Direct Farm Manitoba calls for changes to meat regulations

Direct sales of meat have increased, but the capacity to ramp up production isn’t there, producers say

Direct Farm Manitoba is calling on the province to increase capacity for local meat sales in light of recent meat plant closures.

Direct sales of meat like beef and roasting chickens have risen since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Manitoba, said Phil Veldhuis, Direct Farm Manitoba president, but producers have limited ability to capitalize on the demand.

Small chicken producers must limit flocks to under 1,000 birds because chicken is supply managed.

Direct Farm Manitoba has asked the province to increase small-flock quota restrictions to 5,000 birds to supply this summer’s demand, according to a letter sent to Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development and to Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living.

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The letter also asks that the “specialty chicken production quota” be mobilized for farmers who want to scale up past 5,000 chickens. This program focuses on smaller or specialized markets that aren’t being supplied by registered chicken producers, according to the Manitoba Chicken Producers website.

Direct meat sales will also be limited by abattoir capacity, the letter continues. It sets out further recommendations “only if necessary.”

These include “the sale of on-farm processed poultry be permitted at sites off farm with reasonable restrictions to ensure food safety and traceability,” and to “begin planning now for some restricted form of on-farm processing of pork, beef and bison in the event of further restrictions to the large-scale processors.”

“This is a model being considered by other jurisdictions such as B.C.,” the letter says.

According to an April 1 report from CBC, some farmers in B.C. are asking the provincial government for fast licences to allow them to slaughter their own animals at home.

The demand for local meat has increased in B.C. during the pandemic, the report says, and more customers want to know where their meat is coming from.

The Alberni Farmers’ Institute on Vancouver Island requested the province automatically issue its region Class D and Class E slaughtering licences, the CBC article says.

The Class D licence allows for the slaughter (not cut and wrap) of the owner’s or others’ animals for retail or direct sales within the regional district where the meat is produced, according to the B.C. government website. Slaughter is limited to 25 ‘animal units’ (one animal unit is 1,000 pounds).

A Class E licence allows for the slaughter of the owner’s animals for direct-to-consumer sales within the regional district where the meat is produced. This is limited to 10 animal units.

Both licences are subject to “periodic site assessments and audit of operational slaughter records,” the website says.

Both licences are intended to support local food production in areas with low population density, low animal production levels, and where it is difficult to access abattoirs.

In Manitoba, meat must be processed, cut and packaged in a provincially or federally inspected facility, according to the province’s Meat Hawker Guidelines.

Regulations under the Public Health Act state that slaughterhouses are inspected under the Canada-Manitoba Inspection Agreement or by a health officer using the inspection procedures in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Meat Hygiene Manual of Procedures.

These include regulations for the humane transportation and handling of animals, and inspection of the animal before and after slaughter for defects that might make the meat unsafe to eat.

Inspectors also ensure that the animal and meat are processed and stored in a safe and hygienic fashion.

About the author

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Geralyn Wichers

Geralyn Wichers grew up on a hobby farm near Anola, Manitoba, where her family raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Geralyn graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in 2019 and was previously a reporter for The Carillon in Steinbach. Geralyn is also a published author of science fiction and fantasy novels.

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