Why is our beef coming from out of the country?

How many stereotypes can we smash in one moment? Elite, black female deigns to eat a slice of raw (heart) meat related to indigenous culture of Canada.

How many stereotypes can we smash in one moment? Elite, black female deigns to eat a slice of raw (heart) meat related to indigenous culture of Canada.

Whoa! Watch those animal rights people go ballistic!

But every week, month, perhaps every day, those same activists are silent about the shipments of cattle that arrive in Alberta from offshore.

Thousands of cattle are shipped thousands of kilometres – like from Australia for instance.

Do you think they had a good time on board a container vessel? Was it kind, compassionate, healthful? Then they are murdered.

They arrive in Canada and within 30 days of simply being in the province, they suddenly qualify as Alberta beef.

Even a dog doesn’t have such luxury – a dog would have to be in quarantine for six months.

This news surfaced when I visited my local meat packing plant in Ponoka. I wanted some bison, the lady offered me also a sample of some “beef bacon.”

This novelty piqued my interest and as we chatted I was pleased to learn this couple are experienced European professionals in the meat business and that their processing plant ranks in the top ten in the province now.

They’re turning out smoked chickens, speciality jerky, can do crown roasts for five star restaurants – just the way they like them – but the major food stores don’t carry local meat.

What? Local stores and chains don’t carry local meat?

No. They carry the 30-day imported “Alberta beef.”

As we chatted I was appalled to learn that the meat plant owners’ dedication (and that of other local meat plants) to expertly kill, pack and process for local farmers, is constantly undercut by these imports of animals from overseas which are then sold under the label of “Alberta beef” when they are anything but, and sold for much less (guess what that means about their quality).

And I wondered, with all the hullabaloo about swine flu, why on earth is it OK to import live cattle on the hoof from overseas and then resell it as Alberta beef when perhaps it is carrying some contagion? How would we ever know?

Maybe the global economy that recently broke down is sending us a cosmic message.

Buy local. Invest local. Eat local food.

Because the alternative – as we have seen with all kinds of imports from overseas where standards and ethics are not the same as ours (i.e. China) – means that we put our very lives at risk.

But my real question is this?

Why does it fall to me to tell you this in an article I wrote after an accidental encounter with a person whose work I liked and respected so much, that I wanted to know more?

We have a million government websites at every level – we have consumer safety guidelines and such like – why are these lying labels allowed? Why aren’t government agencies policing the gates of health and food security on these imports?

Why me?

Really, is a beef on the hoof Alberta beef after 30 days?

Absolutely not.

Just like a landed immigrant who is not a Canadian for several years, it appears that it will take more than 30 days for any imported cow to learn the national anthem.

And if we are really so concerned about the public health risks of animal diseases transferred to humans, then what the heck are we doing allowing such loose guidelines on animal imports at all?

Maybe all those who are crying over the snippet of seal heart will wake up and smell the sizzle on the steak and realize it’s not local.

Now that’s something worth protesting.

Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance columnist.

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