by Mona Mattei on Sunday August 22 2010
If all goes according to plan, Grand Forks and area will have a mobile abattoir in 2011. A series of meetings held over the last week by the Grand Forks and Boundary Regional Agricultural Society (GFBRAS) indicated that the abattoir will be supported by the area meat producers despite the changes in regulations introduced by the provincial government in April of this year.
The meetings, held at Community Futures Boundary, hosted Ron Duffel from the Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport, Kathleen Gibson of the B.C. Food Processors Association, and the Meat Transition Assistance Program (MTAP) and Abra Brynne, local field support for the MTAP and included stakeholders from across the Boundary region and regional government representatives.
Duffel was on hand to explain the new categories of licencing for the more rural and remote areas of the province – class D and E. Class D licences are not available in the Boundary as they are restricted to certain designated areas. The class E licence, however, is available to local producers.
“These licences were developed to address areas unlikely to get a facility. We recognized that the licencing that was set up needed to be amended. The process started one-and-a-half years ago with a consultation process that led to the basis of the new amendments. The key issues were to provide access to slaughter, to be able to sell meat, and we wanted to stop the illegal activity,” explained Duffel.
The approach that the ministry took to the new licences, said Duffel, was one of risk management by evaluating contamination points in the slaughter process. Under the new E licence, a meat producer, once approved, can do on farm slaughter to sell at farm gate only if they do a volume of less than 10 animal units or 1000 pounds. The licence process requires a feasibility study, a food safety training course, development of a food safety plan, and a site visit from the environmental health officers.
The introduction of this new licence made GFBRAS question what this would mean to their abattoir project. Would producers suddenly start applying for E licences and lose interest in supporting the society’s proposed mobile abattoir?
“We felt it was important at this stage to find out from the local producers just what the best fit for them is in light of the new regulations,” said GFBRAS President Doug Zorn. “We didn’t want to continue to pursue building an expensive facility if there was no interest in using it. Ultimately, we want to do what is right for our farming community.”
GFBRAS has been leading the project to develop meat slaughtering capacity in the area since 2008 when the province regulations essentially banned on-farm slaughter of animals to sell to the public. The process has been moving forward slowly as the society decided to design a unique mobile abattoir that can process multiple species. They have been working through designs, business planning, and now, as the project is close to completion, funding. With the introduction of the new licence, the abattoir could be faced with no customers.
But stakeholders at the meeting said they still want the convenience and benefits that inspected slaughter provides – including the ability to sell their meat at the new Kettle Valley Food Co-operative or restaurants. And while some smaller farms may choose a class E licence, they could still request the services of the mobile unit without the inspector to do their slaughter.
Duffel also indicated that the ministry would welcome a Boundary area strategic plan for meat producers that would help ministry staff when they are faced with licence applications to make decisions based on the community’s input.
GFBRAS has secured funding from MTAP and the Southern Interior Development Trust for about $200,000 and will start work on the securing the remaining funds needed. Based on the discussions held last week, the design will be modified once again and docking stations identified will be included in the final application for licencing. Anyone interested in more information can contact Doug Zorn at 250-442-3359.