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BCAC adopts Meat Inspection as a priority issue for 2010

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It's time.

The Meat Inspection Regulation and Food Safety Act was introduced in 2004, based on a political objective to provide a consistent approach to public health protection in relation to livestock slaughter. At issue was the lack of a "uniform meat inspection system" and concerns about the need to respond quickly to emerging diseases, track and trace diseased animals and address animal welfare concerns.

It's going on 6 years later. What are the results?

My bet is that they will have to be contrived, if demanded. Here's why:
In the first place, it is doubtful that there is baseline data in BC to show that the systems in place at the time were really problematic. What was the emerging disease trend? What were the tracing issues? What animal welfare concerns were there on file that suggested the need for this regulatory approach? They were never brought out at any public discussions I attended. There was only speculation.

As with any outcome based program, such as this one was described to be, can it be said that the outcome has justified the cost, the negative affect it has had on those local abattoir and butcher shop facilities it forced into extinction, the many producers who went out of business for lack of processor, and the many consumers it angered?

Let's see a comparative analysis that shows the whole exercise was worth it, and continues to be worth it.

More than that, I want to see the legal justification, if there is any, for what seems to amount to protectionist policies that have been afforded those processors who both used transition funds and put forward their own investments to meet the new standards. It's one thing to help stimulate enterprise development using public funds. It's quite another to essentially turn it into an investment-protecting franchise, using public funds.

Another thing.

In the 2006 Meat Transition Assistance Program Strategy put forward by the BC Food Processors Association, a strategy which helped gain it substantial funding from the Investment Agriculture Foundation, it began by paraphrasing the objective of the legislation saying "Under the regulation, all BC Slaughter facilities providing meat for sale will have to comply with standards for their physical plant, and will be subject to pre- and post-slaughter meat inspection".

The term "subject to" has evolved to mean requiring the physical presence of a meat inspector to oversee the slaughter of each and every critter. Even chickens. This, when I am seeing, for instance, a demand by the USDA of the CFIA to up the presence of Canadian inspectors looking at meat destined for US markets from something like once every 14 hours to slightly more frequently. This is, of course, in major processing plants where problems actually do arise.

One last thing.

One of the concerns outlined in the program strategy was about regions where no licensing applied. It's perhaps a minor point, but someone needs to point out just exactly where in BC it was that no licensing applied. According to one chart I saw, there were no less than 27 offices and agencies, from local to provincial to federal, from taxation to health to land-use that held some authority or another over slaughter facilities, province-wide.

I know that in the case of the two local abbatoirs I used, one for lamb, one for chickens, both were subject to facility inspection, and did get inspected from time to time. In addition, I was able to ask for an inspector to look at my carcasses anytime I liked. But that wasn't good enough, and so these local, family run abattoirs went out of business.

It's time for a serious look at whether the logic that first went into the establishment of the legislation was valid and now remains so. If it isn't, or if there are some other approaches that are less destructive of the local producer and less costly to the system overall, lets look at them.

Let's hope this BCAC priority will lead to that sort of discussion.
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Comments

  1. Firhill -
    Firhill's Avatar
    Good to hear that BC Ag Council will address this issue. The effect of the new regulations has been variable around the province, but I want to know one more thing. What about the 2012 date for inspection cost? Until then, the province is paying for inspection costs. After 2012, what is to happen?
  2. Andy -
    Andy's Avatar
    One of the many recommendations in the Ranching Task Force report was that "Government continue to pay meat inspection fees beyond 2012." The government response to the report is expected soon, so it will be interesting to see if that recommendation will be supported.