Study looks at expanding South Island meat processing as demand for local products grows
VICTORIA -- During the pandemic, there has been a push to buy local, but have you ever asked yourself, "Where does my meat come from?"
The South Island Prosperity Partnership is funding a six-month feasibility study looking into the business case for a local meat processing plant, or “abattoir.”
There are many small meat farmers on southern Vancouver Island, but the problem they’re having is processing that meat to bring it to market.
“What we’re looking into is, essentially, how can we enhance the local supply chain for meat production, meat farmers, while also kind of creating more locally sourced meat at a cost-competitive price for consumers?” said Kieran Buggy, of the South Island Prosperity Partnership.
Currently there are only four class A and B abattoirs on southern Vancouver Island. That classification allows them to process meat that can be sold by a reseller. They are very small in scale and can only process certain animals.
“There are no processing facilities for hog or beef that are class A or class B within the Capital Regional District,” said Darren Stott, of Greenchain Consulting. He has been hired to lead the study.
What that means is that animals such as hogs and cattle have to be transported up-island or over to the mainland for processing.
Ian McDonald owns Carnivore Meats and More in Brentwood Bay. Almost all of the product he sells is locally sourced, and all of his suppliers are small-scale producers.
“Well there’s certainly demand,” McDonald said. “Now, how economically viable that would be, would be another question.”
“Small-scale producers have more of a problem getting their product to an abattoir and back from an abattoir,” he said. “Generally, there’s processing involved as far as cutting and wrapping and getting a raw product to a marketable product. So, it would certainly be valuable to a lot of the local farmers.”
He has also been seeing a greater demand for organically processed meat, something that can’t be produced on Vancouver Island.
“If we enhance facilities, we can improve the sector for the local farmers, butchers and restauranteurs that can access these sorts of products,” said Buggy. “In the end, it will also create jobs.”
If the study confirms there is a need, it will then be up to the private sector to fill the gap, potentially providing southern Vancouver Island with more locally sourced meat.