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

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

Avoid giving dogs ice cubes, says Greater Victoria vet

Tips for keeping dogs cool and safe this summer

Hungry Hearts Gala goes virtual with new mac and cheese competition

Results will be announced on Facebook live stream event

GVPL staggers reopening of three more branches in Oak Bay, Saanich and Victoria

More Greater Victoria Library branches to reopen in August

Gaps in the system: Youth cope with homelessness in Greater Victoria

Four-part series will look at youth homelessness in the region

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Missing teen visiting Courtenay found safe

She had last been seen going for a walk on Aug. 6

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Fitness non-profit challenges citizens to invent a game to be physically active

The campaign was launched after a study showed only 4.8 per cent of children and youths in Canada met required standards of the 24-hour movement guidelines

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

Vancouver Island team takes on wacky challenges of world’s largest scavenger hunt

Greatest International Scavenger Hunt taking place Aug. 1-8

Most Read