A local poultry farm and processor has come to rely on federal inspectors from the Canadian Food Inspection (CFI) agency for guidance and high standards of quality only to hear the inspectors will be nixed within the next two years. Though the province claims it is still in consultation with farmers and processors, it looks as though inspectors will possibly be replaced with a self-inspection process being considered for most rural operations.
Due to downloading of federal services onto the provinces this local family is in doubt that the quality they have built their reputation on will be able to be sustained to the high scrutiny they have come to rely on with the present system.
“We don’t want to lose our (processing) inspector … he’s like part of our team,” said Vicky Richardson.
Richardson along with her husband and business partner, Dennis have been farming in Vanderhoof for over a decade, and they put a lot of work and capital into a small but viable operation where the poultry they raise is so popular that the 2000 chickens they pasture-raise are reportedly already spoken for before they have reached maturity.
A CFI inspector has traditionally taken part in observing, testing and recording the slaughter and processing of food animals, something many farms consider to be vital to standards, since not everyone has the kind of training and aptitude for such important observation.
The Richardsons have invested in new buildings including an abattoir and packing facility they completed last summer that is meeting and surpassing health standards thus far.
“We used to send our (stock) to another place for processing,” Vicky Richardson explained, commenting that she and Dennis did not think the end product was high enough quality for their standards.
“We didn’t even want to eat (the meat),” she said.
The provincial agriculture minister who was visiting Nechako Valley groups and businesses last week, and who heard from the Richardsons about their concerns responded by saying the processors still have time to register their concerns.
“We’re in a process of consultation with B.C. producers,” the Liberal minister for agriculture, Don McRae said. He noted he was not aware of a lot of farmers who were against the move to self-inspection, but noted the process of bringing about a provincial inspection system isn’t over yet.
On the federal level, the CFI spokesperson, Tara Haas wrote regarding the safety of meats that, “The ultimate food safety outcomes of these inspection systems will not change. All meat produced in Canada – either in federally or provincially inspected plants – must meet the safety requirements of the federal Food and Drugs Act.”
She added that the CFI’s position remains that food produced in either a federal or provincially inspected facility in Canada results in the same world-class safety levels.
“The top priority of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency remains food safety, and Canadians should be aware that regardless of who is inspecting, or where food is processed, our end goal remains to produce safe meat,” Haas noted.