The provincial government recently announced changes to the cumbersome and restrictive regulations surrounding livestock slaughter.
The Small-Scale Meat Producers Association (SSMPA), a non-profit society which represents farmers and ranchers in the province who don’t raise meat animals in a conventional or industrial system, has lobbied the province for several years for more options as it has become almost impossible to have animals legally slaughtered in a timely manner under the current system.
The province, it seems, may have finally heard the pleas of these producers, who are integral to food production and food security in BC.
In a meeting with Ministry of Agriculture staff on March 25, 2021, SSMPA was informed that there are new policies in the works that would increase slaughter options and also remove some marketing limitations.
Previously, provincially inspected abattoirs were broken down into ‘Class A’ and ‘Class B’, but they will now be consolidated into one class and have no processing volume restrictions.
One of the major sticking points for small scale producers has been a lack of access to a Class A or Class B slaughter facility, and the inability for many around the province to be permitted to perform on-farm slaughter.
Under the current system, a Class D licensee was permitted to slaughter up to 25,000lbs (live animal weight) annually for direct sale to consumers or retail sales to restaurants, meat markets, etc. Class D License holders are permitted to slaughter their own and other producers’ livestock.
A Class E licensee is permitted to slaughter up to 10,000lbs (live animal weight) annually for direct sale to consumers, and a Class E license holder may only slaughter their own livestock.
For both Class D and Class E, sales are restricted to the region or electoral district where the meat was produced, and each license is only issued in 13 provincially designated areas, with Class E being considered outside of those areas if slaughter services are not otherwise available to the producer.
If the new regulations come to fruition, the licensing system will be simplified.
An ‘Entry Level’ category will allow for slaughter of up to five animal units, where an animal unit is 1,000lbs, the meat processed through this license may be sold within the operator’s regional district and within a 50km radius of their farm.
A ‘Mid-Range’ category will allow for the slaughter of up to 25 animal units and will be the replacement for current Class E and Class D licenses. This license will not be limited to a designated area but will instead be available to producers anywhere in the province. The meat produced via one of these ‘Mid-Range’ licenses can also be sold anywhere in the province through retail, farmers’ markets, restaurants, etc.
With both of these new categories, operators will be required to complete the new ‘Slaughter Right’ training program, and have an approved food safety plan. There will be an annual premises inspection and additional inspections may be conducted as well, based on the assessed risk. Cut and wrap must still take place at a licensed facility.
These proposed changes still have to be approved by the legislature, which begins its second sitting April 12, at which time the amendments to slaughter regulations will likely be introduced. If approved, the province hopes to implement the changes by autumn of this year so that producers will not be forced to hold their livestock over winter.
“The Small-Scale Meat Producers Association has been working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture since 2018 to build greater stability and growth opportunities for small-scale meat producers in British Columbia,” reads a statement from SSMPA.
“We are happy with the proposed changes and think they will help to alleviate some of the bottlenecks and lost revenue opportunities producers are currently experiencing. We will continue to work with the Ministry and other industry associations to create more opportunities for producers who want to expand beyond the current 25AU limits but not into a full scale inspected abattoir,” the statement continues.
“We believe that it is within this area that the greatest opportunity lies to build a thriving small-scale meat industry that supports farmers and contributes in a significant way to food security in BC by offering well-raised, high-quality meat to BC markets.”
Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald