Hog premium sought for not using drug

Going ractopamine-free will cost producers money

Alberta Pork is pressing processors to provide compensation for producers who forego the use of ractopamine in hog finishing rations.

The feed additive is used to increase leaner carcasses desired by consumers, but export customers Russia and China will no longer accept pork from animals fed ractopamine.

Darcy Fitzgerald, executive director of Alberta Pork, said producers have been advised not to use the additive. The Olymel plant in Red Deer has also issued letters describing a transition to a ractopamine-free facility.

Ractopamine, a beta-agonist, is approved for livestock use in Canada, the United States and many other countries. Marketed most commonly as Paylean in hog feed additives, the drug can increase carcass weight and dressing percentage and can also reduce the number of days to market.

“It means a disadvantage to us if we take it completely out of our system and our export markets as well, because then places like the U.S. have that advantage over us, to make use of it,” said Fitzgerald.

“So we’re looking to those processors here to pay some sort of compensation to us for not using it.”

Alberta Pork is suggesting compensation of $3 to $5 per animal at minimum, he said.

“And for all producers, even the ones that don’t use it, because they’ve gone through that loss of value themselves by not using it.”

Fitzgerald said some processors still accept animals that have been given ractopamine but that will end in about a month’s time at all Alberta and British Columbia processors.

In the April 26 issue of Canadian Pork Market Review, analyst Kevin Grier said an Olymel-owned plant in Vallee-Jonction, Que., was offering money to producers to offset the loss of Paylean, though exact amounts were not specified.

Russia is Canada’s third largest market for pork, behind the U.S. and Japan.

Federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz raised the issue of the ractopamine ban when he was in Russia late last month but did not win a reprieve.

Alberta Pork chair Frank Novak told Lethbridge-area producers May 30 that he is not impressed with government efforts on trade issues.

“Because everybody needs (food), every government on the planet considers it their right and their obligation to mess with the marketplace,” Novak said.

“Our value chain partners, people who are supposed to be working with us, have been masters at offloading every single problem they have on us. Paylean’s a problem? Now it’s your problem. Animal rights people? We’ll make an announcement. Now it’s your problem.”

A report from Reuters indicated Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s largest hog processor, has moved two of its U.S. plants to accept only ractopamine-free animals and will convert a third by June 1.

The news prompted speculation that those changes helped make a deal that saw Smithfield purchased by China-based Shuanghui International for $4.7 billion.

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