The provincial government plans to allow consumers to buy animals directly from livestock producers for on-farm slaughter
New provincial rules that allow Albertans to buy live animals directly from local producers for slaughter on farms will help ease a processing bottleneck made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, said a beef producer.
“I think this new regulation creates a great opportunity for farmers,” said Blake Hall of Prairie Gold Pastured Meats near Red Deer. “As consumers become more interested in local food and farmers become more interested in direct marketing their animals, I think that this regulation helps marry those two nicely.”
He spoke at a recent webinar on the new rules hosted by Mountain View County north of Calgary. It was held in partnership with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, along with the Young Agrarians, Grey Wooded Forage Association and Alberta Farm Animal Care.
The new rules are a game changer for the province’s small producers, said Donovan Kitt of The Homestead organic farm near Goodfare, Alta., west of Grande Prairie. He pointed to the 14-hour round trips he used to make three to four times per year to a plant in St. Paul, Alta.
“It’s about 700 kilometres each way, and we would make this trip just so people in the Peace region could get local poultry,” he said.
The facility has since closed, joining other plants in the area that have closed since the 1990s.
The Alberta government introduced amendments to Alberta’s Meat Inspection Regulation in July, which included the new On-Farm Slaughter Operation License.
It is granted to applicants who own, lease or otherwise control the land where the animal will be processed, said Sandy Stafford, regional supervisor of Meat Inspection South, Airdrie, at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
“This licence will enable livestock producers to sell a live animal to a customer, and the customer can have them all slaughtered and processed on the farm,” he told more than 130 participants at the webinar.
Such producers, or anyone they authorize, can slaughter the animal if it is done safely and humanely, said Stafford, adding it must be conducted outside on the licensed plot of land.
“The slaughter process is not permitted to be in a building,” he said. “The meat from the animal is uninspected and is for the consumption of the customer and the customer’s immediate household only — the meat is not for sale or further distribution.”
The licence also allows producers to provide a location for on-farm slaughtering by other people, such as for 4-H, he said.
Each customer is limited to an annual maximum of six large red meat animals, including beef, bison, elk, yak and ostrich. Consumers are also limited to 12 hogs, 12 sheep, 12 goats, and 150 poultry or other small animals, such as rabbits and quail.
Hall said the new rules waive third-party inspection, “and one of the jobs of the meat inspector in the plants is to appraise the animal while it’s on the hoof, and so we’re kind of taking that responsibility on as both producer and as consumer to make sure the animal appears to be in good health.”
Meat from cattle can infect consumers with everything from E. coli to listeria, said Heather Bruce, a professor of carcass and meat science at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences in Edmonton.
She said in an interview that meat inspectors are trained to follow a rigorous, detailed process as they check for infections in everything from the animal’s skin to its lymph nodes, liver, kidneys, intestines and other internal organs.
Besides providing potable water, on-farm slaughter licence holders must ensure carcasses are “kept in a safe and sanitary manner and at a temperature that ensures that meat will be kept free of spoilage and contamination,” said a provincial statement. They must also comply with any county or municipal zoning that restricts slaughter, it said.