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CHICKEN SQUAD – 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.

Ravi 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.

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.

Restaurant Review

The Cactus Club Café’s warm and cozy entryway included a bank of seating in front of a wall of flickering flames reminiscent of chats with friends around the fire pit.

We were welcomed immediately and seated quickly as we had planned ahead and booked a table. The hostess was relaxed and efficient even though the restaurant was close to capacity. Our table was lit softly and felt intimate, though we were surrounded by groups of happy families and people enjoying their fine dining experience.

The waitress was knowledgeable when asked about the types of alcoholic beverages, and offered suggestions that were helpful in selecting an entrée from the tantalizing menu.

The food—a perfectly rare Angus Beef sirloin with seasonal vegetables, and a platter of butternut squash ravioli with shrimp that melted in the mouth—satisfied completely our desire for a quality meal. We left the restaurant envious of the people waiting for a table, knowing the treat that was in store for them.

Important Steps

Consider dance lessons to make your wedding day extra special.

I expected to be the center of attention on our wedding day, and wanted to be able to dance with my new husband and look good doing it. My fiancé did not share this vision and was certainly not comfortable with the idea of dance lessons. This bothered me a little bit at first but I shook it off, knowing that our guests would not expect Fred and Ginger; they just wanted to share our day and as long as we could shuffle back and forth, it would be good enough.

I had taken ballroom lessons with my brother, Joe, when we were kids. He was a year younger and I guess he had always looked up to me. We enjoyed our lessons together and regularly took home gold and silver medals from various competitions. Our mother laboured over our costumes, sewing on sequins until I could barely lift the folds of satin and lace to get the dresses over my head.

Boy, did we look good together though, our arms locked in position, backs arched and heads turned gracefully. I felt like a princess, twirling around the dance floor, the faces of spectators a blur of colour around me. Joe was always happy to let me boss him around; I never truly appreciated his patience.

It was when puberty kicked in and I outgrew my brother in height that our partnership came to an end. We had always been close growing up, but without the dancing, we began to grow apart. We both missed our camaraderie but never found much time for one another during the difficult teen years.

It was when we were in our early twenties that we found our friendship again. Both in need of a roommate, we decided to move in together. As we helped one another load our belongings into the basement suite, we reminisced over pictures dug out of boxes that showed us in our ballroom attire, hands clasping medals, our faces lit with joy. It wasn’t long before we were pushing aside the couch on Saturday afternoons to practice our favourite samba routine.

This was the way that we bonded; the subject we had in common. We could both converse easily about the steps, the pace of the music, and the memories of our competitions.

The brief time as roommates allowed us to know one another again, but this time as adults and friends. Joe was a kind and considerate brother. He cooked soup for me when I was sick and offered to help with various parties that I hosted. We had lots of fun that year. It was a time I remember fondly.

When I met my future husband, I was excited for everyone to get to know him, especially Joe. We fell in love fast and within a month were talking of getting married. I moved out of the basement suite, and Joe took another roommate. I never looked back, caught up in the wedding plans and focusing on bridesmaid dresses and photographers. My life again was caught up in satin and sequins but Joe was not a part of it this time.

And so the big day arrived, and everything seemed perfect—until the dancing began. My husband and I got through the first dance, swaying to the music and smiling at one another as family snapped pictures. I knew my sweetheart couldn’t wait until the song was over and I felt some regret that I had not urged him to try a lesson or two. It may have helped him get through this uncomfortable moment.

It was when we were headed back to our seats that I noticed the video camera focused on us. My smile broke as I realized how awkward we would look on the dance floor. I had not admitted to myself until now how truly important it was for me to have my love of dance be a part of my special day. If I could have rolled back time, I would have explained to my fiancé how I wanted to have one dance in my beautiful dress—one moment to feel like a princess again. He would have understood and we could have taken some lessons. Now it was too late.

A couple of dances later I was over my regret and enjoying watching all my friends and loved ones in each other’s arms. I was standing on the edge of the dance floor, clapping in time to a fast song, when the music suddenly switched to a slow waltz. I was perplexed for a moment until I noticed Joe heading toward me, his hand outstretched and a sly smile on his face. With a flush of feeling, I took his hand as he led me to the center of the floor. Everyone stepped smoothly out of the way as our waltz began. I saw my wonderful husband smile and wink as he watched us skim across the floor in perfect time. My eyes overflowed as my brother, my friend, whispered, “I’m not only losing my sister—I’m losing my best friend.”

I knew then that remembering the steps wasn’t important; it was the people who danced with you through life who should be remembered.

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