Farmers save meat from rendering—for now

BARWICK—It was a battle of negotiations over the weekend between many Rainy River District livestock producers and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, but the farmers were able to save the condemned meat at Sunrise Meat and Sausage from being rendered—at least for now.
“I still don’t know what to think,” said Kim Jo Bliss. “My mind has just been going. There’s going to be some consequences.
“Unfortunately, I feel the ministry could have redeemed themselves even again Friday . . . and it wouldn’t have come to this.”
While Paul Peters, owner of the Barwick processing plant, and those representing him were in a second hearing about the matter on Friday, a rendering truck already had made its way to Emo.
“We were all there thinking we were there in good faith and we were still fighting for Paul to finish what he had there,” Bliss said. “We broke for lunch and there was a garbage truck from Winnipeg already sitting waiting to pick up this meat.
“That totally set the wrong mood,” she added, citing the verdict—allowing the wild game and federally-inspected meat to be returned—hadn’t even been read.
Bliss noted people in the district immediately got on the phone to others and headed to Peters’ plant to protest. And they asked if OMAFRA would come back the next morning in the hopes they could generate more media coverage.
“They left and came back at 9 a.m. with an even bigger crowd on hand,” she indicated. “They were scared to get out of the truck. We tried to do some bargaining.”
Amos Brielmann told the officials it was unacceptable to take the meat on Remembrance Day. Not being able to make a decision, these OMAFRA officials left Peters’ to contact their superior.
Hundreds of district residents spent the day at the protest despite the cold weather. They had a bonfire, cooked hotdogs, and held an impromptu Remembrance Day service with a prayer and moment of silence.
Bliss noted they found out the garbage truck then was sent back to Winnipeg and the superior called around 11:30 a.m. to Peters’ house.
“He was very, very irate,” she stressed. “We tried talking to him again [and] asked what would be the consequences of moving our own meat onto a reefer.”
With no consequences expressed, someone in the community was able to get a reefer truck there by 2 p.m.
“And since the First Nations came on board to fight for our meat for us, the truck went to Manitou [Rapids reserve] and it’s just going to stay there for now,” Bliss remarked, adding the next step is to wait to see what OMAFRA’s actions will be in response.
And since government office are closed today to observe Remembrance Day, they don’t know if they will hear anything before tomorrow.
But Bliss said people were feeling uneasy about the meat still hanging in the reefer, so a plan was made to cut, wrap, and freeze that meat this morning.
“I think everyone is happy with this,” she remarked. “But we still need to stick together. The community support was tremendous. I really believe that’s what kept everybody under control.”
The farmers are hoping that since the condemned meat has been removed from Peters’ facility, he soon will be able to re-open—after a full disinfecting and an inspection.
“But he’s going to be operating at 10 to 15 percent of his normal business,” she noted.
“We still have a problem on our hands that we need to solve—we’re still hoping good will come out of this,” Bliss added.
(Fort Frances Daily Bulletin)

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