GFM Network News

Cattle liners sit empty in a Red Deer parking lot in April 2020.

Small processors alone won’t create strong supply chain, say beef producers

Beef producers from across Canada weighed in on the packing industry’s concentration during a panel organized by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association

After COVID-19 spread through the workforce of Canada’s largest beef packing plants this spring, many are asking whether the country should foster more, smaller processors. The pressure has eased somewhat, at least for now, in the beef supply chain. Canfax reports over 60,000 head were slaughtered the last week of May, and the backlog of […] Read more

Workers in Cargill's High River plant on the line in the spring of 2020. The photo, taken from a company presentation, shows the plastic barriers the company has installed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Relationship between union and plant management suffers under COVID-19

The union and management had a "good working relationship" pre-pandemic, but the coronavirus has ratcheted up tension.

As Western Canada’s big packers gear back up, the companies that run them are focused on getting past the crisis and clearing the backlog of market-ready cattle. But there are also fences to mend between management and the union. John Keating, managing director of Cargill’s protein supply chain and business operations in North America, said […] Read more

Workers in Cargill's High River plant on the line in the spring of 2020. The photo, taken from a company presentation, shows the plastic barriers the company has installed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

What happened in Canada’s biggest beef plants this spring?

With provinces re-opening their economies and concerns about a second wave, what can other businesses and organizations learn from Alberta's packing plants?

As Alberta shut down schools and banned children from public playgrounds in March, packing plant workers started contacting their union, said Michael Hughes. Those workers saw a contradiction between kids not being able to play on monkey bars and plant employees being told to show up for their shifts. Hughes is a senior communications and […] Read more

Cubicles installed in the break room of Cargill's High River plant to curtail COVID-19's spread among staff, taken from a company presentation during a town hall.

Writing the handbook on COVID-19

Packing plant managers, workers and union reps all found themselves responding to a crisis unlike any they’d faced before.

When Cargill has an issue, employees like to figure out a solution and share it so everyone can continue to work on, says a company executive. The coronavirus has challenged that process. “We don’t have a handbook for this,” said John Keating, Cargill’s North American managing director of business operations and supply chain for protein. […] Read more

Comment: Riding towards next year country

If you ride horses, you’ve probably heard the advice about looking where you’re going. It sounds pretty basic, but it’s easy to get in the habit of looking at the ground. However, if you stare at the ground too much, you may end up there. Plus, you need to set some direction for your horse. […] Read more

Farm journalist pens novel about BSE crisis

Conversations with beef producers inspired Alexis Kienlen to research BSE and write about its effect on a fictional ranching family.

As Alexis Kienlen found her stride as an agricultural reporter, one date kept cropping up in conversations with producers: May 20, 2003. That day, when officials publicly confirmed a case of BSE in an Alberta cow and borders slammed shut, was still raw for producers when Kienlen began writing for Alberta Farmer Express in 2008. […] Read more

The angel of death striking a door during the plague of Rome. Engraving by Levasseur after J. Delaunay.

Comment: The Antonine plague

There has been plenty of chatter about how this pandemic will change society. I don’t have any predictions worth the paper this magazine is printed on, so I decided to turn to history. One of the podcasts I regularly listen to is Tides of History. In April, they ran an episode on the Antonine plague, […] Read more

Lakeland College's Vermilion campus offers several ag courses, which had to shift online this spring due to the pandemic

Lakeland College preparing for continued pandemic disruptions

With the spring semester a wrap, the college’s staff are evaluating their approach to online learning.

As Lakeland College’s School of Agricultural Sciences closes the books on a spring semester interrupted by the pandemic, faculty are simultaneously hoping to welcome students back in the fall and preparing for continued restrictions. The college has several agricultural programs, ranging from ag business to animal science to crop technology at its Vermilion, Alberta campus. […] Read more

Recent online comments have unfairly targeted workers at meat-processing plants for the coronavirus outbreak.

Public education, without scapegoating, key to slowing COVID-19

As community leaders in Brooks and High River work to ensure people understand public health directives, they’re also trying to counter unwarranted condemnations

Note: This is the final instalment of a three-part series. Read the first article here. And the second article here. Alberta public health officials working desperately to curtail the spread of COVID-19 must find a way to reach the most vulnerable populations without encouraging racist undertones in online comment sections and the affected communities. Workers […] Read more

For the buy local movement to strengthen, the industry will need more small- and medium-sized processors

Worker safety starts at the plant, but it stops at home

As the communities of Brooks and High River deal with COVID-19 outbreaks, they’re finding that many people don't have the means to self-isolate within their own households

Note: This is the second of a three-part series. Read the first article here. On April 7, High River’s mayor, Craig Snodgrass, took a call from the manager of the Cargill plant, located north of the town, in Foothills County. The plant manager told him that there were six known cases of COVID-19 among the […] Read more