Some of Manitoba’s local meat producers are fuming after having their products seized by provincial officials.
In August 2013, inspectors seized five years’ worth of Harborside Farms cured meats.
The Pilot Mound farm has won an award for its famous prosciutto from Manitoba’s agriculture department, and the producer is used by a number of local eateries in Winnipeg.
Clinton and Pam Cavers raise the animals on their farm and then cure the meats.
“We know exactly what’s gone on with that animal through its whole life, which is a bonus,” said Clinton.
But provincial officials seized $8,000 worth of the Cavers’ award-winning prosciutto because of concerns with the curing method.
“There’s never been a reported case of illness ever. That’s a pretty good track record for food safety as far as I’m concerned,” Clinton said.
Then, two weeks ago, provincial inspectors seized hams from another small processor in Manitoba, one that has been open for decades.
Clinton said the province is making it increasingly difficult for local producers because of the meat processing crackdown, and he fears that means fewer small producers will enter the business in the province.
“Nobody’s going to take the risk, and then we’re going to be left with major corporate business entities that still don’t have everyone’s best interests in mind,” he said.
Bistro 7 ¼ owner Alex Svenne said the province needs to do better when working with local producers.
“They’re not being helpful. I think the province could help these small people produce their products in a safe way that is economically sustainable for the producer and for the customer,” said Svenne.
Svenne strives to make sure almost everything on his menu is locally sourced, but that is getting more difficult, he said.
“They say, ‘Where’s your something from?’ and I say, ‘Well, I can’t get local,’ and they’re upset with me. They want everything to be local, and so do I,” said Svenne.
Ken Loney owns Local Meats and Frozen Treats on St. Mary’s Road in Winnipeg.
He share’s Svenne’s concerns about how the government is dealing with small producers.
"The rules, I believe, were set up some time ago, and I don't believe they've caught up with the current times,” said Loney. “There’s a lot of movement towards local food being produced and sold right from the farm – from farm to plate – and the inspection process will have to change somewhat to make amends for small producers.”
A representative from the province said it can’t speak on individual cases, but the official did say, “Our government wants local farmers and food processors to succeed, but we have to ensure the health of consumers is protected at all times.”
The statement added, “There are nearly 500 food processing facilities in Manitoba, many of them using locally-grown products or using traditional methods and all must follow appropriate food safety principles.”
A group of local meat producers is set to meet with provincial officials to discuss what can be done on April 13.