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Farm Glance: David Bunnett Family Farm

July 13, 2010

After a three days of riding and a day off in Fredericton, NB, we pressed on through the St. John River Valley towards Havelock, NB arriving at the David Bunnett Family Farm, home of Green Meadows Organic Beef. Operating on 400-acres (150-acres of which they own), the Bunnetts raise 120 head of cattle, 70 turkeys, and four batches of 250 meat birds each year. What stood out to us at this particular livestock farm was the size of the operation, which seems to be really manageable for a family to operate, as well as the way they sell their beef, namely fresh at the Dieppe Farmers’ Market.

The Bunnett Family

Now, at first that may not seem exceptional, but when we really thought about it, we realized that it’s a rarity to find fresh meat at a farmers’ market sold directly to you by the farmer. The Bunnetts are able to do this because of their location, 50 km away from their market and less than 20 km from their slaughterhouse. They’ve developed a system whereby they drop off a cow every two weeks to be slaughtered, aged, and butchered. They allow one side of beef to hang for two weeks and the other side to hang for three weeks so that each week they have a side of fresh beef to bring the farmers’ market, butchered, packaged and ready to use.

One of the Bunnetts movable chicken coops for their meat birds and turkeys, designed in the spirit of Joel Salatin's coops with a few tweaks.

For a lot of meat producers in Canada today, raising the animals is the easy part. Where things get complicated is in the process of getting the meat from the pasture to the consumer. Each step in this process, from transportation to slaughtering and ageing to butchering and packaging, and finally to storing, is very involved and requires a significant amount of infrastructure on the farm and off. With new meat slaughtering regulations in many provinces, animals must be transported to a provincially-inspected abattoir in order to be able to sell the meat off the farm. To sell meat inter-provincially, the animals must be taken to a federally-inspected abattoir.

The Bunnetts small chicken tractor bought on Kijiji (great find!) and used for their six laying hens.

Beyond Factory Farming, a national organization promoting socially responsible livestock production, has created a map displaying all available abattoirs in Canada. At first glance, it may seem that abattoirs are plentiful, but what is most striking is their concentration in certain areas such as southern Ontario and Quebec; areas that are often more suitable to field crops. Though ruminants and other livestock require lots of land (one of many arguments used by proponents of vegetarianism), the one characteristic of livestock that makes them exceptional is that they can be raised on land and landscapes that are often rugged and undesirable for crop production and urban populations. British Columbia’s Chilcotin Plateau is a good example.  This area boasts prime ranching country, yet where are the abattoirs? They are few and far between, such that many ranchers must drive their animals four to five hours to find a provincially-inspected abattoir, meaning major stress on the animals and a major cost to farmers. (See this at issue in recent news.)

This issue is much more complicated than can be explored in this modest blog post, but what we can say is that because the process of slaughtering animals in Canada is increasingly difficult, farmers are having to come up with crafty ideas to make the regulations work for them (mobile abattoirs, you say?).  The Bunnett family is just one such inspiring example of a small farm making it work.

Isn't that right, Daniel?

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