by SUSAN MANN
Manitoulin Island farmer Glenn Black wants the government to change its rules requiring all poultry meat sold in the province to be processed in a licensed abattoir.
He’s proposing Ontario develop a system where farmers could use a “full disclosure” form between consenting adults for the sale of non-provincially inspected poultry meats from the farm gate. The form would outline how the birds were raised, fed, watered along with the farm’s biosecurity practices, and how the birds were slaughtered, inspected by the farmer or under his or her direct supervision before and after slaughter and how the carcasses were treated. Both sellers and buyers would sign it and it would outline a number of other items, such as the poultry the customer bought is for his or her own person use for consumption by people living in their personal residence.
Black, a former professional engineer and management consultant who spent 35 years in industry, says he began farming last year and raised 30 meat chickens. He slaughtered them himself on his Providence Bay-area farm and he and his wife are eating them. But what he’d really like to do is provide his community with locally raised, safe, affordable poultry meat.
The closest abattoir licensed for custom killing is located near Sudbury. Processing birds there makes the product unaffordable for people in his area, double or triple the $3 a pound that he would like to charge.
“Who would buy a $6 a pound chicken when it is available in the grocery stores for less than $2.50 a pound?” he asks in a Jan. 6 letter to Agriculture Minister Ted McMeekin.
So far, the agriculture ministry has turned him down.
Susan Murray, agriculture ministry spokesperson, says by email chickens sold or distributed to consumers must be slaughtered at a federally registered or provincially licensed meat plant. “Food safety is the priority and we won’t apologize for the strict standards that ensure meat products from Ontario are as safe as possible. Because of this the government is not considering changing the regulation to allow uninspected meat to be sold in the marketplace.”
So did Chicken Farmers of Ontario when Black requested the organization’s help.
Michael Edmonds, CFO communications and government relations director, says by email CFO requires all growers to comply with all government regulations including food safety rules set under the Ontario Food Safety and Quality Act. “There are absolutely no exemptions to this requirement.”
There is one private provincially-licensed poultry processing facility on Manitoulin Island and a kill and chill plant for cattle hogs, domestic deer and bison is currently being developed. Black wrote to both operations in May requesting if they would consider doing custom poultry processing for area farmers and is waiting for responses.
Black isn’t giving up. He has asked ministry to provide him with “the hard science” behind Justice Roland J. Haines’s recommendations in his 2004 report on Ontario’s meat inspection and regulatory system for universal safety standards for all meats and all abattoirs and the banning of all on-farm poultry processing. In a Feb. 20 letter to the minister, Black asks if there is a detailed risk assessment that demonstrates if this is necessary. He asked for this again in a May 22 letter to a ministry official.
The province needs to recognize there are some special cases. “It’s not my fault there’s no abattoir for poultry within an economic radius of my farm,” he says.
Murray says the ministry responded to Black’s questions and provided many sources of scientific literature that he can review “to better understand the principles behind the provincial regulation.”
The ministry knows there are some parts of the province that don’t have slaughter and meat processing facilities and “we know these businesses are important to the rural community,” she says, noting they’re happy to work with individuals or businesses wishing to establish a slaughter or meat processing operation. BF