Grey-Bruce losing slaughterhouses

As published in The Kincardine News (Aug. 23, 2011).

Grey-Bruce losing slaughterhouses at alarming rate | Kincardine News

Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre
Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre
By Jennifer Schleich

Abattoirs, or slaughterhouses, in Grey and Bruce counties are disappearing at an alarming rate, according to Freeman Boyd of Foodlink Grey and Bruce who visited Huron-Kinloss council on Monday evening (Aug. 15) to update the township about it’s continuing local food efforts in the region.

“We’ve lost 50% of Grey and Bruce abattoirs in the past 16 months. Without local abattoirs we can’t have local food,” said Boyd.

According to Boyd there are only 10 abattoirs left in Grey and Bruce. Three of those 10 are old facilities with old operators, which will likely close when those operators retire. At least two more are having difficulties.

“There hasn’t been any significant investment in local abattoirs in many years, within the next several years Grey and Bruce could only have five left,” he added.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that local livestock farmers aren’t using local abattoirs and local consumers aren’t purchasing local foods.

“I’ve been to farmer meetings and I’ve asked, ‘How many of you send your livestock to local abattoirs?’ and only a small number of hands go up,” he said.

According to Boyd, studies have determined that Grey and Bruce counties spend approximately $7.5 million per week on food. That’s everything from purchasing food at the grocery store, to restaurants, to entertainment.

“Of the $7.5 million spent per week, only 5% of that is spent on local food or goes to local food companies. That’s $1 for every $50,” said Boyd.

Furthermore, with the help of Bruce Community Futures Development Corporation, Foodlink is performing a survey of small town grocers, and has found many are in financial trouble.

“What does it mean for a family when the grocery store in their town closes and they have to drive 15 to 20 miles to the nearest store?” he asked.

Boyd views the situation as one with big chances for improvement. Foodlink would like to get the percentage of money spent in Grey and Bruce on local foods up to 30% from 5%.

“That is a lot of money. Even 30% spent on local food would have a huge economic impact on our region. I don’t know what it would look like realistically if we achieved that, but it would be good,” he said.

Foodlink has had two major studies done which both said there wasn’t a hope of attracting a food processing company to the region, because Grey and Bruce are too far off the 401 corridor.

The issue is complicated by stringent Ontario regulations governing abattoirs.

“There are all sorts of regulations written in doublespeak and departments, such as Public Health, only know about the regulations they are responsible for and nothing about other aspects,” said Boyd.

He added that the group, in conjunction with the Malcolm Women’s Institute, has been in dialogue with government officials to help make regulations more user friendly for new abattoirs.

The Foodlink program, which began in July 2007, receives funding from Bruce County, Grey County and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).

This year Bruce and Grey upped their contributions to $60,000 each, from $40,000, which is matched by the Ontario Market Investment Fund (OMIF).

OMIF is a four-year provincial initiative to promote consumer awareness of Ontarioproduced foods and encourages Ontarians to eat locally.

“Last year the counties agreed to fund our wage stream separate from the project stream, $20,000 into wages and $40,000 into the project,” said Boyd . The change in funding allows the group to get straight to work each year instead of waiting for their OMIF funding to be approved in the early summer.

However, Boyd acknowledged that after this year there is no guarantee for government funding.

“Our OMAFRA funding will be on hold after this year, however I think the government will con-t inue to provide the funding following the election” added Boyd.

Foodlink has made significant progress towards establishing local foods in the region with the funding it receives.

There are now 351 local food businesses listed with their service, which includes everything from production to restaurants. Their website also has increased traffic, just last month it received over 3,500 hits compared to 1,000 from a year before.

“We’ve also worked to form a farmer’s market network over the past two years. When we started there were three farmers markets in Grey and Bruce, this year there are 12,” he said.

Foodlink is also collaborating with Georgian College to offer a certificate in agriculture.

“We are in the process of developing a six course certificate targeted at people with farming backgrounds,” said Boyd. The first course was offered this past January, with another this summer and plans for a third in the fall.

In the future, Foodlink would like to work with companies in the area which host cafeterias, for instance Bruce Power.

“We want to be able to take a company through what they currently have with their cafeterias and show them would they could do with local foods,” he added.

For more information on the Foodlink Grey and Bruce project or for information on where to purchase local foods visit:

http://www.foodlinkgreybruce.com

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