Home-butchered meat is “safer”? Really?

The article below appeared in the February 20th Ottawa Citizen, and was brought to my attention by the Barfblog.  The article states that this group butchers its own meat because they find it more economical (OK, I get that) and believe the meat to be safer than commercial meat (keyword: believe).  Yes, this is a church group and they say that their home-butchering practices are not related to their religious beliefs.

Ottawa-area man facing food safety charges

Member of church group defends butchering of meat as safe, economical

FEBRUARY 20, 2010

A Carlsbad Springs man who belongs to a group of churchgoers who butcher their own meat to ensure its safety is facing a string of charges under Ontario’s food safety law.

Mark Tijssen, a major in the Canadian Forces, is to appear in court next month to face charges of running an unlicensed slaughterhouse, failing to have an animal inspected both before and after slaughter, and distributing meat. If found guilty, Tijssen could face up to $100,000 in fines.

The charges arose after a friend of Tijssen’s left his property on Nov. 11, 2009 with about 18 kilograms of pork. The two had jointly bought a pig and slaughtered it.

At the time, Tijssen said he was not aware that food safety laws enacted between 2001 and 2005 had banned his group’s practices. He said he was hoping investigators would be satisfied the group has since stopped slaughtering and distributing meat amongst themselves.

“I really hoped common sense would prevail,” Tijssen said Thursday.

Tijssen’s house had been under surveillance for several days last November before officers from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ottawa police stopped the car and confiscated the meat.

Under Ontario’s Food Safety and Quality Act, it is permissible to butcher an animal if the food is for the person’s own family and none of the meat leaves the property where it was butchered. This allows farmers to raise their own food. It is against the law, however, to distribute the meat to anyone else.

Tijssen said he has butchered his own meat for years and cuts food costs by occasionally buying and butchering animals with a group of friends from his church. The members also have little faith in the safety of commercial meat products.

He said Ontario should have launched an education campaign to advise people that the laws had changed regarding jointly slaughtering and distributing meat.

“Instead, they keep score by penalties. They are not looking at prevention, they are not doing any public education, but they are very large on enforcement and punishment,” said Tijssen.

Ontario’s rules on butchering and distribution of meat for personal use go far beyond those of other provinces, said Ron Doering, an Ottawa lawyer and former president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Doering said Sask-atchewan, for example, has no provincial regulation and Newfoundland and Labrador has few regulations, while Quebec and British Columbia more closely resemble Ontario’s inspection regime.

Doering was also the lead counsel on the provincial commission that produced the new rules for handling meat.

“Frankly, I’m not too sure how well known it is, that they have decided for purposes of public health to apply these rules even in the case of own use. In many other provinces, the provincial government has chosen not to regulate in this area.”

Brent Ross, a spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, said the ministry moderates its enforcement of meat handling rules for religious or ethnic reasons, for example, when Muslims slaughter animals for religious reasons.

“Our inspectors play an educational role as part of their duty. That being said, if they come across a threat to food safety, they have to act because the health and safety of all Ontarians is the ministry’s primary concern,” he said.

Tijssen and his friends from Faith Anglican Church say religion plays no part in their butchering practices. They just want economical and safe meat.

Tijssen said his case is similar to that of Ontario raw milk crusader Michael Schmidt, who recently won a 16-year legal battle against Ontario regulators who want to prevent him from distributing his raw milk. He had set up a sharing agreement, somewhat like a co-operative, that the court found was not subject to provincial rules.


9 thoughts on “Home-butchered meat is “safer”? Really?

  1. We, the Milkmen USA, and other milkmen around the globe, today want to distribute healthy foods to the consumer, direct to their door-step. Milkmen all over the world have done this historically. In the United States, it has only been after the 1960’s or earlier that the large number of milkmen had diminished to low numbers. This was due to change of lifestyles and the large supermarkets in addition to the industrialization of the food supply. There are more reasons but we will not expound on these facts or history right now.

    Milk and Dairy are now and always were the major commodity and service of the MILKMAN. Of course, there were always breads, ice cream, and other goodies. Today, more than ever there is a need for the consumer to deliver fresh meats, vegetables and fruits, poultry, eggs, seafood and more. This is not an easy task. Despite the difficulties, we have a question for the “FOODIES.” What meats are best for the MILKMEN or MILKMAN to deliver? And why? we want to know your opinions because we will be delivering more than just ground meat for hamburgers. The consumer wants delivered to their door, meats and more that are fresh from the farm or the ranch. Free range, humanely raised, well fed, well cared for animals. PLease comment your opinions. Thank you.

    Ed Hartz

    • Ed — Thanks for your comments. I, too, would like to know what the “FOODIES” would like to have delivered to their door by the Milkman(men). Perhaps the concept of “nose to tail” eating will help your cause?

      • What do yo think of the Whole Foods company and their interest in this mobile slaughterhouse interest they have now?
        What do you think about food irradiation?

        The Milkmen USA

      • I am not equipped to comment on Whole Foods’ business and their interest in mobile slaughterhouses.

        As for mobile slaughterhouses, they are really best suited (in my opinion) for poultry, and I think that is the direction being pursued by Whole Foods. Among other species, mobile slaughterhouses do not account for aging, cutting, wrapping, etc.

        I favor food irradiation because it’s the best solution we have to ensure food safety. It’s called cold pasteurization for a reason – because it pasteurizes the product (and without heat). It is the best way to ensure the safety of grass- or grainfed beef, pastured or “conventional” poultry, etc. What it cannot overcome is post-pasteurization contamination.

        We often forget that most imported spices are irradiated (less, of course, the Salmonella-laced spices in light of the recent salami recall.)

  2. The government’s concern on the meat’s hygiene of private slaughterhouse is acceptable. However, the church group’s argument that they feel that it is safer to slaughter the animals themselves has a point too. No one eats bad or improper food. If they have everything under their own hands, they can control what happens to the meat from the very beginning. The sense of knowing and seeing the process with their own eyes give a much better safety feeling than just receiving frozen meat from somewhere you don’t know.

    • Hi Maxine — I too, understand, where both the government and the church group are “coming from.” Indeed, they can control everything, from start to finish. Yet (to the point of the investigation addressed in this article), should someone fall ill and that illness is attributable to meat butchered by their group, who is liable for this? Should everyone in the group need to sign some sort of risk acknowledgement/waiver? It is unfortunate that we have gotten to that point (perhaps).


      • Should hunters who process their own carcasses also require people to sign waivers? We have eaten venison at potlucks and when we have been invited to hunters’ homes for dinner. If we take these things too far we’ll have to sign waivers just to walk into a restaurant and the grocery store.

        We have a local small scale farmer who raises goats (we get our Thanksgiving turkey from him). Due to slaughter regulations in OH he can’t process the goats and only sells them live. Those who eat goat have to find someone else or kill the animal themselves. The turkeys are all killed all at the same time in November and the farmer has someone do that but we pick up at the farm. Makes me wonder what options this group of friends, who happen to belong to the same church, have when they want to split an animal. Are they picking on a church? The same scenario could happen with neighbors or members of a food Co-Op who split groceries.

      • All very true points, Barb! I have wondered about the venison situation myself — I know that in some states it is not allowed to donate home-processed venison to food banks or shelters! Waiver for this, waiver for that … no telling where this might stop. Aside, of course, from people accepting that no food is sterile and it all carries a risk (?).

        I do not think they’re picking on the church. Pertaining to the situation you described, it should be allowable to split animals into “shares.” It’s not different than cow-shares used to circumvent raw milk regulations in some states.

  3. Found this article as this issue has come to my attention recently. I watched a program in which a cow was slaughtered at home. That is to say, killed, bled, gutted and quartered. This was conducted by a the same small butcher that then transported the four quarters to his shop to hang for a couple weeks and be cut.

    The thing that struck me most about this was how incredibly humane it was. None of the corralling, trucking, herding that is involved in the “normal’ process. One minute the cow is happily standing in his home the next he is dead. I also fail to see how this would introduce anything into the meat. Besides, it is still available for inspection during the curing process.

    I would love to see this here at home and would be much more comfortable consuming a cow that had been treated in this manner I hate the thought of the terror those animals go through in those slaughter houses, just so I can have a piece of red meat..

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