by SUSAN MANN
Manitoulin Island red meat farmers will have a provincially licensed plant by next April where they can have their animals killed and chilled, something they haven’t had for about 16 years.
The project to construct the 4,000-square-foot facility on a 10-acre parcel in the Township of Central Manitoulin got another boost Tuesday when the province announced $129,168 in funding. The provincial funding is from the Rural Economic Development program.
The total estimated cost for the project is $1.6 million. Other funding for it came from the Ontario Heritage Fund, (approximately $825,000), the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association ($345,000), five local municipalities, one First Nations community, and more than 40 local farmers who paid $400 to $5,000 each depending on how often they plan to use the facility. The project developers also applied for funding from the FedNor Fund.
Birgit Martin, chair of Manitoulin Island Community Abattoir Inc., says the island hasn’t had a kill and chill facility since about 1995. Farmers must take their animals to Hagar east of Sudbury on the mainland and that’s a 2.5 to four-hour drive one way depending on where a farmer lives on the island.
Martin farms with her husband, Jim. They do grain and grass-finished beef and have to pay a large trucking fee to get animals to the abattoir in Hagar then get a refrigerated truck to bring the carcass back to the island, she says. They typically pay $100 to $150 per carcass to transport it back.
Island farmers are excited about the new facility. “It’s been a long time coming,” Martin says, noting they’ve had to do a lot of paperwork for the funding applications, the business plan, feasibility studies and environmental assessment. “We’re just so thrilled its going forward.”
Gore Bay-area farmer Scott Runnalls says having an abattoir on the island will be good for anyone interested in marketing their own beef.
The new facility being developed will be strictly a kill and chill operation. There are several butchers on Manitoulin Island who can do secondary processing. Martin says for funding purposes they couldn’t establish a business that competes with existing businesses.
“We didn’t want to get into secondary processing,” she says.
A small private abattoir is located on the island but the owner doesn’t open his services to the community.
In its press release, the Ontario government says Manitoulin Island Community Abattoir Inc. is a local, non-profit organization that’s developing the provincially regulated and licensed abattoir to:
• grow the agriculture sector;
• create a strong community of local processors; and
• increase the sustainability of local beef farms.
The plant will be equipped to handle 20 cattle and 20 hogs per kill day and operate for one kill day a week. Martin says that’s their capacity but they don’t expect to be operating at that level initially. They’ll start out killing five to 10 head per week and it will be primarily cattle. They’re also capable of doing domestic deer and bison.
Construction is slated to begin in early September and the facility will be operational by April 1, 2012.
Having local meat available on the island is important, Martin says. In the summer, the island’s population triples and the local butcher they supply is asked if the meat he sells is from the island. “He doesn’t often get the chance to say it is.” BF