A local expert in the meat processing business has expressed doubts that a slaughterhouse will ever be able to operate in the Sackville Industrial Park.
Jay Boudreau, general manager of Boudreau Meat Market in Memramcook which includes a farm and an abattoir, says strict health and safety regulations would make it almost economically impossible to set up a slaughterhouse there.
“They have a long road ahead, I can guarantee you that,” Boudreau said during a telephone interview.
“I’m going to encourage them,” he added. “I don’t mind having another abattoir down here, but there’s a lot more to this than people think.”
Boudreau says the 4th generation farm and abattoir he manages for his father Guy processes an average of about 50 cattle a week as well as other animals including pigs, lambs and turkeys.
During Monday’s online council meeting, town planner Lori Bickford said someone she didn’t identify has applied to set up a slaughterhouse, which would include a meat processing facility, at 72 Crescent Street.
A document released later shows that the lot on Crescent Street is owned by Richard Baughan and the person proposing to operate the facility is Chris Pierce, a local cattle farmer.
In a telephone interview, Baughan said the town’s description of the facility as an abattoir or slaughterhouse gives a misleading impression.
He added that it would be more like a small meat processing plant, although one or two cattle would be killed there each day.
“It’s a small-scale operation for local farmers,” Baughan said. “It’s more of a meat shop and we wouldn’t be selling to the Super Store or anything like that.”
In an interview with CHMA’s Erica Butler, Chris Pierce said the plan is to have a small storefront butcher shop and abattoir where customers could buy locally raised meat.
“There’s a lot of farms around Sackville,” Pierce told CHMA news, “that this spring during COVID, we had a hard time getting animals processed. So that’s I guess what really made me want to do this.”
“We’re still in the early stages here,” Pierce is quoted as saying. “I have to get the town on board.”
He did not say exactly how many cattle he plans to slaughter and process, but did tell CHMA that his eventual goal would be to handle the same number as the Boudreau abattoir in Memramcook.
The project would require changes to Sackville’s municipal plan and zoning bylaws.
“One of the challenges that we have with abattoirs and slaughterhouses is that, you know, it’s generally a more sensitive, and what you would call, a more intensive use of land,” Bickford said.
She recommended that, if the project were to go ahead, it should be zoned for intensive use with a specific development agreement that would give the town more control.
“Some examples of things that could be included within that development agreement would be no penning of animals outside the facility,” she said.
She added that the agreement could also contain provisions for controlling smells and ensuring that animals are unloaded at the rear of the building.
Bickford gave few other details about the proposed slaughterhouse and has not responded to phone calls or an e-mail from Warktimes.
During Monday’s meeting, Councillor Bill Evans sounded enthusiastic.
“I want the record to show that Sackville is open for business,” he said. “This is a legitimate business. It’s an important business. I know people in the beef-producing business and getting animals butchered is a challenge,” he added.
“So I think this is a great initiative. And I really like the flexibility of the development agreement that will make sure that it’s done in a way that is satisfactory to us,” he said.
Later, during a telephone interview, Evans said he didn’t know many more details about the proposed slaughterhouse other than the information given during the council meeting.
He said he favours passing resolutions that will likely be introduced at council’s meeting next week that would lead to a public presentation and a public hearing before any changes would be made to the municipal plan or zoning bylaws.
Project won’t work
Meantime, Jay Boudreau wonders how a small slaughterhouse in the Industrial Park could operate economically when animal wastes would need to be trucked away for disposal.
“The heads and the guts, they can’t bury that on their land,” he says referring to strict health and safety regulations that govern cattle abattoirs to prevent BSE, also known as mad cow disease, from entering the human food chain.
“You can’t have blood and stuff from the slaughterhouse going into the town’s sewer system; they’ll need to put a filter underground with a pump and a tank,” he says, adding that trucking cattle wastes is expensive.
Boudreau says if he were setting this abattoir up, he’d locate it a lot farther away from the town.
He says that putting a slaughterhouse so close to town could generate local opposition.
“Especially nowadays with [concerns about] animal cruelty and the vegans and the tree huggers,” he says, “slaughtering animals is not something that the next generation is going to endorse.”
To view the report on the project from town planner Lori Bickford, click here.