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Canada Launches Small Meat Pilot Programs

Canada’s small meat processors operating without the benefit of federal inspection have the same problem, as do their counterparts in the United States.  They cannot sell their products outside the province where they are located.

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More than a year after the U.S. Department of Agriculture tried to solve this problem with its “cooperative interstate shipment” program, the Government of Canada is taking a different tact.

It’s putting $3 million on the table to get a pilot project going for provincial meat processors to move their safe, high quality products across the country while adhering to Canada’s high federal standards.

“Producers and processors can be proud of their safe, high quality meat, but are often unable to sell to customers just kilometers away because of a provincial border,” said Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.  “We are working with the provinces to inject some common sense into interprovincial trade so that producers and processors can share their world-class product with more Canadian consumers.”

In the U.S., 28 states regulate about 2,100 state-inspected meat and poultry processors.   Their products can only to be sold within the state where they are located.

As part of the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” program, USDA has been working on a federal cooperative program to allow some state processors to sell across state lines.

In Canada, federal and provincial Ministers of Agriculture says their pilot projects are going to be part of a roadmap to expand interprovincial trade in meat. 

They say officials will work with industry to validate new inspection procedures, collect samples and information, and determine what technical procedures could be adapted to better reflect the operating environments of meat processors of all sizes.

“Breaking down interprovincial trade barriers will benefit our producers, processors and packers, who will be able to expand their markets,” said Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Bob Bjornerud, who was the co-chair of the Ministers’ meetings this year.  “Consumers in Saskatchewan and across Canada will benefit from a sound science-based approach to reducing red tape and interprovincial trade barriers.”

Meat processors interested in participating in the pilot project have until Jan. 7 in their respective province.

“One of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association’s principles is free and competitive trade, both internationally and interprovincially,” said Canadian Cattlemen’s Association President Travis Toews.  “The domestic market is our biggest market; removing barriers to improve interprovincial trade is a worthy undertaking.”

Provincial governments and industry will be invited to contribute to those selected pilot projects.

Canada will require a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan for the pilot projects.  

 “HACCP in meat plants will be reviewed to ensure a suitable adaptation of technical requirements for plants of small and medium size,” the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says.

In the year since a regulatory comment period ended in the U.S. over the federal-state cooperative inspection agreement program, no state-inspected plant has yet been allowed to make interstate or foreign sales.

A spokesman for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, who has worked for the association on the program, says USDA has yet to finalize a rule and therefore no state-inspected meat or poultry plant has yet been helped with an expanded market.

The state association has told its colleagues at USDA that without quick action, opening borders to state-inspected plants will be a topic for the next Farm Bill.

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