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Chicken Squad!

Cate Pedersen

Starring real BC chicken farmers

An action-packed, Hollywood blockbuster-style trailer starring British Columbia chicken farmers is coming soon to a small screen near you! The countdown to the trailer’s world-wide online premier on May 12 and the clips of the “making-of” can be viewed now. The hope is also to see the trailer play on the big screen prior to movies in theatres.

It all began three years ago when a group of farmers led by BC Chicken Growers’ Association president, Ravi Bathe, discussed sharing their passion about their family businesses with other families and finding a way to dispel myths about the industry. “We wanted to do something to reach out to the average consumer, to show that farmers are cool and that we love what we do,” said Bathe in an interview with The Province newspaper.

Partially funded by the BC Chicken Marketing Board and the BC Ministry of Agriculture, the homegrown trailer parodies action flicks and promises to entertain as well as educate. This departure from traditional marketing captures the attention of the consumer, and encourages conversation. The idea for making a movie trailer became a reality and the casting call went out. Chicken farmers from all over the province answered the call, some bringing their entire families to the auditions in an Aldergrove barn. The lights flickered on, the cameras rolled and the director cried, “Action!” Well, it wasn’t quite that simple. A lot of hard work and careful casting went into the production which is truly a labour of love. Even BCGA president, Ravi Bathe, found himself in a starring role. His wife laughed, “I think Ravi has action hero qualities, definitely—or at least I think he thinks he does.”

We’ve never done anything like this before, so it’s exciting, said Carolyn Nickel, a Chilliwack farmer.

During filming, she peeks at her husband, Lance, and teases, “I think he’ll make a good thug,” while their three boys chuckle in the background. “Lance is really good at researching and talking to other farmers, seeing what they’re doing and see if it benefits.”

It is clear from the short video clips filmed during auditions that these farmers truly care about their industry and feel that it is vital to educate the consumer. They want the public to be aware that they give chickens the best life possible so they are going to be clean and healthy and ready for market.

Chicken-Squad_Posters_chris1DSC_5355-800x600Ravi Bathe and Chris Kloot, playing Chicken Squad agents, uncover a sinister plot to pump hormones and steroids into the industry via the black market, and they spring into action to protect the chickens.

A heart-pounding plot might not be necessary to teach consumers about this arm of the agricultural industry, but caring hearts definitely are and that is what the farmers bring to this campaign—heart, and a desire to spread the word that BC chicken is a healthy, pure, food source.

You might wonder if this movie trailer is close to the truth. Is there an elite enforcement agency out there dedicated to upholding strict standards and government guidelines? The answer is that there are several organizations and agencies watching over everything from the food that the chickens eat to the conditions of the growing environment. Poultry barns are high-tech operations with computers to maintain temperature, lighting and air quality. The chickens are raised with their comfort in mind, while making sure the end product—the meat—is healthy and contaminant free. There are many websites describing the regulations in place and the monitoring that goes on. It’s up to the consumer to do a little investigating of their own and learn what goes into the food that fuels the community. Some might assume that chicken sold in grocery stores has been raised with added hormones and steroids; when in fact, this practice has been illegal in Canada since the 1960s. Even the administration of antibiotics is only done when the chickens’ health is at risk; and farmers follow strict withdrawal periods to make sure the antibiotics have left the chickens’ systems before becoming part of the food chain.

We wanted to do something to reach out to the average consumer, to show that farmers are cool and that we love what we do.

Thinking outside the box for ways to educate the consumer has been successful before in the farming industry. On the BC Chicken Marketing Board’s website, another innovative idea is shared. “With farms off limits to visitors due to biosecurity protocols, the BC Chicken Growers’ Association, in partnership with the BC Broiler Hatching Egg Producers’ Association, has developed Poultry in Motion™, a mobile mini barn, in an effort to increase public awareness and educate consumers. This fully equipped mini barn has been featured at fairs, schools and agriculture events around the province.”

Who is growing your food? Don’t you want to know? The farmers want you to know, and now you can meet them and hear what they have to say. Visit the Chicken Squad online and you will see exactly who is raising and carefully keeping watch over the food that will ultimately end up on your family’s table.

Prepare to be amazed at the talented men and women who not only make sure BC chicken is safe and hormone-free, but also keep it real on the big screen too. “Spread those wings!” cried a Chicken Squad agent, on a mission to stop a villain intent on tainting chicken with hormones—a mission all chicken farmers take very seriously, even while having fun spending the day playing pretend on a movie set.

The “making-of” clips, and interviews with the stars and their families are available on YouTube and on the website, chickensquad.ca.

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