Cattle graze on the Chilcotin Plateau. B.C.’s shortage of large and small-scale slaughter and processing faciliities has been a chronic issue for B.C. governments. (Rafter 25 Ranch photo)

B.C. struggles with local food production in COVID-19 pandemic

Farmers need small-scale sales for meat, vegetable, critic says

COVID-19 outbreaks at huge beef processing facilities in Alberta have highlighted a long-standing problem for B.C. farmers and ranchers, the lack of approved slaughter facilities for beef and other livestock on or close to their farms.

In debate on the agriculture ministry’s $77 million operating budget, B.C. Liberal agriculture critic Ian Paton described B.C. farms and ranches with empty fenced areas. He described a lack of small-scale options for meat and vegetable producers, and called for more processing licences and inspections.

“All you need to do is fly over this province and look down at small farms everywhere in B.C., and the livestock are gone,” Paton told the legislature. “They used to be there, but there’s no livestock inside the fences any more. What we’ve shown is that 4,000 head of cattle a day being killed at a plant in Alberta – or two or three plants in Alberta and across Canada – is a little bit susceptible.”

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said there is progress on the horizon on food security and expansion of slaughter capacity in B.C.

“We’ve been working, over the last three years, with the B.C. Cattlemens’ Association to try and figure out a larger way to address larger-scale slaughter in the province,” Popham said. “I’d say we’re getting pretty close to being able to see something new happen. It will offer a larger-scale capacity for beef, red meat slaughter. But it’s also going to give us the capacity to be able to market our own domestic meat within our province as raised and slaughtered here fully.”

RELATED: Ranchers call for input on Indigenous land talks

RELATED: Ottawa to buy surplus from agrifood producers

Paton introduced a private member’s bill this week, calling for an increase in farm-based processing and sales, not just for beef, poultry and other livestock but vegetables as well.

“If you’re a farmer, you can grow all of the Brussels sprouts and potatoes and whatever in the world, but if you don’t have a processing plant nearby to sell that product to, nobody is going to grow it,” Paton said. “The same with beef and poultry. If you don’t have an abattoir or butcher nearby, why would you bother getting into the production of some beef cattle or chickens or turkeys or hogs or whatever? So we need to get more licences out in B.C.”

Popham was also asked about progress in getting B.C. food onto the menus of hospitals in the province, which she pushed for as critic and has worked on for three years as minister with a program called Feed B.C.

Popham said work began with Interior Health, starting with an expanded greenhouse operation to supply Penticton Regional Hospital. The hospital has also switched to B.C. eggs.

All of the other B.C. health authorities are getting ready to join the Feed B.C. program, and announcements are coming soon, Popham said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Horgan’s election call ‘nakedly opportunistic,’ political scientist says

Premier says campaign will ‘fully comply’ with public health directions

Dozens of Canadian venues to light up red in support of entertainment workers

Local facilities among dozens across Canada to participate in Light Up Live

Canada West Golf Championships cancelled due to COVID-19 travel restrictions

UBC, UBC-O, UFV and UVic athletes will not hit the links this year, Kelowna was set to host

PHOTOS: Inside Surrey’s new in-rink private school, which isn’t all about hockey

Glarea Elevated Learning school has opened at Excellent Ice

CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Sept. 20

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Vancouver Island sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Oak Bay man was attempting to circumnavigate the world solo

Majority needed to pass COVID-19 budget, B.C. premier says

John Horgan pushes urgent care centres in first campaign stop

Most Read