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alberta

Liberia – The Trip of a Lifetime

charity, FAM By December 18, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , 3 Comments

Right To Play ParentAnd then there was the week that I didn’t really sleep.  Olympian Kaylyn Kyle and I were behind in votes.  I called in a ton of favours and spread the message in creative (and largely annoying) ways.  Friends knew how important Liberia was to me and would ask daily about vote count.  As I had an emotional drop-off of one of my kids at school, a mom embraced me and encouraged me to share about my children and my life.  During our conversation I shared about “Level The Field” and her eyes lit up.  She had worked for the Swedish Olympic team for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and is very familiar with the organization and the benefit of sports for kids.  Rocking her newborn in the stroller, she mentioned that she had a few friends in the sports field (that was a pun..) and would reach out to them to help our cause for Health in Liberia.

Fast forward.  Several days after the contest closed I was practicing square breathing and coaxing myself to carry on with life.  My friends and colleagues didn’t want to ask too much.  I was clearly distracted.  I got the email indicating I would go to Liberia while headed to the gym and became one of those people on her phone during an hour of cardio I hadn’t really noticed.  (I joked with Kaylyn that if we were to travel together she’d put my abs to shame).  Could it be true?  Could Liberia have won – when George Weah, one of Liberia’s most famous humanitarian athletes was a footballer as well?  Liberia needs so much support after recent years of civil war.  200,000 people have died and it ranks amongst the poorest nations on the planet.  Inequality.  Sexual crimes.  Disease.  The women, children and the handicapped youth need the teachings of inclusiveness that Right To Play can offer.

A few days later I was on a press trip to Ottawa and was about to tour the Canadian Parliament Buildings when I got another email announcing the voter who had won the chance to accompany the group on our expedition.  Her name is Lori Harasem and she lives in Alberta.  With three kids she finds time to work as the Recreation and Culture Development Manager for the City of Lethbridge and volunteers too.

Apparently Lori and I had a mutual friend.  Could it be?  I sent a covert text to my friend from my sons’ school to see if she knew Lori.  Apparently they were childhood friends and Lori was described as an extremely special, caring and loyal woman with a true believe and love of sport and play.  I tingled head to toe.  And then I toured the crucible of Canadian law and government feeling the importance of community, integrity and outreach.  The stately building made me realize even further that our position as Canadians allows us to help other nations – other children.  I am so honoured to be an ambassador for Right To Play.  To represent my country and to help children smile.  Somehow my kids’ Christmas lists don’t seem very pressing.

As I expressed to the other parent ambassadors when we were simultaneously told the news, I have been humbled just to be chosen to participate in the Level The Field program.  The prestigious group of parents who participated did a stellar job, and I still marvel at the work put in and the exposure that was given to the organization.  The true winners are the kids that we will be able to support through awareness and future donations.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all 6 West African nations could have oodles of funds flowing in?  I know that Right To Play is dear to all of our hearts now and hopefully in time we will all be able to help all of the 6 countries.  in the Level The Field program and the 20 countries Right To Play works in across the world.  If you would like to receive the Right To Play newsletter, you can subscribe on their website.

I told my schoolyard mom friend the news and the next day she cornered me as we waited for the bell.  Her son wants to start raising money to send soccer balls with me to Liberia.  He has a plan.  He’s 7.  And clearly very special.

Let the journey begin!

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McDonald's Beef Questions and Answers

EAT, family meals By December 28, 2011 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , 2 Comments

As many of our readers know, our publisher was chosen as a McDonald’s All-Access Mom, to see behind the scenes at McDonald’s Canada.  Yes, the experience included meeting and moo-ing at a bunch of cows, as well as a potato farm, chicken plant, restaurant visit, Hamburger University and head office.  As part of a promise to answer all of our readers’ questions, we’re publishing a Q and A for each trip.  Here’s the beef.  (More beef jokes in the main article on the trip).

Q. Do they use hormones in what the cattle are fed?

A.  Some farmers decide to use hormonal growth proponents and this is a business decision.  For the farmers, there are costs associated with the hormones, and they must weigh the cost/benefit for their business.

Q.  What are hormonal growth promotants?

A.  Hormonal growth promotants are in the form of naturally occurring sex hormones which are administered to animals in order to improve an animal’s ability to use nutrients efficiently.  Health Canada has approved three natural hormones and three synthetically produced hormones for use in cattle in Canada.

Q.  What benefit is there to using hormones?

A.  When these are used, the animal uses its feed much more efficiently.  This means that the meat will contain more lean meat and less fat in the end.  There can be more growth using less feed, resulting in less expensive beef for the consumer.

Q.  How does the Canadian Government monitor the use of growth hormones?

A.  In addition to the strict requirements which must be met in order to obtain approval to sell, and to use, growth promoting hormones in Canada, Canada’s national food safety agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), conducts regular monitoring programs in which thousands of samples of all meat products are analyzed to ensure that any drug residues which remain in meat are well within lawful, and safe, limits. Results of these monitoring programs are published regularly by the CFIA. Since residue levels of the natural hormones in beef are in the same range in both treated and untreated animals, Canadian regulatory authorities have concluded that it is not necessary to establish so-called safe limits of the natural hormones.  CFIA monitors for residues of the synthetic hormones and Canadian regulations do not permit residues of any of the synthetic hormones to be present in meat. And year after year, Canadian beef has been in virtually 100 per cent compliance, that is, there are no residues in the beef.

Q.  What about bacteria, Mad Cow Disease (BSE) and E. coli?

A.  BSE control and testing happens both on the farm (sick-looking animals are isolated and tested) as well as at McDonald’s-approved primary meat processing (ie. slaughterhouse) suppliers.  Canada does 40 times more than the global standard in terms of BSE prevention. Now, feed bans exist where the food chain is even more protected from contamination.  Recent cases of BSE existed in older animals that were alive prior to the feed ban. In the last 3 years, there have been more than 100,000 animals tested with only 3 positives.

Beef is tested for E. coli 0157:H7 before it arrives at the facility.  Any beef that tests positive for E. coli 0157:H7 never goes back into the McDonald’s food chain. In addition, the Cargill facility tests the incoming beef again for 0157:H7 as well as other types of bacteria according to the McDonald’s food safety standards.  Quality checks and tests are also done on the finished patties. Test results on every batch of patties are seen prior to any box being released via the distribution networks.

Q.  How do you make sure employees don’t lose their temper with animals at all stages of the process?

A.  The CFIA has a Code of Practice related to animal welfare.  In addition, there is a certified livestock transport program created by the Alberta Farm association to ensure humane treatment of animals.  At the primary processing facilities, everyone who works there all go through animal welfare training. There is 3rd party video monitoring at all primary processing facilities.  This technology can detect sharp movements and employees are always held accountable.  If any facility ever fails an audit, McDonald’s may disapprove them as a supplier of beef.

Q.  Is meat washed with ammonia?

A.  No.  Ammonia is only present within the refrigeration system to cool down the meat and never comes into contact with the meat itself.  The refrigeration system used to run on Freon and it is now run on ammonia.

For our publisher’s full article on McDonald’s beef, please see the All-Access Microsite.

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