New meat regs may end small farmers' way of life.
By Heather Ramsay - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
There is a woman in Skidegate who has been buying a side of beef from Richardson Ranch on Haida Gwaii since 1955. The steaks and roasts she's been eating all these years come from animals raised on meandering grasslands by the sea; a 20 minute drive up the coast.
The family she buys from has been operating Richardson's Ranch since the early part of the 20th century - five generations of friendly transactions between farmer and customer.
But Don Richardson, great-great-grandson of the Richardsons who settled on these islands in 1919, is worried about new provincial meat inspection regulations, which may make it difficult for him and other small farm operators to sell meat to friends and neighbours.
The regulations seek to introduce a province-wide standard for meat sold to the public. Not only will animals have to be inspected pre and post-mortem, but they must be slaughtered in an inspected plant too. This new meat inspection regulation is part of the Food Safety Act and was adopted in 2004.
'We will continue to slaughter'
Vincent raises rare breeds of livestock including Irish Dexter cattle, Shetland sheep and Buff Orpington hens. Ironically, he says, people who eat his animals are also contributing to the preservation of these unique strains of animals, an effort that would be lost if his farm can't continue.
If the new rules force him out of business, he is incensed by the thought of people in his area left with no other option than buying "rubbish from factory-farmers who don't care about their products."
"We will continue to slaughter. We have to. I don't mean to sound defiant," says Richardson, whose island-based ranch is a six-hour ferry ride away from the mainland.
Right now, he has two older cows. One has arthritis and he says he can't send her on the ferry. Not only does it cost him $1,000 each way to put his trailer on, but it is a stressful journey. Depending on the weather, the ferry can be delayed more than 24 hours, after its been loaded. He prefers to deal with the life of his cow himself.
The part that really gets to Richardson is if he slaughters the animals for his own use, he is within the law. The minute he sells meat to his neighbour, he is a criminal.
Richardson understands the regulation. It is designed to protect the consumer in a faceless system. Once a steer is shipped, he says, it is handled so many times before it's in the supermarket, there is next to no connection to the farmer.
But since he doesn't sell beef to anyone he doesn't know, he says it is a matter of philosophy.
"It comes down to a question of whether the government should be involved in a contract between you and me," he says.
"I don't want to export beef, or have it at the local meat counter or in local restaurants. I'll sell it directly to you and if you don't like it, you'll bring it back to me."
Read complete article here.