By Charlotte Tarver–For 87 years, the Richardson Ranch in Tlell has raised and sold hormone-free, grass-fed prime beef. But next fall, it will no longer be able to sell meat due to a new provincial law.
In September 2007, all meat sold in BC must be inspected before and after slaughtering by provincial or federal inspectors and must be killed in a licensed slaughterhouse.
“The nearest registered inspection facilities to the Islands are in Dawson Creek and Williams Lake,” veterinarian and rancher Dr. Don Richardson told the Observer. “This law will be the end to people going directly to a farmer to buy meat.”
He worries that other islanders who raise a few pigs, chickens, rabbits, or other animals for meat sales may not understand that the new law applies to them. “The new rules are all encompassing, there is no middle ground, if you are going to sell two chickens as meat, then you have to have an inspection and kill it in a licensed slaughterhouse,” he said. The law will not prevent people from selling an animal they raised for meat – however, it must be delivered live to the consumer.
“People across the northwest who raise a few pigs, chicken, rabbits, geese, or cattle and sell the meat will go out of business or will go underground,” he predicts.
Before September 2004, meat inspections were only required in the Greater Vancouver Regional District, in Dawson Creek and Williams Lake. The new law extended the meat inspection requirement province-wide and was to have come into effect in September 2006. However, only a few new slaughterhouses were built despite the $10-million in incentives offered, so the province extended the deadline to September 2007.
As a veterinarian, Dr. Richardson understands the need for inspections. “The industry needs to have meat inspections, consumers have to trust it is safe,” he said. “There’s always been federal inspection plants for commodity meat in BC but farm-gate sales were not included,” he said.
Commodity? Farm gate? It’s the difference between big producers using slaughterhouses processing 8 – 10,000 animals per week that sell packaged at the meat counter, versus small-scale farms that raise animals and sells directly to the consumer.
According to Dr. Richardson, the new law will stop farm-gate sales in the northwestern. Even though there may be a registered slaughterhouse in Terrace or Vanderhoof by next year, no local farmer is going to take a few animals there for slaughtering and butchering and bring the meat back here to sell.
Few small-scale producers are able to upgrade their facilities as it’s too expensive and they can’t afford to take their live animals for inspections both before and after slaughtering. “The province offered me a grant to help pay for the upgrades….but why would I spend $75,000 to upgrade when I will never get that money back in the sales I make?” Dr. Richardson said.
Since 1919, the Richardson Ranch has slaughtered and sold meat to friends and neighbours, but come next fall, it will only kill and butcher animals for their own family’s consumption.
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