Local slaughterhouse an open door for new business

There is change in the local food production industry.

Together with the Beyond the Market project from Community Futures, the new McBride slaughterhouse is another way local producers are getting a leg up in a tough industry – through local markets.

It seems like the local industry would always be the first. Its proximity means shorter distance for hauling. But strict meat inspection regulations brought about by fear of disease outbreak and contamination has put a clamp on meat sales in recent years.

It means local people have to take things into their own hands, as Mike Monroe has done.

The problem for some is that a local slaughterhouse and farm gate permits are mutually exclusive. It’s one or the other. Either you got a slaughterhouse nearby or you don’t. The BC Cattlemen’s Association says part of the regulations are to protect slaughterhouses – how will these continue to operate if farmers can simply butcher themselves and sell their meat to anyone they please?

Most people in rural areas scoff at the idea these regulations are really due to health concerns. After all, the only recent meat concerns in Canada that caused illness and death came from an industrial processing plant – not farmer Kate and Joe.

But regulations are regulations. Rural people need to find cunning ways to keep business going without giving up or going underground.

Now, the new slaughterhouse means farmers can advertise their local brand anywhere they want, more affordably than since the stricter regulations came into place. This is a marketing opportunity for the entire Valley.

Community Futures launched a website last month to help shoppers find food producers in their area using a searchable database of farms and food retailers from Terrace to Valemount. About 80 producers are already listed at www.beyondthemarket.ca, and more are invited to join.

The idea is to strengthen the food distribution network, encourage commercial consumers to purchase local foods and increase value-adding services like shared greenhouses and a cold storage facility.

While growing numbers of individuals across the north are eager to purchase fresh food products directly from local farms and farmers markets, the vast majority of food we eat still comes from supermarkets, restaurants, and other sources that tend not to purchase from local growers. Seasonal availability, small-scale production and dispersed supply, and a lack food of distributors, packagers and processors in the north pose barriers to a smooth transition from farmer to dinner plate.

Like many people, I try to buy food locally. I hope these initiatives will inspire local food producers to expand and new young people to take up organic local farming to strengthen not just food but community.

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