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Activism regarding food security: meat  RSS feed

 
Emily Wilson
Posts: 28
Location: Atherley, Ontario
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I'm interested in starting discussion within Ontario around our current laws and by-laws regarding animal slaughter. As I have become more involved in food production, and better acquainted with the local farmers in my area, the ridiculous laws around slaughter, sales and consumption have been bothering me more and more. If you've read Joel Salatin's "Folks, this ain't normal", you will have an idea of the type of regulations I'm referring to. Essentially, we are limited in the food we are "allowed" to consume by OMAFRA and other authorities. While we are able to purchase eggs, fruit and vegetables directly from the farmer with little interference from OMAFRA, that's about it. Absolutely all livestock must be processed at a government facility. That means I can't kill a chicken, dress it and sell it to my neighbour. I ALSO can't kill it, dress it and give it to my neighbour. And, get this, I can't kill a chicken, dress it, bake it into a pot pie, and invite my neighbour over to consume it. All of these activities are illegal in this province. Did you know this? And how do you feel about this level of imposed "safety"?

Not only is this type of regulation completely absurd in certain cases (illegal sharing of chicken stew!) but it really infringes on our rights to food security. For instance, I don't raise pigs, but have several friends that do. This fall my family and I bought a half pig from a friend named Julie. She quoted me the price based on what she spends on the pigs, start to finish, plus processing and a slim profit. It broke down like this: $200 to buy and raise the pig, $200 for processing and $100 profit. I nearly dropped the phone when she told me these numbers. The cost of sending the pig to the butcher is as much as is costs to raise it. And for all her efforts throughout the year, she gets a big $100 in the fall. She could charge more, but then her customers couldn't afford to buy her meat, she'd lose those sales.

Imagine a different scenario, in which I could give Julie $400 to walk onto her farm, shoot her pig, drag it home and cut it up myself. She would get double the profit. I would get a cheaper pig. Plus, I would be able to ensure the pig had died in the most humane way possible, something that no slaughterhouse can guarantee. I think it would be reasonable to limit me from turning around and selling the meat to unsuspecting consumers, but what on earth would be the harm in me consuming it myself?

Don't even get me started on raw milk.

The more I think about this issue, the more I realize that the food security of my family is being compromised by overzealous germaphobics and lobbyists for Big Food. Another pork producer I know (who has to sell her pastured pork for $12/lb at the farmer's market because otherwise she would lose money) points out that the big winners are Maple Leaf and the like, who have the economies of scale on their side - why buy her expensive bacon when they can get bacon at the supermarket for half the price? Those large producers are able to get much better deals on the price per animal at the slaughterhouse since they are processing millions a year. Small producers have to go farther and farther just to find a facility that will take their 10 animals (as opposed to hundreds or thousands) and then paying top dollar when they get there. Folks have a choice, if you care and can afford it, buy the $12/lb bacon. If not, give Maple leaf another 6 bucks and try not to think about where your breakfast came from. I think that choice sucks, and that it's not really a choice at all.

I'd like to connect with others who are also interested in doing something about these ridiculous laws. We have to remember that these laws are here because certain vocal people insisted that they represented what was best for Ontarians. I don't agree, and if you don't either, I'd love to hear from you. Maybe we could start something that will effect change.

Thanks for listening to my rant!
 
Su Ba
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Emily, your complaints are being voiced throughout most of the USA too. Personally I can understand the need for much of the food laws because historically most businesses cheat unless strictly regulated. Even with the laws that we now have, cheating is still rampant. Foods labelled GMO free have been testing positive for GMO. Organic certified foods have been testing positive for GMO, pesticides, and herbicides. Foods have been testing high for bacterial contamination. I personally know farmers who are cheating on their chemical use on food crops. I know of at least two ranchers cheating on chemical use on the livestock. I've witnesses regulations being ignored in a chicken processing plant and in a supermarket meat department. A food processor here in Hawaii was discovered cheating on the process. I'm sure other plants do too. So even with our laws, our foods sometimes lack the safety the laws are trying to enforce. Without those laws and in today's business atmosphere, I'm not sure I'd want to see what would result. So I can understand the need for the laws.

That being said, I personally would like to see small producer (business and/or personal) exemptions to much of the food safety laws. But such food would have to post warnings that the product was not covered by food safety regulations. That would give a small farm or the household the ability to sell to consumers who wanted that type product, such as raw milk, farm butchered lamb, etc. Of course there would need to be strict definition of "small". Here in Hawaii in order to sell honey it has to be processed in a certified commercial kitchen. But there is a small producer exemption. I don't recall off hand what it is, but something like 10 gallons a year. That allows backyard beekeepers to legally sell their honey. I like that idea and would like to see it applied to all ag products.
 
Galadriel Freden
Posts: 363
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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Emily Wilson wrote:

Imagine a different scenario, in which I could give Julie $400 to walk onto her farm, shoot her pig, drag it home and cut it up myself. She would get double the profit. I would get a cheaper pig. Plus, I would be able to ensure the pig had died in the most humane way possible, something that no slaughterhouse can guarantee. I think it would be reasonable to limit me from turning around and selling the meat to unsuspecting consumers, but what on earth would be the harm in me consuming it myself?


I think some folks do get around this by buying the live pig from the producer, and then slaughtering it themselves. Are you legally allowed to slaughter your own animals?

But I definitely feel your pain about the whole legality mess. Perhaps some civil disobedience is in order?
 
Emily Wilson
Posts: 28
Location: Atherley, Ontario
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Su Ba wrote: Here in Hawaii in order to sell honey it has to be processed in a certified commercial kitchen. But there is a small producer exemption. I don't recall off hand what it is, but something like 10 gallons a year. That allows backyard beekeepers to legally sell their honey. I like that idea and would like to see it applied to all ag products.


That would be the goal I think. Recently folks selling baked goods and the like at farmers' markets had to fight to be excluded from safety laws demanding they produce food in a commercially inspected
kitchen. The by-law is fairly convoluted but at least Grandma Green's Pie Stand hasn't been put out of business I imagine that by-law was changed because people thought it was ridiculous not to be able to buy banana bread from whomever they please. I hope I can get the message out, these laws fly in the face of common sense.

That being said, I completely agree that a certain amount of regulation is a really good thing. I want all the food that appears on a grocery store shelf, for instance, to be regulated up the wahzoo, simply because there is no way the customer can develop a relationship with the producer and therefore ensure its safety.
 
Emily Wilson
Posts: 28
Location: Atherley, Ontario
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But I definitely feel your pain about the whole legality mess. Perhaps some civil disobedience is in order?



Yeah, I'm trying to figure out what that would look like... a group of people sit down and share some chili in the driveway of an slaughterhouse? (Just kidding) If anyone has any ideas, let me know.
 
Dave Burton
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I don't know. I think the simplest disobedience would be to disregard it and prove that you know proper safety techniques by not getting anyone sick with your food. Maybe even invite the government over for dinner, get the whole city community involved. Have everyone make food and invite the government officials and agencies over for a meal, and at the end, you all could say, "Surprise! We slaughtered, prepared, and cooked this all by ourselves! Ain't this stuff tasty?" Kill them with kindness, mwahahahahahaha!!!
 
Barry Fitzgerald
Posts: 43
Location: Welland, Ontario, Canada
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Yes Emily, I also have a problem with all the rules and regulations. I raised 2 pigs and found that there are only 2 slaughter houses left in business that will process hogs in the Niagara Region. There used to be quite a few but regulations are the main reason they are either closed or just stopped slaughtering and now buy meat for their retail butcher shops.
My pigs went in on Oct. 14 and my order is not ready yet, the smoked meats were subcontracted to someone else. I read a news story this summer about a butcher shop in Port Colborne that was charged for smoking sausage without a valid license,( his was expired). You need a special license to smoke any meat product!
You can always sell your livestock live, but don't forget to pay the applicable Marketing Board their fee +HST on the fee.
I looked into selling my produce at a farmers market, I said forget it after reading the Regional Health Dept. Rules, the City Market rules and fees etc.

When there was lots of competition between the butchers, the product was generally very good. They relied on their reputation to keep customers. Maple Leaf Meats is one of the largest industrial slaughter house chains, check on their record. People keep buying their product because of a lack of choice.
 
Dave Gamper
Posts: 13
Location: Zone 5b Ontario
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Its pretty simple really, all studies into food safety have shown that the increase in unsafe food is caused by: Large scale production, large scale processing and long distance shipping.
The Governments natural reaction to this is to enact more regulations that shuts down small scale production, helps set up even larger scale processing and longer distance shipping.

I knew a guy who had a small butcher shop, he said all the large processing plants were given advanced notice of any inspection. He also said the inspectors knew very little about processing meat and most of the regulations he had to deal with did not make more food safe but made it more expensive. He no longer has the butcher shop.
 
Mountain Krauss
Posts: 130
Location: Northern California
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Personally, I'd like to see all the food regulations repealed. The ones we have now squeeze small and innovative farmers, and the big players can get around them. The regulations don't keep consumers safe from Big Ag, they keep Big Ag safe from small farmers.

Without food regulations, there would still be private ratings-- like Consumer Reports does for many items, and Whole Foods does for much of what they sell. Consumers would still have people they could rely on to do the inspecting for them-- but there would no longer be the threat of jail for anyone who didn't want to go through the process.
 
Micky Ewing
Posts: 105
Location: Merrickville, Ontario
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Dave Burton wrote:I don't know. I think the simplest disobedience would be to disregard it and prove that you know proper safety techniques by not getting anyone sick with your food. Maybe even invite the government over for dinner, get the whole city community involved...


When you strongly disagree with a law, civil disobedience may be your only moral course of action, but you must be prepared to accepting the risk of whatever legal penalties come your way. If you think the public would rally behind you, publicity may be your friend, but in this particular case I have strong doubts that that would happen. Most people are happy to remain ignorant of the working of the food industry -- especially the meat packing industry -- and feel that it ain't broke, so why fix it. An informed minority may support your cause but they will be easily drowned out by the lobbyists and talking head of the big players. I'm pretty sure a food revolution is out there in the future somewhere, but I think it is a little early yet. I recommend you keep your protest small and quiet for now and try to build local support so local authorities are inclined to "turning a blind eye" to your infractions ... unless you have a burning desire to be a martyr.
 
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