For years, small-scale meat producers in Alberta have been calling for scale-appropriate regulations that improved access to slaughter and processing. On July 29, 2020, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen announced big changes to the Meat Inspection Regulation including a new license allowing farmers to slaughter animals and process meat on-site.
This Uninspected Slaughter Operation License will enable a livestock farmer to sell a live animal to a customer and the customer can have the animal slaughtered on the farm. The meat from the animal will be uninspected and for the consumption of the customer and the customer’s household only. The meat can not be sold for further distribution. Licenses are $100 and valid for 5 years. Initial limits will apply to consumers of 6 cattle, 6 pigs, 6 goats/sheep, and 150 poultry per year.
Individual cuts or portions of a carcass sold to individuals, wholesale, retail or restaurants within Alberta will still need to be processed in a provincially inspected abattoir. Meat must be federally inspected if it is crossing provincial borders.
Check out the Frequently Asked Questions about these changes.
Apply for the Uninspected Slaughter Operation license.
How does this benefit new entrants in farming?
Many new livestock farmers start out with small herds and flocks and grow from there. As they build their business, they often report that accessing abattoirs can be a challenge and this regulation offers more options in making decisions about what will work best for their situation.
Distance, especially with poultry processing, has been an issue. A young farmer said, “This is our first year growing 150 broiler chickens. The only poultry processor is five and a half hours away. Once you account for the cost of the processing, the travel and extra logistics, your profits are quickly eaten up, especially at this small scale. This can be a turn off in the first year. Now, we can work with a friend in our community who is trained as a butcher and can mentor us in how to process chickens and we can keep that profit for ourselves.”
Backlogs are are also and issue. COVID quickly overwhelmed provincial abattoirs as consumers turned to local farmers to fill their freezers. Many abattoirs have months long waiting lists. This change to the regulation provides another option for direct marketers to bring in a mobile butcher or do it themselves.
Diversification is something that new farmers pursue in order to offer more products to their customer and grow their bottom line. This regulation supports getting into niche markets like ducks or geese, which no processors took previously.
Many new farmers also acknowledge the benefits to animal welfare in on-farm slaughter. Dana Blume of Redtail Farms said, “Closing the circle, and having our animals killed and processed on the farm is a dream come true. We put so much love into raising our animals, to be able to end their life on the grass amongst the open skies, we are giving them gratitude for all they are giving us.” By not having the stress from transportation, done properly, “field harvesting” is humane for the animal it also eliminates meat quality problems. This is especially important for grass-fed and pasture-raised meat.
Additionally, given the economics of agriculture, new farmers need good off-farm jobs that pair well with farming to help them bootstrap their farm business. While not everyone will take it up, becoming a mobile butcher is a great opportunity for a new farmer and we have a great meat cutting program in Olds College to teach people just that!
We look forward to seeing how new farmers use this new opportunity on their farms and the impact it has on farm businesses and on local food markets.
Hear from Blake Hall, first generation farmer, and Valentine Iten, local butcher in this CBC article: Alberta small-scale meat producers welcome regulatory changes
Photo Credits: Kevin Kossowan