The Morning Star - 07.13.07
"Rules Create Problems"
There are lots of good reasons to buy locally produced meats.
For one thing, you know where it came from and how it was raised. You know what it was fed, what it wasn't fed, and how it was handled. You are assured that the farmer takes pride in his product and aims to please his customers and maintain his good reputation. Your farmer knows that the best animals are raised naturally and the best meat is produced when animal stress is minimized. It is a mutually beneficial and trusted relationship. This could soon change.
By Sept. 30, new government regulations stipulate that all meat sold must be slaughtered in a federally or provincially licensed abattoir (slaughter house). This is to ensure that meat products meet a high safety standard that reduces the risk for disease outbreaks.
However beneficial these new regulations will be for our health and safety, they are having economic impacts on the smaller producer and facility owners and may reduce or eliminate our choices and capacity as consumers to access local meat and poultry.
It means that a farmer will no longer be able to slaughter on farm and sell the meat or poultry to his neighbour. It means potentially expensive upgrades will be passed along to the unlicensed abattoir operators. There are also new requirements for the removal and disposal of SRM (specified risk material), the parts of cattle that are at risk for transmitting "mad cow disease" from animals over 30 months old.
This waste management comes with an added cost. Many operators are reaching retirement age.
Why go to the trouble to upgrade? With few licensed facilities currently operating, and even fewer that accept meat for custom slaughtering, it will be very difficult or impossible in some areas to meet the demand. And these are just a few of the issues.
There is some government assistance being offered through the B.C. Food Processors Association for facility upgrades and community solutions. Mobile poultry processing units are being considered, and more abattoirs may become licensed. But, in the meantime, many farmers are reconsidering their options and may have to opt out.
If farmers can't make a living, they will stop producing food. Imagine the implications. We will lose their expertise. Our rural areas will take another hit. Hobby farms or developments will inhabit prime food- producing land. Our food security will go out the window and we will increasingly rely on imported, oil dependent, corporate food.
Homework: Find out more about the local meat situation.
Let your thoughts be heard.
For more information about the regulations, go to the B.C. Food Processors Association Web site at www.bcfpa.ca. For more information about food issues, go to the Kootenay Co-op radio Deconstructing Dinner series at http://www.cjly.net/deconstructingdinner/051707.htm.
Wendy Aasen is the food action co-ordinator for the North Okanagan Food Action Coalition via the Social Planning Council.
(Copyright (c) 2007 Black Press Group Ltd.)
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