VICTORIA – SlaughterRight is the province’s new, mandatory training program for on-farm meat plants following consolidation of meat inspection within the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries.
The agriculture ministry took over inspection of D and E class facilities December 1. Regional health authorities previously oversaw training and inspection.
“[The ministry] is now implementing a province-wide approach, which allows applicants to complete the SlaughterRight training when it is convenient for them,” the ministry told Country Life in BC in a statement. “The training is now being offered as self-paced learning using the training manual and workbook to assist applicants in developing food safety plans for each animal species they will be slaughtering.”
New licensees will have to complete the training program prior to being licensed while the 100 operators currently holding D and E licences will have to complete the program prior to renewal. Staff with the province’s Meat Inspection Branch will review participants’ knowledge and food safety plans on completion of training and schedule a site visit prior to first slaughter.
The new approach ensures all meat processing facilities in BC are inspected no matter the location while doing so in a way that respects the constraints on provincial inspection staff. It also ensures that small-scale processors have provincially approved training, a concern of many larger operators in the industry.
“It is good to hear that people performing on-farm slaughter have the opportunity to learn proper animal handling at slaughter and safe food practices during slaughter,” says Nova Woodbury, executive director of the BC Association of Abattoirs, whose membership is primarily the larger A and B class licensees.
Known as SlaughterSafe when it was offered through local health authorities, the training program now addresses issues beyond food safety. Course participants must create a detailed humane slaughter plan alongside their food safety plan.
“In their humane slaughter plan, applicants outline how the standard operating procedures for their facilities, transportation, animal handling, slaughter process, and equipment cleaning and maintenance promote humane slaughter and animal handling,” the ministry explains. “There is also a larger focus on operator hygiene during and after slaughter, as well as food safety after the slaughter process.”
The new program, developed with the assistance of industry, will be updated regularly as “new guidelines surrounding animal welfare and slaughter practices become available.”
The new course reflects a series of consultations the province has undertaken over the past four years.
Updating training on slaughter practice, animal welfare and food safety to ensure provincially consistent and effective learning opportunities for rural producers was also an idea proposed as part of a rural slaughter modernization intentions paper the province circulated for discussion last fall. The province received a total of 88 responses and expects to publish the results in the near future.
Julia Smith of Blue Sky Ranch in Merritt and president of the Small-Scale Meat Producers Association says the new training program is a step in the right direction for small operators.
“We welcome anything that supports us in meeting the already high standards for humane handling and safe, quality meat,” she says.
But capacity remains an ongoing issue for the industry. D facilities can process no more than 25 animal units, and E facilities are limited to 10.
Smith wants to hear how the ministry plans to enhance rural slaughter capacity. Many producers need to book slaughter dates months ahead of time, and the lack of access to facilities has pushed others to shut down. Smith has pinned hopes for her own farm on establishment of an abattoir in the Nicola Valley with the support of a Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program grant from the province.
She hasn’t heard back and is prepared to be disappointed. She notes it’s not just farmers who are losing out. Demand for local meat surged when the COVID-19 pandemic began last spring but rural communities aren’t enjoying the full benefits of the demand.
The intentions paper proposed relaxing restrictions on processing capacity and sales for D and E facilities and a licensing mode for mobile abattoirs that would boost slaughter capacity for small-scale producers.
“Business is booming for the mobile slaughter guys who have been working flat out since last fall but, of course, none of that meat can be sold legally,” she says. “We don’t see any indication of the situation improving at this point.”