Remote B.C. butchers get licensing break

Small operators selling meat in remote and isolated communities in British Columbia will get an extra grace period on the province’s recent move toward full licensing and inspection for all meat facilities.

Currently, B.C. meat producers working toward becoming fully licensed can submit a construction plan and then receive a Class C transitional license.

Class C allows meat producers to offer farm gate sales or other limited, direct sales to consumers. Class C meat is not inspected, must be labelled as uninspected and is banned from resale or from use in restaurants or other commercial operations.

The province on Friday announced that small operators applying for a Class C license, working in isolated and remote areas that don’t have access to licensed slaughter capacity, have until Dec. 31, 2009 to submit their construction plans — but they can have a Class C license immediately in the meantime.

“Local producers and processors in isolated communities will have some added flexibility, making it easier for them to obtain Class C transitional licenses and ultimately full licenses,” said Agriculture Minister Pat Bell in a release.

“Since the regulation (on licensing and inspection) was announced in 2004, we have more than quadrupled the number of licensed provincial meat processing operations, and these new changes will help remote communities and preserve the ability to buy locally.”

100-kilometre zone

A second update to the regulation is meant to support to those who have already made investments in becoming fully licensed, by providing a 100-km protective zone (or 15 nautical miles if separated by marine waters) around fully-licensed (Class A, Class B or “established” plants).

Within such a protective zone, new Class C licenses won’t be approved. New Class C licenses will only be considered in areas where there is no local licensed capacity already in place, the province said.

B.C. now has 51 provincially-licensed producers: 31 fully licensed and 20 with Class C licenses. That’s up from just 12 provincially-licensed producers in 2004, the province said. The number of federally-licensed producers is unchanged, at 13.

“B.C. is one of the last jurisdictions in Canada to make the transition to full licensing and inspection,” said Health Minister George Abbott in the province’s release. “Having a system in place to track any problems also helps protect producers and processors from the devastating impact that can be caused by one case of disease that cannot be tracked or contained.”

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