Rural Institutions & the Case for Supporting their Local Abattoirs

Project: Food Policy

When Bev, the food buyer for Benito School, is buying meat for her school’s hot lunch program she chooses to buy from her local abattoir, Benito Premium Meats.  Bev says the benefits of buying local meat include quality, freshness, convenience and affordability. And with the owner of the abattoir actively involved on parent council, the school community and overall community, it’s a simple choice to support a member of the community and a local business.

This is just one example of many.

After talking to a number institutions across rural Manitoba, including schools, daycares, women’s shelters and personal care homes, it was clear that institutions located near a locally owned meat shop or abattoir were buying meat that has been locally produced and processed. In other words, many of them are still buying provincially inspected meat.

Parkside Children’s Center has purchased ground beef from Oakridge meats, for example, while Minitonas School has purchased ground beef and pork from Valley Meat Packers. Whether it was because the owner of the local meat shop has been involved with parent council at school, or because a local processor donated meat to a women’s shelter, food buyers always had the same reason for buying local meat: because it supports members of the community and supports local business in their town.

Challenges, however, still exist.

Some provincial abattoirs indicated that they can no longer sell to institutions in their region, such as healthcare facilities. These facilities increasingly require federal inspection. This can be for many reasons, such as being required to work with one large distributor that heavily relies on shipping products inter-provincially, or being in a food service contract that requires certifications such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), a certification that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency requires for international trade. As a result, it’s becoming more difficult to see provincially inspected meat in our institutions.  

To build and strengthen our local food economy, we have to support not only about local producers but also our local processors. And many rural institutions are doing just that, in order to support their neighbours, businesses and members of their community.

Photo Credit: Benito Premium Meats Facebook Page

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