The second installment to my demystifying our food series, uncovering truths in the foods we consume. As a host and chef on CBC’s Village on a Diet, and guest on numerous regular TV features, owner of Bittered Sling Extracts and finally Co-owner of Kale & Nori Catering, Jonathan Chovancek has got his work cut out for him. Chef Jonathan – Kale & Nori
I caught up with him at Blenz for a late coffee. What caught my interest other than his abundant energy was his passion when he spoke of promoting a sustainable food culture, its pitfalls and triumphs. We can all agree that the organic, sustainable, ethical food movement has become a political and billion dollar behemoth. There will always be people trying to take advantage, which impedes the movement’s growth by making consumers skeptical.
Champions to the Cause
Jonathan and a few other chefs in Vancouver have to taken it upon themselves to preserve the movement’s core values. Jonathan goes the extra distance to ensure that his clients and guests of Kale & Nori Culinary Arts Catering consume ingredients that supports a sustainable food movement, meaning antibiotics free, free of dangerous chemicals and pesticides and ethically raised. Ethically raised, I don’t mean coddling the animals. They should not be so confined that they cannot move, so fat that their legs give out and pumped up with drugs when they start to get sick or start developing cancers.
Going the Extra Mile
To ensure that the quality of the ingredient is what is promised we need to know the source of the ingredients. “Most food is sold from origin to distributor to sub distributor. Getting to the source, knowing where the food originated and what is was fed, how it was grown is important. How long has it been dead, picked, preserved. Understanding that the quality is at its peak for only a few hours and from that point on it is diminishing.”
The Cheaters and Scammers
There is a colossal difference between “Antibiotic Free” chicken and “Raised Without Antibiotics”. Jonathan compared it to professional sports, where technology has allowed the farming industry to effectively mislead consumers to believing they are buying a healthy product. Chickens may still have been pumped with drugs , it would have been already flushed out during testing. I do want to point out, there are still independently owned farms not controlled by the monopoly food producers. They go the extra mile to ensure their food is sustainably raised.
Chicken Farm Testing and Protocols
Drugs does not refer to hormones or steroids, which were been banned in Canada since the 1960’s. I’ve reached out to Marty Brett, representative for the Chicken Farmers of Canada – CFC for a comment. For conventional chickens, they do not do on-farm testings, during the time at the processing plant random tests are conducted usually by the CFIA to ensure there are no drug residues left in the birds. Each medicine has its own withdrawal time, for example if it is given to the bird too late in the cycle, there will still be residues of the drug left. CFC claimed “to date no random testing has found residues in chickens”.
Chicken farmers will need to abide by the On-Farm Food Safety Assurance Program which includes protocols from our Animal Care Program, which require stringent record-keeping for every flock that is accompanied to the processing plant. Including, grow-out period, type of feed, temperature of barn, water testing. These legal binding forms are then audited by 3rd parties in each province at various intervals, all led by the CFIA. Farmers in violation of these guidelines face stiff penalties like stripping their quota which prevents them from selling chickens. I highly recommend reading CFC’s section on Understanding Your Choices, which compares the different choices, free run, free range, organic chicken. It’s a great read.
What Should Consumers Do?
Ask a lot of questions. While consumers, myself included purchase meats or produce at chain grocery stores and by that point it been re-distributed from the original source a few times, the purchaser will still be able to provide very useful information. “Putting the onus on the distributors to provide consumers with full disclosure is challenging and there a court cases pending right now about labeling our food. We must ask more questions of the people serving and selling our food and make the decision with our dollars to not support unethical industries”, answered Jonathan
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