The politics of poultry

chicken fraser valley

I’m a strong believer that people’s ability to feed their family quality and healthy foods should never be impacted by bureaucratic red-tape. Sadly, not everyone feels the same way.

Our biggest seller here at Central Park Farms is our chicken and I am very proud of the poultry we raise.

However, chicken farming has recently become a rather challenging feat.

In order for poultry to be able to be sold to the public it needs to be processed at a provincially inspected abattoir — The facility we use happens to be both provincially and federally inspected. The issue that has come up lately is one of the last plants in the Lower Mainland willing to process small batches of birds recently changed it’s policy to only handle large quantities, leaving many small farmers out-of-luck.

In an email sent out to farmers, Farm Fed explained, ‘With our expansion completed, additional automated equipment installed, adding additional product and hiring of extra employees we are unable to offer custom processing due to lack of processing time.’

As you can imagine the only remaining facility providing custom services here in the Lower Mainland cannot keep up with demand and as a result many small farmers are no longer able to sell poultry.

Now, what does this mean for Central Park Farms? Thankfully, it’s business as usual for us. But, how could that be? When so many other local farmers are having to completely change their business model or shut their doors to poultry, how could we possibly have no change in our operations?!

Well with the help of my third-generation poultry farmer Big Jay we’ve been having our birds processed though a plant that doesn’t offer custom kill to the public — and we always have been.

For us this change has meant an increase in business as we begin to custom raise birds for other farm-to-table style farmers who don’t want to loose the ability to sell chicken to their customers and who’s humane and sustainable farming practices aline with ours.

You may question how I could possibly see one processing plant’s decision to streamline their operations as ‘bureaucratic red-tape’ but this is where things get more complicated. Although Central Park Farms has no issues getting our birds processed, we still believe other small farmers like ourselves deserve the right to raise poultry and customers deserve choices.

poultry farm fraser valleySo a few months back, when the Farm Fed announcement was still only a rumour, I gathered the funding to purchase a 53′ mobile poultry processing unit to put on our 40-acre farm.

This unit was previously paid for by BC tax payer money but is currently up for sale and runs the risk to be sold for pennies on the dollar to the United States. All the while local small farmers are running the risk of losing their business.

I spoke to Fraser Health, the Agricultural Land Reserve, the BC Minister of Agriculture’s office, the bank, fellow farmers, potential future staff, but in the end we couldn’t get the okay from the Township of Langley. We’ve been advised it goes against the zoning in our area of the municipality. Now, I don’t want people to grab pitchforks but I also always promise the truth. Our zoning allows us to further process chickens but not do the initial kill even through from a health and sanitation perspective we’d be meeting or exceeding all requirements. We can however turn our property into a truck stop but that’s a whole other story.

There have been so many people on our side, including provincial government in agreement that such a facility is desperately needed in our community. And, we’re not the only ones who’ve been trying to get the green-light for such a project and to no avail.

We aren’t giving up just yet, we’re now in talks with a close friend of ours who appears to have correctly zoned property in a different municipality in the Fraser Valley so fingers crossed we don’t hit as much red tape in that area.

For consumers it’s important now more than ever to ask questions of the farmers you’re buying poultry from. I do believe there are people out there able to do humane and sanitary ‘backyard’ processing, in fact I know Jay is one of those people. I would never hesitate to consume poultry he processed but the key here is I’d also never sell it to our customers.

You deserve to know the meat you feed your family has been properly inspected. While there are those who are qualified to spot potential health risks when it comes to processing poultry, not everyone is. And, without proper licensing how do you know the difference?

Hopefully we can get a solution to this problem soon but rest assured you’ll have no issues continuing to purchase your non-medicated, pasture-raised poultry from Central Park Farms. And, as always it will be both provincially and federally inspected.

Kendall ~ The chick behind Central Park Farms