Ranchers applaud return of local beef slaughter

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick visits newly licensed Green Lake abattoir

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett

Local beef slaughter capacity has returned to the South Cariboo since a local buffalo ranch successfully expanded its licensing recently.

Elisabeth Karlen and her son, Rudy Karlen, own and operate XH Buffalo Ranch at South Green Lake.

The ranch now has all the required permits and “everything is finalized” for its abattoir to process cattle, Elisabeth says.

“We did only buffalo so far, and now we have a new license for beef cattle too.

“It’s now all done. The facility is perfect, the government is happy, the [CFIA] inspector is happy, and the brand inspector is happy.”

Adding more excitement at the family-run ranch, an illustrious guest visited the Karlens on Oct. 30, one of it’s first beef slaughter days.

Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick was on site for two hours listening to the Karlens, learning about the industry and discussing what stumbling blocks still exist, Elisabeth explains.

“He said: ‘I will talk to everybody, and at the end, I will see what we can do’. And I think that’s a good start,” says Elisabeth.

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett accompanied the new minister to the ranch, and says she commends him for taking the issue “very seriously.”

“He understands the issue, and by going around to different abattoirs in different areas, seeing the issues and meeting and talking to these people, and to ranchers, I feel we’ll get a resolution.”

Elisabeth says remaining obstacles include getting other local livestock slaughter capacity, such as for pork and lamb, as well as finding enough provincial inspectors and getting them on par with training.

Happily for Elisabeth and Rudy, an inspector has been found and assigned to their facility.

The inspector must be on site for each of the three days a week that the ranch facility slaughters buffalo, she explains, as well as on any days when beef is scheduled.

Once it’s provincially inspected on her ranch’s Class B licence, customers can legally sell their farm-raised meat to stores, restaurants and other retailers throughout B.C., she notes.

Prior to the XH Buffalo Ranch’s new licensing, local ranchers had no option but to transport live cattle two to three hours from 100 Mile House to the nearest abattoirs, at Barriere, Spokin Lake or in the Beaver Valley, for inspected slaughter.

Circle H Ranch owner Ann Armann, a Lone Butte-based producer, says “a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders” with the return of local beef slaughter.

“It makes a world of a difference to me having a beef slaughter facility in this area,” says Ann. “It relieves a lot of stress for me, as well as for the animals, not having to truck them over long distances.”

She notes while she still can’t take her lamb for local slaughter, those are much smaller animals and easier to transport than beef.

The facility may be able to implement other changes and apply to expand its licensing to slaughter other livestock in future, but Elisabeth says for now, it will remain restricted to beef/cattle and bison/buffalo.

This time of year it processes mainly buffalo, but she notes they will accept small beef orders for its wintertime slaughter days.

The Karlens welcome beef producers to call them at the family ranch with questions about its spring ramp up for handling more cattle. (Contacts are available online at www.xhbuffaloranch.com.)

Elisabeth adds her business made the licensing changes “step by step” by following all the extensive rules and regulations.

“It took quite a long time, but now it’s done, and everybody’s happy.”