By Andru McCracken
The provincial government has deemed the Robson Valley eligible for an on-farm slaughter license termed a ‘class D’ and it means farmers can slaughter up to 25 cows on their property and sell the meat at farmers markets, restaurants and grocery stores within the region.
The introduction of a class E license has already spurred significant local activity, but the class D will more than double farmers’ capacity.
It’s part of what Agriculture Minister Lana Popham hopes is a wave of rule changes that support a robust local food supply.
Popham said that many farmers were left behind during big changes in food safety regulations ten years ago.
“When the meat regulations changed in 2007 or 2008 smaller producers started to disappear. They couldn’t get access to larger slaughter facilities. The lens was around food safety,” she said.
“These new rules are not unsafe, they are just a different way of doing things.”
She said the new rules make it easier to get meat from the farm to your table, for you to know your farmers and for farmers to grow.
“There is so much of a multiplier effect that comes from supporting businesses like this,” she said. “There is cut and wrap, farmers markets, restaurants, paper supplies.”
“It’s not just a cow that got slaughtered, it is much bigger than that. You see consumers wanting to take advantage of local agriculture, given a chance, agriculture will grow because the population is growing,” she said.
Popham said that there isn’t usually a lot of public appetite or even awareness about meat regulation, but a perceived food crisis due to COVID-19 has given farmers the spotlight.
“It’s the moment to take advantage of it,” she said.
Butterkup Farms is taking advantage of it. Melanie Guttner heard about the regulation change on Friday and by Monday had set up meetings to qualify for the license.
It will not only increase the amount of beef Butterkup Farms can sell to her existing clients, but she can also sell to restaurants and retailers.
“It more than doubled our capacity for slaughter,” said Guttner.
Her animals are raised on a farm free of herbicides and pesticides, without added hormones or antibiotics and they are humanely raised. Local butcher Mark Roth butchers the animals on farm.
While prices in the grocery store continue to climb, Guttner said she’s not raising her prices.
“Especially with COVID we are not raising any of our prices, we are waiting for next year,” she said.
Guttner may slaughter some of her animals earlier than expected, at just 20 or 24 months.
She wants to put a good product in front of new customers.
“The valley just needed a bit of a boost and the Ministry of Agriculture is helping keep everything local,” she said.
“The farmers should get their fair share of the finances. We’re not willing to let someone tell us what we’re worth,” she said.
She believes the impact will be far reaching.
“Every farmer or rancher will do the same. If you don’t need the middle man… if you can get higher quality cheaper meat, you should. Give us the money, we’re the ones taking all the risk,” she said.
Danielle Alan, Regional District Director for the Robson Canoe Valley, has been part of the push for the new license.
“This will give our farmers more flexibility to slaughter on farm and sell to local restaurants, grocery stores etc.” she said.
“This could mean that we see locally raised meat in our grocery stores and on restaurant tables without the farmers having to subject their animals to the stress of transporting them three hours to an abattoir.”