Drive down any rural road in this province and you’re sure to pass cattle on the range, a flock of sheep, or mobile pens for pastured poultry. Small-scale livestock production has a long tradition in BC, and has been reinvigorated in recent years with practices like ‘rotational grazing’ and ‘regenerative agriculture’ that allow for significant meat production without industrial practices. Demand also seems to be growing for local and sustainable meats.
But are there enough of these small producers to play a serious role in BC’s economy today?
Producers who sell directly to consumers, raising multiple livestock species, or simply operating at a smaller scale, have lacked a collective voice in provincial conversations about agricultural policies. The Small-Scale Meat Producers Association (SSMPA) formed in 2017 to be this voice. The organization says that its members are united by operating without the supports of existing commodity associations or marketing boards.
“The Small-Scale Meat Producers Association represents British Columbia farmers and ranchers who are raising meat outside of the conventional, industrial system,” reads the SSMPA website.
Currently they are seeking input from BC producers who sell their meat directly to consumers to outline the challenges they’ve experienced and the opportunities they see for their business in a survey. The survey takes 15 minutes and can be accessed online or by telephone.
Executive Director Ava Reeve says that slaughter access has been a major problem for producers since changes were made back in the early 2000s. The changes forced many producers to drive long round-trips to have their animals processed.
The province recently announced easier licensing for on-farm slaughter, which should be more accessible for producers who prefer to process for themselves, and also lighten the burden on provincial facilities. However, producers are struggling with other issues, like getting cut and wrap services or getting insurance for their operations and farms.
The organization says the survey will guide its strategic planning, and it will take recommendations coming from it to the broader industry.
The survey is open until September 2, 2021 and can be accessed at smallscalemeat.ca/survey or can be completed over the phone by appointment at 250-999-0296. SSMPA can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.