An industry survey by the Small-Scale Meat Producers Association has identified access to slaughter as the number one challenge producers across the province face.
SSMPA wrapped up a province-wide sector survey earlier this year and presented the findings to approximately 72 viewers in a March 15 webinar.
The survey aimed to ensure that challenges to the sector’s growth and vitality are addressed by targeted and informed solutions grounded in solid data. That data wasn’t available until now.
In total, 708 operations responded to the survey and all 27 regional districts were represented. Of these operations, 619 are currently operating and 89 ended their operations within the last five years.
The survey was developed in consultation with 20 producers across the province. Participants were invited through local media, farm stores, farmers institutes, by word of mouth and agricultural societies.
The survey found that BC producers raise more than 15 species of livestock and most operations are diversified. While 43% of respondents raise just one type of livestock, 57% raise two or more species.
Of the 619 operational farms, 94% of producers supplement their income with work not related to their meat business and 30% strive to be full-time producers.
The lion’s share of livestock producers – 96% – generate profits through direct-to-consumer sales. Just under 20% sell through farmers markets.
Most concerning is that only 1% of respondents report that their businesses operate at a high profit, while 37% operate at a loss, 26% report to make a low profit and 26% of respondents just break even. The remaining 10% make a moderate profit.
“We cannot expect these farms to continue operating if they are not making a living out of it,” says Corine Singfield, the survey team lead and a director with SSMPA who farms in Bella Coola.
In addition to profitability and the lack of access to slaughter, producers named access to cut-and-wrap facilities, limited personal or staff time, access to land base and availability of insurance as significant challenges.
“Only 50% of all the operations that have on-farm slaughter licenses had slaughter liability insurance,” says Singfield. “It’s very hard to find insurance and there are few insurers that want to touch small farms, let alone livestock operations.”
SSMPA put forward several recommendations to address the challenges. These include developing a slaughter truck pilot project, viable options for small-scale producers to access insurance and initiatives to attract workers.
The full report will be available on SSMPA’s website.