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No Victorian Turkeys for Thanksgiving

by 5m Editor
13 October 2008, at 7:37a.m.

VICTORIA - New regulations were introduced a year ago to force poultry farmers to process their livestock through government-licensed inspection plants before meat could be sold to the public. Because there is no such plant in Greater Victoria, local producers - especially those rearing turkeys for Thanksgiving - have gone out of business.

It is the time of year when people have turkey on their minds, and a local market owner is using the opportunity to highlight what he considers ludicrous government regulations that are putting local poultry farmers out of business, reports Times Colonist from Victoria.

John De Medeiros, president of Ambrosia Market and Deli which has four outlets in the region, says the regulations which kicked in last fall have resulted in small, local farmers dropping out of the poultry business.

And that means there is a severe shortage of locally raised, free-range turkeys available for Thanksgiving feasts.

"It's been an ongoing problem for some time, the government has made it illegal to sell chicken at a farm gate," he said, noting his business has been hurt as it has been an outlet for locally grown produce and locally raised meat. "The governments say they want us to support local farms, eat close to home and be environmentally friendly, but the rules say we can't."

Last fall, new regulations came into being forcing poultry farmers to process their livestock through government-licensed inspection plants before meat could be sold to the public.

There is not a single one in Greater Victoria. The closest plant is in the Cowichan Valley, and for many farmers, that meant it was no longer economically viable to stay in the poultry business.

"It has basically shut me down and anyone else who was doing it," said Saanich farmer Murray Hall, adding the cost of trucking poultry to either the Cowichan Valley or the Lower Mainland for processing killed any kind of profit. "Now, either something changes, or we find something new or in January we will be out of the farming business."

Last weekend, Ambrosia has locally grown free-range turkeys, but neither the stores nor the farmers will be making any profit on their sale as they had to be trucked to Vancouver for processing.

Mr Hall, who raised the turkeys, said he had considered building his own processing plant but was told because there is a processor in the Cowichan Valley, he would not be eligible for any kind of grant to help with the construction.

"So I would have to do it all on my own, and I was given an estimate that it would cost me $100,000," he said, noting there are few small producers with that kind of cash lying around. "The government does all this in the name of food safety, but they still allow stores to sell cigarettes and the government sells liquor and everybody knows those products kill - I can't honestly say I know anybody who has died from eating a farm-fresh egg."