The meat rule where brought into law Sept 07 stating that farmers could no longer sell their farm fresh meat products to anyone. They could still butcher for self-consumption. This has brought hardship to most small and large producers dependant on their location to an approved abattoir or a facility willing to upgrade to meet the new regulations. As with most government rules, these ones where under the pretence of making our food system better and safer for the consumer, as well as proving to the world consumers that Canada was making sure all beef was inspected and we where doing all we could do to monitor “mad cow” in our beef. The fact that these rules have put an unreasonable amount of hardship on these farmers has gone unnoticed by our government, even though there have been a large number of farms closed down or who lose a large part of their income, making survival precarious at best. The fact that there was no overall plan from the beginning to deal with the waste generated by the processing of animals, and the refusal of most regional districts to accept the waste, was not addressed before the rules were implemented. This would also create extreme costs in developing a processing plant.
We first started to work on a stationary plant and proposed a 750 thousand dollar project to be located adjacent to our local regional dump (makes too much common sense). Waste would go directly into RDKB site; smell would be no worse than the existing dump. This was our first introduction into NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard). It seems everyone within a five mile radius felt we were going to be erecting a one hundred animal per hour processing plant in their back yard, even though since the implementation of the regulation our producers had reduced slaughtering to a mere one hundred and fifty animals per year.
The plans were changed – we would go with a mobile!!
The prospects of a mobile plant looked great to our society and we started to gather info. One of the problems we identified was the size. Most mobiles where built on a fifty plus frame and had to be moved by a tractor trailer unit due to weight and size. The cost was too much as we were still looking at low processing numbers. Our thought was if it is mobile and has a government inspector working with it we were only going to be able to process for seven hours a day anyway - let’s make it small enough to be able to get to most farms, be pulled by a one ton truck, have UV treatment capabilities for water, and be convenient and affordable. The waste would not be a problem due to the farmer being able to dispose of it on the farm, providing he does not pollute.[/one_half]
The next problem is a unit like this would cost three hundred thousand dollars to build and stock including a truck to haul it to process the current one hundred and fifty animals at an affordable cost to the farmer (no way). The government did however provide funding (at 2004-05 costs) and funds for development and help to comply with rules to a max of 150,000$. This was still not going to be a bank pleaser. So we thought we would make it dual purpose and on other days it would be able to process other farm fresh products like poultry. Back to the drawing board!
The British Columbia Center For Disease Control and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (BCCDC-CFIA) have at best been marginally helpful. The CFIA wanted everything their way including a complete washroom facility at each docking station (complete shower included)!! The BCCDC wants the unit to be able to carry all the water it needs, be completely pest proof (flies) and comply with all rules!! What happened to working together and finding a workable solution that is affordable and convenient??
To be able to make any solution work both parties have to work together and we want to make this happen. Our society has shown that through marketing and by being able to legally process, our consumers are more than willing to support local agriculture. How do we give them the opportunity to do that year round?
With government funding we were able to hire a local consultant and establish a business plan. This Bplan is now complete and it includes a Butcher shop with capabilities for cut and wrap secondary processing of meat products, a local farm fresh outlet, cold storage and a canning facility to enable the consumer to enjoy farm products year round. This facility will be able to market any local products not only to our area but to our region. This will create many opportunities for producers!