A West Kootenay meat processor is pushing for changes to regulations to allow more farm slaughter of animals in the Slocan Valley.
Kyle Wiebe, the president of BC Meatworks, wants farmers in the valley to have the same ability to slaughter animals on their property as was recently granted to farmers in Area D of the Regional District of Central Kootenay.
He says allowing small farms to slaughter more animals on their property would help build food security in the region.
“While I celebrate Area D and director Aimee Watson’s successful bid to restore the ability for farmers to sell their product, the few regions that were added to the Class D designated area in B.C. will have little profound effect on regional food security,” says Wiebe.
“After all the time and money that’s been spent studying and boasting about how important local food systems are, by every level of government, I would have expected a province-wide solution.”
The province allows farms in areas distant from slaughtering facilities to butcher and sell their own meat, after going through a licencing process. In a recent decision, the province designated farms in RDCK Area D – rural Kaslo and the Lardeau Valley – to be eligible to apply for Class D licences.
There are two common meat processing options for small farms operations in BC. They can apply for a Class E licence — allowing them to slaughter up to 10 “animal units” — or a Class D licence, which allows up to 25 ‘units’ a year. A unit is 1,000 pounds of live animal.
“Making this region (and others) eligible for Class D licencing would increase local meat capacity by 500 per cent mathematically, and perhaps more in effect, due to increased viability for business prospects,” argues Wiebe. “Additionally, many permaculture farms would benefit from an increased local supply of compost for fruit and veg production.”
That’s not the only benefit, he adds.
“Meat processed in a Class D facility may also be sold to local food service and retailers for re-sale, a significant benefit over Class E.”
Wiebe has skin in the game, so to speak. His operation used to have a Class A licence, but he let that go when he was blocked from moving to the Beasley area outside Nelson and setting up a processing operation there in 2018. He now has plans to move to Slocan Park and set up a much smaller Class D operation.
But he says he’s pushing for wider loosening of the restrictions to help everyone.
“I think the Class E belongs everywhere, because it’s the stepping stone in food systems,” he says. “To go from Class E, which is 10 animal units, to Class A which is a half-million dollar investment, and to try that with no market testing, no organic growth… to make that leap is very difficult.
“There needs to be something in the middle and there’s currently nothing.”
Wiebe says allowing Class D or E licencing in a wider swath of the province would also acknowledge and regulate an activity that is already taking place. But one roadblock, he says, is that farmers slaughtering illegally now are reluctant to come forward and lobby for change.
“The constituents who are nervous about local meat production are more vocal than those who are currently running the underground system. And I don’t blame them for it,” he says.
“Those running the underground system are doing 25 animals, it is happening regardless, it’s whether they want to vocalize their support for getting a Class D licence.”
Wiebe is calling on local farmers to contact the RDCK director for the Slocan, Walter Popoff, as well as the provincial agriculture ministry to lobby for the Slocan Valley to be included in the new regulations.
He thinks a decision on this should be made in favour of farmers.
“Canadians in general have largely neglected the issue of regional food security, and despite much chatter to the contrary in the Kootenays, we still have little to boast of for a food or agricultural industry,” he says. “Recently, COVID-19 has revealed that our supply chains are very vulnerable to global forces.
“For the provincial government to restrict farm-gate processing of any food at this time smacks of tone-deaf policy making.”
— From the Valley Voice