Take Action to Save Atlantic Canada's Only Federally Inspected Beef Processing Plant
Beyond Factory Farming, in partnership with the Ecology Action Centre (Halifax Nova Scotia), Friends of Agriculture Nova Scotia and the National Farmers Union want Atlantic Canadians to voice your concern to the provincial governments of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island by SIGNING THE PETITION to keep Atlantic Beef Products Inc. opened and thereby saving the local beef industry.
SIGN THE PETITION!
Three easy steps: * Print * Sign * Send!
Please print the petition and sign it. We would happy if you collected other signatures as well. You can then send a hard copy by snail mail to the contact person in your province:
Beyond Factory Farming c/o Nik Basque
2-127 ch du couvent
Bouctouche, NB, E4S 3B8
Ecology Action Centre c/o Food Action Committee
2705 Fern Lane
Prince Edward Island
National Farmers Union c/o Ranald MacFarlane
RR # 1 Bedeque
P.E.I C0B 1C0
Note that you must be a resident of the province to sign the petition.
About the Issue
“If we lose our beef plant, we lose our beef industry” is what local producers are saying in Atlantic Canada. There is a growing concern that Atlantic Beef Products Inc., the region’s only federally inspected beef plant will close if the primary processing plant does not become profitable or if a private investor is not found soon. The plant opened its doors in 2004, after beef producers recognized a need for a federally inspected plant for the region; a need that arose after Hub Meat Packers in Moncton, New Brunswick was bought out by Maple Leaf Foods and converted into a seconary processing plant in 2000. ABPI was established as a cooperative – partly owned by regional beef producers and the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.
The original marketing plan was to sell 100% of the product to Coop Atlantic under the “Atlantic Tender Beef” label. Coop was on board with the deal for the first year of operation, at which point they withdrew, citing a lack of quantity and availability of certain cuts (such as ground beef). This left producers in a bind - without a marketing plan, where would they sell their beef? The reality of our beef industry is such that two main packers XL and Cargill process more than 85% of beef in Canada, making it nearly impossible for smaller packers to compete. Read The Farm Crisis and the Cattle Sector: Toward a New Analysis and New Solutions more on this issue for more on this issue. It is evident that alternative marketing plans need to be developed, such as looking at niche markets, to make the plant and the beef industry profitable and sustainable for farmers in Atlantic Canada.
Furthermore, the plant lacks the necessary technology to grind trim in to ground beef, meaning a lot of waste is accrued which is costly to dispose of. On average, the plant has been losing upwards of $200,000 a month. Because the plant is operating at such a loss, the provinces are saying that they will not renew the funding of the plant (which has been $6million to date) once the current money runs out. The plant was also relying on a “one time cash infusion” of $6 million from Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (a branch of the Federal government) but since the announcement was made the supposed grant is now a loan. This is problematic because the plant will be expected to repay the loan even if they continue to lose money on a monthly basis. Meetings have been underway to discuss the conditions of the loan but no information is available to the public at this time.
What if the plant closes its doors?
A viable local food system depends on reliable infrastructure. Atlantic Beef Products Inc. services the entire Atlantic region including 90% of production on Prince Edward Island. We have already witnessed the devastating impact the pork industry experienced on PEI when the only pork processing plant on the island closed in 2008. If the beef plant closes, it will likely be the end of the beef industry on Prince Edward Island, and will deeply impact producers in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia who rely on selling their product outside of their home province. Many producers in the region are small or medium-sized and the added expense of shipping live cattle to Quebec or Ontario for processing is a major financial disincentive, especially for those who must already work off-farm jobs to maintain their farm. Many have already sold their herds, anticipating the closure. While the Atlantic region does have several provincially licensed abattoirs, beef that is sold outside of the province in which it is produced must be processed in a Federally inspected plant.
In order to change the face of the cattle sector in Canada (and especially Atlantic Canada) we must decentralize processing. It is not viable – economically, environmentally, or socially, to have a few super-sized processing plants located in Alberta servicing the whole sector. It makes more sense to have several smaller plants in each province servicing their region. Decentralizing processing encourages local food systems and family farming rather than corportate concentration and industrial scale farming. We must voice our preference, and urge Atlantic Canada to keep its Federally inspected plant and its family farms.
To read more about the Canadian Beef Industry Crisis, read The Farm Crisis and the Cattle Sector: Toward a New Analysis and New Solutions by the National Farmers Union.
For an example of successful producer-owned processing plants see the Levinoff Colbex Plant in Quebec.
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