“This has amazing implications for our smaller abattoirs.”
ALBERTA MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE
A long-standing promise to loosen up interprovincial trade may finally come true for provincially licensed livestock slaughter plants.
Canada’s agriculture ministers have approved pilot projects to see how provincial plants can sell meat to other provinces instead of just their local markets.
Ministers agreed “to create a roadmap that would investigate how producers can share their high-quality T-bones or pork chops with their neighbours in the next province,” federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in wrapping up the agriculture ministers’ annual meeting in Saskatoon last month.
“This has amazing implications for our smaller abattoirs,” Alberta Agriculture Minister Jack Hayden said in a Call of the Land interview. “This is probably the most progressive step we’ve taken in many, many years. It’s very significant.”
Under the Meat Inspection Act, provincially-certified plants may sell only within their own borders, not to other provinces. Only federally licensed plants may do that.
For example, a provincial plant in Alberta cannot to sell meat into B.C., despite a ready market next door.
This occasionally produces criticism that Canada shouldn’t complain about international trade barriers when it limits the flow of goods between its own provinces.
Provinces have long talked about easing interprovincial trade restrictions in meat but have made little progress.
“The comment has been made by people that it’s easier to trade with China than it is to trade with Ontario,” said Dr. Allan Preston, a Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives assistant deputy minister.
“If you’re living in Rainy River, Ont. and the closest plant to you is somewhere down around Guelph, it makes a whole bunch more sense to bring product to your market from a plant in southeastern Manitoba.”
Preston said pilot projects will seek ways for provincial abattoirs to meet requirements of the federal act to allow interprovincial sales.
If a provincial plant on a HACCP program could achieve the same results as a federal plant, it could be raised to a higher level, he said.
This could avoid having to meet federal requirements that have nothing to do with food safety, such as the number of washrooms or whether the parking lot is paved.
“The intent where we’re heading with this is to have more of an outcome-based process where the standard is set by the quality of product coming out the door,” said Preston.
Provincial plants would still not be allowed to export product to other countries. That would require meeting even higher international standards.