Meat co-op members beef about delay

Some grumbling has been heard in certain circles about the South Cariboo Meat Co-op's (SCMC) delay in building a local abattoir.

Gus Horn

Gus Horn

Some grumbling has been heard in certain circles about the South Cariboo Meat Co-op’s (SCMC) delay in building a local abattoir.

The SCMC board has also heard some complaints voiced by members regarding its revised plan for a slaughter facility, so it is providing updates to clarify its position.

SCMC chair Gus Horn explains the board needs to finalize the total cost of the revised abattoir plan before proceeding with construction.

Currently, this includes meeting regularly with professional co-ordinators (engineers hired by contractors) in an ongoing design review process.

“If it’s going to be done, it’s going to be done well; it’s going to be done properly.

“We want to be sure we don’t end up with a half-built white elephant … because all costs weren’t taken into account up front.”

The SCMC is taking heat from some members who bought into the co-op understanding the new facility would be ready to slaughter this fall and aren’t happy it now won’t be open until at least March.

The board’s intention is still “very much to minimize any gap” in the capacity for local slaughter, Horn says, adding Findlay Meats is licensed to operate its abattoir until Dec. 31.

The winter (January to March) slaughter is only a small fraction of the annual local market, he notes.

“We want to be running by the end of March … to work the kinks out, so we can be ready to slaughter seriously at the end of May.”

Because some producer members of the SCMC have indicated they want to hit the ground running by late spring for a weekly slaughter of early, grass-fed livestock, such as lamb, Horn is offering them his personal commitment.

“We will work to create options for cost-effective ways to co-ordinate the shipping of any animals for slaughter, to either Rodier’s Meats [Beaver Valley] or Rainer’s Custom Cutting [Darfield], should there be a gap between Dec. 31 and our opening.”

The schedule has been adjusted for more than one reason, Horn says, including the time frame required by the rezoning process for the property on Canim-Hendrix Lake Road.

Horn justifies the board’s recent decision to move to that location, however, and adds the subdivision and rezoning required is going through in record time with the “blessing” of District of 100 Mile House staff and council.

“While the property is within the district, it’s been optimally screened for what we’re intending, with respect to: it’s not really visible from the town, it’s handy for producers and it’s far enough off of the road … there are not anticipated to be any sight, sound or smell issues.”

Horn says the costing efforts include meeting with water-well drillers this week for a quote, which they expect will be lower than the costs for hooking into district water mains.

The Meat Transition Assistance Program (MTAP) review of all of the design layers involved – required for the funding it’s providing to SCMC – is time-consuming, as the agency now operates just one day a week, he explains.

“Because they’re working on a skeleton crew, they’re taking longer to come back.”

Marrying regulatory and practical issues is not an easy task, Horn says, adding the pre-fab building order has been put on hold until all the key aspects are resolved.

“[Findlay Meats owner] Rob Morrison has been extremely helpful for tweaking the design, within the regulatory requirements, to be sure that the building is a functional plant.”

A public hearing will happen as a part of the provincial Agricultural Land Commission approval process, but he says the board doesn’t anticipate any problems, despite the recent smattering of criticism.

While the original goal of opening this fall won’t be met, the chair explains the most important thing is to keep one’s eye on the target to get a smoothly running abattoir facility in operation in the South Cariboo.

“We still have people stepping up to the plate with [new] producer and community memberships, who see this as an important long-term asset within the district.”