Condemned meat ‘disposed’ by First Nation

FORT FRANCES—Condemned meat which had been moved from Sunrise Meat and Sausage in Barwick to Rainy River First Nations earlier this month was “disposed” of on the weekend, Chief Jim Leonard indicated Tuesday.
“We no longer have it and everyone is happy,” he replied when asked if the farmers who owned the meat had been given it back.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs condemned the uninspected meat after the Northwestern Health Unit had shut down Sunrise Meat back on Nov. 1.
OMAFRA had planned to have it rendered (destroyed), but district farmers prevented that by staging a two-day protest Nov. 10-11 outside the plant.
Instead, the meat was transferred to a “reefer” truck and stored at Rainy River First Nations.
The meat no longer is there.
“We’re brought up to only take what we can use—anything else is considered waste and what the government proposed is wasteful and criminal,” Chief Leonard noted, adding he had been in brief contact with OMAFRA.
“They used the word ‘dispose’ and that’s what we’ve done with it,” he added.
“But interpreting ‘dispose,’ does that mean to put it into flames?” asked former chief Willie Wilson, who also had been involved in talks with government officials.
OMAFRA spokesman Brent Ross said he could not comment due to the ongoing investigation into the situation at Sunrise Meat.
Ministry of Natural Resources investigators, working on behalf of OMAFRA, met Saturday with the newly-formed “Local Food for Local People” committee (consisting of Kim Jo Bliss, Amos Brielmann, Joe Sletmoen, Debbie Zimmerman, Clayton Teeple, and Nico Veldhuisen), as well as Sunrise Meat owners Paul and Susan Peters, Chief Leonard, and Wilson.
“I’m not saying it helped us, but they did listen and were trying to gather the story,” Bliss said, adding she was unaware of any charges being laid as of Saturday.
She noted it was clarified at that meeting why the meat was condemned in the first place—because uninspected meat on the premises left open the possibility for cross-contamination of the inspected meat there.
Even though the meat no longer is in danger of being rendered by OMAFRA, Bliss stressed the committee still is committed to its goal of receiving an apology from them.
“We’re still really asking for Susan and Paul to have a public apology because there was a lot of bad press about them,” she remarked. “They weren’t selling uninspected meat.”
The committee also wants to sit down with OMAFRA to determine a solution to not processing uninspected meat locally.
“We still need an interim solution because this is real, very real,” Bliss stressed. “It’s also a busy time for most farms. It’s all about their families—not selling the meat.”
Bliss hopes the ministry is seeing the seriousness of the situation.
She also noted the committee would like to plan a potluck dinner for the near future to bring the group back together.
“Not to celebrate, but to recognize it was really great for the community to pull together and appreciate one another and still know we have work to do, but know it was appreciated,” she remarked.
In related news, MNR investigators also were in contact with Murnie Allen, owner of Greensides General Store in Devlin.
Allen had three beef carcasses condemned there earlier this month because they were uninspected, but his situation is not under investigation.
“They came to pick up the meat, but they didn’t get it,” he said, adding he wasn’t given 24 hours’ notice before the pick-up.
“I wasn’t saying no—I can’t say no. I just couldn’t do it right that minute,” he explained. “So they left.”
Allen was told they will be coming back to pick up the meat sometime early this week and he plans to comply.
But like Bliss, Allen is hoping for an interim solution so he can continue working for district farmers.
(Fort Frances Times)