Evidence of meeting #42 for Agriculture and Agri-Food in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was organic.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4:10 p.m.

Policy Analyst, BC Food Systems Network

Kathleen Gibson

Perhaps you could clarify for me what we're talking about. Is it a carcass that's been slaughtered on a farm and being taken to a federally registered facility for further processing? Is that what we're talking about?

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Right, following the introduction of the changes to the regulations yesterday.

4:10 p.m.

Policy Analyst, BC Food Systems Network

Kathleen Gibson

Okay. I actually haven't seen those changes.

I'm a bit baffled by that constellation, because it's not one that I imagine happening in British Columbia. When we introduced the on-farm slaughter licences provincially, they were only for meat for sale at the farm gate. The carcass was not taken off the farm; it was slaughtered at the farm gate. The whole idea of those farm gate slaughter licences was that the number of animals would be very low—it's restricted—and the sale would be restricted to a very small area.

I'm not familiar in B.C. with the possibility of a farm-slaughtered carcass going to a federally registered facility. I'm racking my brain and I can't think of how that could happen.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

That's fine.

4:15 p.m.

Policy Analyst, BC Food Systems Network

Kathleen Gibson

But I agree with the reservations expressed by the writer and the other witness.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Okay, thank you.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

Very brief, you have a few seconds.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Very brief.

Mike, I'd like you to talk to me about the concern that some have about the vertical integration occurring in the red meat sector—the companies controlling several stages of the supply chain from feedlot to processing. Can you talk to me, from your experience, about the negatives and positives of that?

4:15 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Beretta Organic Farms

Mike Beretta

Yes, there definitely are both. As I mentioned earlier, the supply chain is so broken up into different stages that there is a real communication issue within the beef industry, which doesn't exist with poultry and pork, and specifically with something like genetics, right?

So you have a cow-calf operator who has been raising young calves for sale and is selling them to a buyer, who then sells them to a feedlot, which then sells them to a packer. There's no discussion point throughout this, so if I'm a cow-calf operator, I'm making decisions on genetics—what kind of bull to use on what kinds of cows—with no understanding of what the end product actually looks like.

To get to your point, vertically integrating this would definitely assist them from a genetic standpoint and would bring all the parties together so that they're working to create a more uniform product, which is something that I think the poultry and the pork businesses have done far better than the beef business. So in that regard, I'm all for it.

On the flip side, of course, like all things that become a monopoly, you run into that risk of price controls and the lack of third-party involvement in terms of how the animals are reared and how they're processing them right through. So I'm giving you an ambiguous answer, but I think there are pros and cons for both. I think the pros would definitely be on the production side. The cons would definitely be anything related to something on that scale and to what Kathleen has been talking about—eliminating the small farmer.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Thank you.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

Thank you.

Mr. Lemieux.

May 16th, 2012 / 4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Thank you, Chair.

I know that Francis' question kind of touches on the supply chain, and it kind of doesn't. I don't want to use up all my time commenting on it, but I will just make a very brief comment on the changes to the regulations.

Kathleen said.... It's actually the same federally. It's going to be very rare that we would have an animal euthanized on a farm and then have it transported to a federal facility for further processing. This is not going to become a main occurrence. It's under very rare circumstances.

To address Mike's point about when you might have an injured steer three miles in, if that's not safe, it's not going to happen. If he's at the farm gate, he has a broken leg, and you say, listen, why do I have to dispose of this animal when in fact everything is fine if we could just get it to a meat processing plant...?

So the idea is to help you with your business, but the underlying criteria is that it is safe for human consumption. If it's not, it's simply not going to happen. So for your case, where it's off in the distance or you're not able to bleed it out properly, it's just not going to happen. It just will not happen. If it's safe for human consumption, there's an option. That's basically what the regulations are talking about.

But let me move on to the supply chain for a moment.

Graham, I'm really glad you're here, because rendering is something that I think the public really knows very little about, yet it's an important part of the supply chain. Because there are all of these animals that are rendered, it provides a service to the farmer, and it is its own industry that is supported by the farmer.

Let me ask you, first of all, where you source your material from. I know that a very basic answer will be that it's primarily from the farm, but I'd like to know whether you also get animals that need to be rendered from places other than the farm, from a dead animal on the farm.

4:15 p.m.

Government Affairs, Canadian Renderers Association

Graham Clarke

Yes. I mean, the major source of raw material is from the packing industry, such as Cargill, XL, and all the big packers.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Right.

4:15 p.m.

Government Affairs, Canadian Renderers Association

Graham Clarke

So that's the major source.

Then, of course, in the past, deadstock has been a fairly substantial source. Before BSE, Sanimax alone had 50,000 pickup points in Quebec for deadstock. It was pretty much every farm.

As has been pointed out—not in every province, but depending on the environmental regulations of the province, because some are stricter than others—it has become uneconomic, certainly for bovine. Because of the fact of SRM, or specified risk material, you end up having to basically throw the carcass away, as has been pointed out by Kathleen. Whereas before this they were paying the farmers, now it's the farmers who have to pay to have the animals picked up. So that of course is an issue, and there's the side effect of all the other stock and so on.

The other source of material is restaurants, supermarkets—it's pretty much everything. When you think about it, a certain percentage of everything you eat, as far as the meat supply goes, is rendered. In some species, it's as much as 60%. At other times, it's about 30% by weight. So it's big.