September 2, 2010
"LOCAL FOOD FRAUD?: AN INVESTIGATION"
Nominated for a 2011 Jack Webster Award - this exclusive behind-the-scenes investigative report takes an in-depth look into alleged local food fraud.
With the rapid rise in interest among North Americans to support locally produced food and with the premium people are willing to pay for that food, it leaves open an attractive opportunity for food-based businesses to take advantage of this new and growing lucrative market, either honestly or not.
In May 2010, Deconstructing Dinner received a tip from a farmer in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia who alleged that a local business who sells eggs to 18 retailers and restaurants and who was marketing their product as being predominantly from their own farm, was not true. According to the tip, the "farm" was not a farm at all, and housed no chickens on the property!
The business has also been marketing their product as originating from neighbouring farms in the Creston Valley, however, Deconstructing Dinner received yet another and very strong tip, this one in July 2010, alleging that that too might also not be true.
As luck would have it, the property on which the business operates was up for sale, and on August 24, 2010, Deconstructing Dinner's Jon Steinman scheduled an appointment!
Jeremy Lack, farmer/chairman, Mad Dog Farm / Kootenay Local Agricultural Society (Tarrys, BC) - Mad Dog Farm is a small farm of 28 acres in Tarrys, not far from the City of Castlegar. Run by Jeremy and Nette Lack, and aided by their daughters, two dogs and three cats, the Lacks have a passion for growing, local agriculture and preserving heritage varieties of vegetables and other food crops. The Kootenay Local Agricultural Society is non-profit organization dedicated to the production and promotion of local agriculture and products. They are the owner and certifier of the Kootenay Mountain Grown label.
Heide Stang, co-owner, Eggs R Uz (Wynndel, BC) - Eggs R Uz has been operating for many years as a registered egg grading station and supplier of eggs to 18 businesses in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia.
Bonny Kavaloff, co-owner, Nature's Den (Rossland, BC) - Bonny and her husband Sid operate this small health store in Rossland, BC.
Cindy King, warehouse manager, Kootenay Country Store Co-operative (Nelson, BC) - The Kootenay Co-op is the largest independent member-owned co-operative grocery store in Canada. In business for 35 years, the store prides itself on supporting local producers whenever possible.
Matt Lowe, busted backyard chicken enthusiast (Nelson, BC) - In the summer of 2009, Matt Lowe began raising four chickens in his urban backyard. The City of Nelson does not permit such a practice, and in June of 2010, Matt's household received a visit from a Bylaw Enforcement Officer!
Other voices of people wishing to remain anonymous...
VIDEO: "Investigating Alleged Local Food Fraud"
Check out our short video featuring footage from our undercover visit to Eggs R Uz.
Photos of Investigation...
The label affixed to cartons of Eggs R Uz eggs.
Eggs R Uz has sold eggs to retailers in cartons and in bulk (as seen here).
As luck would have it, the property on which Eggs R Uz has been operating was up for sale. On August 23, 2010, Deconstructing Dinner's Jon Steinman scheduled an appointment!
Upon arrival, an Eggs R Uz sign reading "Certified Product of Wynndel BC". No chickens could be seen anywhere on the property.
The barn in which Eggs R Uz stated housed chickens. No chickens were inside and no sign any chickens had been on the surrounding grass at any recent time.
Once inside the home Jon Steinman noticed a pile of empty egg boxes.
Research into the product number reveals that the boxes are from Sysco Foodservice and their private label brand "Wholesome Farms" - eggs originating from battery caged hens. In BC, Sysco accesses those eggs from Golden Valley Foods in Abbotsford - the largest egg producer in the province. In the United States, it was this brand among many others recalled in August 2010 as part of the largest egg recall in North American history.
Located outside the walk-in cooler were 30-dozen egg boxes originating from Sparks Farms - a factory-farm producing 50% of Alberta's egg production from one 100-acre facility in Calgary.
Inside the walk-in cooler, boxes from factory-farm Sparks Farms in Alberta, relabelled with the Eggs R Uz logo. These 15-dozen boxes are delivered to the Kootenay Co-op food store in Nelson and restaurant customers. Next to the walk-in cooler, 30-dozen boxes from Sparks Farms.
On July 29, 2010, the Kootenay Co-op food store in Nelson sent Eggs R Uz a request for an image of the feed label of the feed their chickens are fed. This was the actual image sent, however, upon further inquiry with Sunset Seed in Creston, BC, the product was discontinued in December 2008 when the company's feed mill burned down.
Musical Selection (name/title/album/label)
Theme/Soundclip - Adham Shaikh, Infusion, Fusion, Sonic Turtle (CDN)
Scroll down for our undercover video.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.