In the South Cariboo region of B.C. a group of local cattlemen, sheep breeders, hog and bison operators are looking to revive their industry by building a co-operative, government licensed red meat abattoir.
Howie McMillan, a member of the co-op steering committee, told Food in Canada that when the federal government introduced stricter inspection and regulatory requirements around slaughtering in 2007, many of the smaller abattoirs were left in a bind.
No abattoir services
In the South Cariboo region, local manufacturer Findlay Meats, who the ranchers relied on for custom slaughter and cut-and-wrap services, was no longer able to provide those services.
In fact, many abattoirs in B.C., explains McMillan, “didn’t have the resources to meet the higher requirements for government licensing.”
For many of those ranchers, such as those in the South Cariboo region, selling to consumers, which is a portion of their overall farm or ranching operations, was lost.
In response, the province created the Meat Transition Assistance Program (MTAP) to assist small-scale abattoirs to make the necessary upgrades and capital investments.
In the South Cariboo, McMillan, local ranchers and the owners of Findlay Meats started working on their idea for a co-operative abattoir about a year ago and tapped into MTAP for help.
Through MTAP the group received funding for a feasibility study and just recently received $150,000 in funding toward the project.
While the abattoir is still at the proposal stage, McMillan says they’re looking at an August 2010 opening. The new abattoir is expected to cost approximately $1.1 million. The group will be pursuing funding and/or loans from both provincial and federal agencies and bank financing for the construction component.
The plan is also to expand into a broader range of value-added products like hamburgers, sausages and smoked meats.
For the ranchers, the abattoir could bring a much-needed boost to their industry.
“If you’re at all familiar with the cattle business in Western Canada, profitability has been by and large absent for quite some time,” explains McMillan. “Getting into farm gate sales and/or value-added products like this will help diversify the traditional ranch model that doesn’t appear to be profitable at the moment.”