Manitoba inspectors seize farm's award-winning meats

A Manitoba specialty meat producer says he's stunned the provincial government has confiscated five years' worth of his award-winning products.

Harborside Farms' prosciutto had recently won Great Manitoba Food Fight

A Manitoba specialty meat producer says he's stunned the provincial government has confiscated five years' worth of his award-winning products.

Provincial inspectors went to Harborside Farms, owned by Clinton and Pam Cavers, on Wednesday and seized its cured meats, labelling them unfit for human consumption.

Clinton Cavers says the development baffles him because his pastured pork prosciutto recently won the Great Manitoba Food Fight, an annual contest put on by the provincial government.

Cavers said the province simply doesn't know how to deal with his products, which come from animals raised on the family's free-range farm near Pilot Mound, Man.

"They've never tested it to say that it's unfit for human consumption," he told CBC News on Friday.

Charcuterie meats from Harborside Farms near Pilot Mound, Man. Provincial inspectors seized the farm's cured meat products this week, deeming them unsafe for human consumption. (Mike Green/CBC)

"I don't know what to say, but it's a procedure that they're using to pull product that hasn't been proven, I guess."

Cavers said his family's processing methods are not commonly practised in Manitoba, but that shouldn't automatically mean they are unsafe.

"People have been eating this for thousands of years, and we've been making it with the help of some old Italians in the city that have been making it themselves their whole lives," he said.

Can't make assumptions, says official

Glen Duizer, a veterinarian with Manitoba Agriculture and Food Initiatives, says all food processors have to practise safe food handling.

Duizer said the same rules apply to large-scale operations and small rural farms, especially if those producers are selling ready-to-eat meats to the public.

"We can't just assume that because it came from a small artisanal producer that it's automatically safe," he said.

"There has to be some processes and methods in order to make sure that that product is safe."

Duizer said it is up to the producer to test its product throughout processing to ensure it's safe.

The confiscated meat from Harborside Farms is being stored for now, Duizer said.

Cavers said he has been working with the province on his processing practices, so he was surprised when the inspectors confiscated his meats.

Chef disappointed

Meanwhile, a Winnipeg chef who has put Harborside Farms meat on his menu says he's disappointed to hear the province has shut down the operation.

Chef Eric Lee of Pizzeria Gusto says he has never fallen ill after eating the farm's meat products.

"I felt it was safe and so yeah, I gave the go-ahead to put it on the menu and promote them and I have their name on my menu," he said.

"I was very confident with them."

Lee said he isn't sure how he'll replace them on his menu.