Sask. slaughterhouse goes into receivership

A controversial Saskatchewan slaughter and processing plant has gone into receivership.

A controversial Saskatchewan slaughter and meat processing plant has gone into receivership.

Investors lost control of Natural Valley Farms after it defaulted on a loan to agricultural lender Farm Credit Canada, according to company director Henry Skjerven.

"Small slaughter plants are a very difficult business," Skjerven said. "There is what you call a monopoly in the United States and Canada."

Natural Valley Farms is the province's last producer-owned slaughter and processing plant, an idea that was first proposed in 2003 at the height of the mad-cow crisis when farmers couldn't send their cattle to the U.S. to be slaughtered or processed.

Located in Neudorf, Sask., the farm opened in 2005 with the mandate of processing antibiotic- and hormone-free beef.

Skjerven said the options for farmers are shrinking as the meatpacking industry becomes more consolidated.

"And producers cannot fund an operation that can compete in a market that's controlled essentially by major feeders, major slaughter plants and organizations that essentially control all of the calf crop and cattle in the United States and Canada," he said.

He said he wants the federal government to make it easier for producer-owned plants to compete with the big players in North America.

Natural Valley Farms was the subject of a CBC News investigation earlier this year into allegations that horses slaughtered there were mistreated and killed inhumanely.

Hidden-camera footage documented slaughter practices that animal-rights activists said showed the inhumane treatment of horses, whose meat is sent to parts of Europe and Asia for human consumption.

The president of Natural Valley Farms has told CBC News his facility follows all regulations and that its horses are euthanized in a humane way.