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)

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

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

Danny Fulton receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 27. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
All adults in Rutland, Summerland now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Province expands age range to 18+ for vaccinations in ‘high transmission’ areas

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Penticton RCMP search for 2 suspicious men

Police searching the area of Arawana Forest Service Road

Penticton Lions are hoping to send kids and adults with disabilities to Camp Winfield through a 50/50 raffle draw on now. (Submitted)
Penticton’s Lion’s Club helps to send kids to Camp Winfield

Online 50/50 raffle tickets will send kids and adults with disabilities to Camp Winfield

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
UPDATE: Winfield road open following police, coroner investigation

Pelmewash Parkway closure near Highway 97 connection

Kelowna resident Sally Wallick helped rescue a kayaker in distress a week and a half ago. (Sally Wallick/Contributed)
VIDEO: Kelowna woman rescues capsized kayaker in Okanagan Lake

Sally Wallick is asking people to be prepared for the cold water and unpredictable winds

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

RCMP (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
High-risk takedown on Highway 1 following Shuswap shooting

Upon further investigation, the vehicle and its occupants were not associated with the shooting

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health, hosts an update on efforts to contain B.C.’s COVID-19 transmission in Surrey and the Fraser Valley and protect hospitals in the Lower Mainland, May 6, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate slowing, 20 more people die

Deaths include two people in their 40s, two in their 50s

Most Read