In his weekly column, David Zirnhelt shares the news that Rodear Meats in Beaver Valley has re-opened as he discusses rules for abattoirs in B.C. Photo submitted

OPINION: Local abattoir re-start a great fit for industry

Rodear Meats Abattoir and meat processing facility back in business


Special to the Tribune

Recently a local business re-opened up for custom slaughter and cutting wrapping: the Rodear Meats Abattoir and meat processing facility.

I know there are many people who don’t know what an abattoir is so just to be clear, it is a place where animals are slaughtered for customers.

An abattoir may be associated with a plant for further processing: hamburger grinding, cut and wrapping of butchered cuts, making jerky, sausage or other processed meats. A commercial freezer might be part of the operation.

Rodear Meats is all of these.

Food safety rules and regulations can be fatally onerous for small and medium size operators, creating instability.

The ham-fisted approach by the previous government in regulating the slaughtering of animals on farms was meant to require that all meat sold to retail customers be inspected in a proper facility.

Outrage by people wanting to sell to local customers forced government to back off the requirement that all slaughter for sale be done in a government-inspected facility.

When that happened, many of the abattoirs which had upgraded for the new tighter regulations were left without sufficient business to pay for the investments.

Complicating this regulatory nightmare was the challenge of getting staff to work for the wages the plants could afford. This led to temporary foreign workers coming in for peak seasons.

Most of the slaughter is in the fall, the same time as hunters bring in game and the 4H (youth farmer program) sales take place.

Many people who were in the business of selling directly to customers had to go out of business or had to truck to Kamloops or Prince George. This can add $100 more per animal over having the work done locally.

“Yay!” I say. We can make up to $500 more per animal for the trouble of trucking to an abattoir, picking it up and delivering it to customers. The more animals we do at a time the more we can spread the costs out and either the price is better for the customer or we can have a greater return for efforts.

It might cost half of that $500 in time, travel and other marketing costs.

If we collectively are going to supply the local (and lower mainland ) markets then we have to be able to efficiently get the animals processed and delivered. This is not easy.

We have a poorly developed infrastructure for this business of supplying meat to customers. Transportation, and storage of inventory are two additional challenges to the proper raising and finishing of animals.

But local abattoirs are critical for most of us. We don’t have truckloads ready to ship to the lower mainland at once. The closer the better is the rule for humane transport. Stress for the harvested animals needs to be minimized to ensure tenderness and taste.

Just a reminder: Findlay Meats in 100 Mile is not going to slaughter after January 2018. No one has picked up that government-owned mobile killing plant. Another chicken plant is in storage or has been sold out of the area.

Pasture to Plate at Redstone is a wonderful new facility. They have their own vertically integrated business. Their ranch production of beef, lamb, pigs and poultry go through their own state-of-the-art abattoir, loaded on their truck and sent to their commercial meat outlets in Vancouver.

Spokin Lake Meats remains closed. Neither Quesnel nor 100 Mile were able to make the business case for an abattoir business.

Good for Dave Fernie for being able to start up again. He is located in Beaver Valley out past Big Lake. Dave is well regarded for his knowledge of meat processing and has been teaching students in the business.

David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake in January of 2016.

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