the Board the resale value of a broiler farm was quite low. Financial institutions were also now more ready to finance broiler operations.
The first issuance of quota totalled 2,866,850 birds per 12 week cycle.
By 1969 the Board put limits on the amount of quota any one person, corporation or firm could hold. Initially the amount was set at 10% of the total quota in B.C. This was changed to 7% and then to 1.25% or 56,000 birds in 1973. Anyone with more than maximum was told to sell off the excess. Other changes have taken place since that time and today the maximum quota that can be held by any one person, either alone or as part of a group, partnership or corporation is 250,000 birds.
The Board allots to each grower a specific amount of chicken to grow…
The amount of quota in the province has increased over the years as the population increases and demands for the product increases. Every eight weeks begins a new cycle and the Board allots to each grower a specific amount of chicken to grow in that eight week period.
In 1979 as a result of direction from the federal government and after some negotiation on import quotas of chicken, the B.C. Broiler industry moved to a live weight production quota system. Under this system one unit of quota (or one bird) equaled 4.05 lbs. live weight. Today one unit of quota equals 1.929 kilograms live weight.
To ensure that the birds have sufficient space to move about, growers are required to provide one square foot of space for each 2.88 kilograms of live weight and they are allotted production based upon the size of their barns and the amount of quota they hold.