Gee I wish it would have been April last month. Then the article I wrote about Australian live cattle coming to Alberta to be slaughtered and sold as Alberta beef would have qualified as an April Fool’s joke — but I am the only fool here.
I was so busy trying to find a storyline to skewer the animal rights folks about the Governor General eating seal heart, that I took a scrap of information about imported beef, turned it into misinformation, added a pound of assumption and connected a whole bunch of dots in the wrong direction. Then I committed the cardinal sin of not checking the facts and their context.
I apologize to all of you.
Some facts were correct, but the details or context were not. Australia exports live cattle, but not to here for slaughter.
Imported beef is sold in supermarkets — and there are deceptive but legal labelling practices.
I had always assumed all beef in Canada was Canadian beef and felt tricked to learn that is not the case. I also felt tricked to learn how labelling does not tell the whole truth.
There are some bizarre “Product of Canada” laws related to imported foods or food products, which were the source of much of my confused diatribe.
According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website, if certain items are imported and substantially transformed — i.e. into pot pie, sausage, etc. — they can be then offered as a Made in Canada product.
Regarding live cattle and carcasses imported, according to the Canada Gazette government website, in 2000 there was an application made to harmonize the standards between Canada and the U.S. regarding the grading of both imported and live cattle.
Prior to that time, imported beef carcasses to Canada were not eligible for Canadian grading, but the reverse was true in the U.S.
According to the July 1, 2009, edition of Meat International online, Canada: Government safety rules favour imported meat over local.
I was not aware of the following and I find it difficult to believe that our legislation is working against Canadian consumers, Canadian meat producers and smaller Canadian meat-processing facilities.
I quote from their article: “Some meat products imported from other countries, and readily available on store shelves nation-wide, do not have to meet the same standards that are required from Canadian producers and provincial meat-processing plants.”
At the same time, meat from Canadian producers that meets all food safety requirements, but is processed at a provincial plant, is unavailable to the majority of Canadian consumers.
The chairman of the Standing Committee on Food Safety, Larry Miller, stated, “It would be difficult to try to explain to consumers why food that is deemed safe for consumption in one province is not available to consumers in another province.”
Tom Olson, chairman of the Bison Producers of Alberta, in a recent appearance before the subcommittee said, “The problem with CFIA is that many of the ‘food safety regulations’ have nothing to do with food safety.”
As an example of this “disconnect,” Olson cited the requirement for a “paved parking lot” in order to meet federal safety standards.
Adding further to the government safety regulation controversy, was a recent press release from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, that stated none of the 57 newly hired inspectors is dedicated to meat inspection, despite the recent deadly listeriosis crisis that Canada faced.
Food security is not just about food safety. It begins with supply.
If consumers don’t make the effort to buy Canadian meat that was really raised in Canada by Canadian farmers, or if stores and consumers don’t bother to support local meat processing plants, then our long-term food security is ultimately compromised should they go out of business.
When you buy directly from a local plant, you can find out if it’s Canadian raised meat.
According to the Canadian Beef Labelling Fact Sheet, “The words Product of Canada stamped on the box does not mean the product in the box is from Canada — it simply means that the beef has undergone some form of processing in Canada.”
Buyer beware. And buy Canadian.
Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance columnist.