There are many reasons why we don't have more small processors

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s become abundantly clear to many that Canada’s livestock processing industry is incredibly concentrated to a handful of federal plants. Now, as these plants face partial or short-term closures, many farmers and consumers alike are lamenting the lack of small, local abattoirs.

The trouble is, it’s not easy to keep a small plant running. If it was we would have many more processors than we currently do.

An abattoir is a challenging business to run and, like all businesses, it has to be profitable to be sustainable. As Franco Naccarato explains in the audio below, they are also labour intensive to operate and face regulatory and red tape burdens that can limit sales.

Naccarato, executive director with Meat and Poultry Ontario, says that large-scale processors have many advantages — volume and consistency being just two of them. But small-scale processors are more nimble and are able to deal with different size animals, customer orders, and providing for niche markets.

Still, even a small abattoir is an immense amount of infrastructure to either build or retrofit, Naccarato says. There’s an opportunity for entrepreneurs in the processing and butchering space, but the need for capital and a reliable labour force often holds people back from setting up shop.

Part of the solution to this could be robotics and automating some of the repetitive, heavy labour jobs in an abattoir. Another solution maybe is more coordination and cooperation between large and small processors — a model somewhere in between the two that can make the most of the advantages of both.

3 thoughts on “There are many reasons why we don’t have more small processors

  1. One of the discouraging reasons Canada does not have more slaughter facilities is the way Canada discriminated against this business. Canada makes it easier for plants to export into Canada compared to the USA where it is more difficult to export into the USA. It is all in the way each country applies trade agreements. When our producers were dealing with BSE startup plants failed partly because of this. It is overdue the application of these policies be looked at from a Canada first objective.

  2. It is always about producing the cheapest cost food possible. The trouble is only the upfront cost are taken into account. Somehow we need to evaluate the entire cost of the way we get food to the plate. Big production is more efficient but maybe not as efficient as we think if we put a price on all the unknowns or unexpected.

  3. As a son of a farmer that slaughtered beef for our neighbors and ourselves before electricity, my friends and I would like the laws changed to allow the farmer to slaughter and sell directly to us meat that is un-inspected. By the following conditions we would have meat that is: not fed GMO feed but grass only thus having a higher Omega 3 and CLA, meat that taste better because the animal would not have high levels of stress homones due to being transported, koshiered killed also causes less stress when done properly, the blood and remains would be easily returned to the soil from where it came from, and the farmer would receive more money per animal that they had raised.

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