A few years ago the government changed the Meat Regulations to require inspection of all facilities slaughtering meat in the province. The upgrades required were costly for many operators, so all around the province, and in the Gulf Islands, local abattoirs shut down. Animals needed to be transported off-island, since most Gulf Islands did not have licenced facilities. The off-island abattoirs available were often over-booked, creating bottle-necks or long waits. Based on surveys in 2004 and 2010, it became apparent that there was a significant decline in meat production on Salt Spring Island. The newly formed Salt Spring Agricultural Alliance prioritized the building of a Salt Spring abattoir, and decided on a mobile processing unit with an accessory modular cut and wrap facility. With a twelve person committee, the Alliance worked hard at fund raising to “Save Salt Spring Lamb”, one of the region’s most famous foods.
Is it on budget? Yes, with the help of donations, price discounts and recycled materials, the plans are becoming reality. At a price of $350,000, the fund raising efforts have been very successful and is very, very close to its goal.. The government is providing $150,000 in matching funds, and about $200,000 has been raised so far. The Salt Spring Agricultural Alliance was awarded $50,000 from VanCity’s enviroFund to increase local food production on Salt Spring Island. This helped push the project ahead in hiring a construction manager.
Is it on time? No, it was hoped that it would be up and running in the fall of 2011. A nine month delay was experienced waiting for the plans to be approved by the BC Centre for Disease Control. There were many changes required to the plans but they are now approved.
What is done so far? The selected location has industrial zoning, is flat and well drained and has good road access. The property owner is also a farmer , which will make his farm’s transportation to the plant just a walk across the field. The Islands Trust gave the project a Temporary Use Permit, which is good for three years and can be renewed once. At that point, the abattoir location will be reassessed. The Trust also required a riparian assessment to be done because of a pond and some drainage areas in the vicinity.
A new ecoflow peat filtered septic field was installed by Ken Byron. There is a travel trailer for a site office, lunch room and change area for abattoir staff. Three modular structures were framed in when I was given a tour by Margaret Thomson and Mike Robertson– the offal room for the guts, the cooler, the cut and wrap room which will also hold a freezer, along with the washroom and office for the inspector. The crew was working on the hide room when I was there. The CRD building department required each of the modules, which can be moved, to be ten feet apart so walkways are being built to connect the modules. The drawings have been prepared by Brent Baker, who is the construction manager. Brent is a principal partner in Shibui Design, and has been involved in cost effective planning and construction for over thirty years. Brent is also the son in law of Mike Byron, long time Salt Spring farmer who was one of the islanders who processed livestock for the community before the regulations changed.
Although the modules for the abattoir are being constructed on Salt Spring with local labour, the trailer unit which will be used for slaughtering of both red meat and poultry is being made in Coombs. Once the abattoir has its licence, hopefully in April, there will be two test slaughter days – one for red meat, and one for poultry.
The one detail left is to select staff to run the abattoir. The SSI Agricultural Alliance is now looking for “expressions of interest and creative proposals from individuals, groups or other entities who are interested in running ongoing operations of the abattoir as well as anyone interested in being part of the operations team for this exciting new local food venture.” They are anxious to receive proposals by March 15th so that they can be up and running this spring. To submit a proposal, contact Anne Macey firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to SSI Agricultural Alliance, 106 Old Scott Road, SSI V8K 2L6.
But if you build it, will they come? Already, based on a survey of poultry producers, there is greater demand than anticipated originally. Many red meat producers have been expanding their herds and flocks. Consumers, chefs and retail outlets have shown great interest in receiving a dependable supply of fresh local meat, truly in the hundred mile diet way.