Meat Law

KevinButchering Beef, Butchering Game Meats, Butchering Pork6 Comments

I am not a lawyer. Did I mention I’m not a lawyer? Sadly, I feel apprehensive to discuss law as it implies somebody will misinterpret this, act upon it [ie, do something stupid], and point to me as the source of their lack of awesomeness. Yeah, don’t do that please. I’m addressing this topic to try to share some of what I’ve learned in the past week about butchering at home, and to have an open discussion about it.

I first will refer you to the Acts, as I was: the Meat Inspection Act and Meat Inspection Regulation are the relevant pieces of legislation. These would presumably be the last word on the subject,  but as if often the case with law even after a few reads it was far from clear where the boundaries were for home butchering. I sought interpretations from the investigator at Alberta Ag that is probably sick of hearing from me by now.

The conclusion I reached based on what I was told, was that one can butcher inspected pork, beef, etc at home without permit or license, but that said meat cannot be given or sold, and is only to be used for one’s immediately family. I can’t find the legal verbage in the Act to support some of this [especially the ‘give’ part], but as aforementioned, I’m not a lawyer, and am relying on guidance from the Regulatory Services Division of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. One needs a Public Health Permit for the premises if one is processing for resale – makes sense. One cannot obtain uninspected meat direct from a local farm. [If I’m later told I’m misinformed about anything in this paragraph, I’ll edit this immediately]

There is one clear exemption pertaining to uninspected meat – section 6.2(b) of the Meat Inspection Regulation clearly excludes wildlife as defined under the Wildlife Act. So I read the Wildlife Act. Section 62(1) says ‘a person shall not traffic in wildlife’, and although they go on to define ‘traffic’, it did not mention ‘give’. So I called a Fish and Wildlife officer to get an interpretation of ‘traffic’. First, he was clear that I could give away game meat. Note the difference – can’t give away inspected domestic meat, but can with game meat. I find that odd. Secondly, he was clear that any exchange for cash or other form of consideration could be deemed trafficking. I grew up knowing the sale of wild game meats was illegal – so this was not news to me. Reaching a conclusion on the wild game side was relatively easy – far easier than wading through the domestic meat side.

So at the end of the day, having burned a week of my time reading meat legislation and talking to those charged with enforcing those laws, I’m pleased with where my practices stand relative to the law. Which…I was before hand. Glad everyone’s happy. If you’re left unsure, contact Alberta Ag re: domestic animals and Fish and Wildlife re: wild game – they’ll be able to answer your questions better than I.

6 Comments on “Meat Law”

  1. Karlynn

    I am perplexed as to why it can only be used for immediately family, so in theory if you butchered a cut of beef at home, giving me jerky made from it would be illegal, is what I get out of this, correct? And you could not serve it to anyone outside your family, so it’s out for social gatherings of any type. What the hell kind of sense does that make? I understand not selling it but to limit the consumption to two and a half of you (the littles in your family don’t really eat meat do they) seems silly.

    I can do more damage in my kitchen cross-contaminating a pork chop and salad that you would carefully butchering a side at home. The average cook most likely has worse sanitary practices than a home butcher, in fact, I would bet on it. Er, and I just used myself as an example, for the record. You can still eat at my house safely.Maybe.

    And no, we aren’t tired of hearing about this ;)

    It only must reinforce the importance of wild game in your household.

  2. Kevin

    Karlynn – I’m tired of thinking about it. ;) Essentially, yes, if I gave you beef jerky, not okay. If I gave you elk jerky, okay! Craziness.

  3. Neumanic

    Keep in mind you’re talking to two different government departments that each have their own priorities and outlook. The fish and wildlife officer might be telling you that giving away game meat is OK because you the hunter are a critical part of the wildlife management system and you being able to give the meat away is an incentive for you to continue doing it. The Agriculture folks are giving you an answer in the context of a tightly regulated domestic meat system. The restrictions on what you can do with meat that you butcher without a permit in a facility without an inspection seem completely sensible. In the worst case scenario the risks to other people can be very high.

    It also probably comes down to an issue of supply and demand. There is high demand for domestic meat so there’s a financial and health incentive to make sure it’s “safe” (we’ll leave the discussion of how safe domestic meat can be under that system for another day). But wild game is a different story – demand and supply are relatively low, there’s a long tradition of hunting and self-sufficiency in the province, and there’s no real call for a tightly regulated bureaucratic system around game

    So in the end, while simple acts like sharing your beef jerky and having people over for steaks may violate the letter of the law, it’s unlikely anyone would prosecute. A reasonable person would probably say that having people over for a meal that you butchered, especially in a setting where that fact is generally known by all, implies informed consent. Unless you hang around with lawyers. Then all bets are off.

  4. Chad

    Neumanic, a reasonable person would not have reported him to the authorities.
    I understand where you’re coming from Kevin, I recently started hunting. I took my hunter training course in grade eight, I’m now 29, and contacted six thousand different authorities and spent hours in their actual office trying to figure out whether or not I was legal to hunt (because I had no proof of actually taking the course). It was so frustrating to find that these paid professionals couldn’t give me a conclusive answer. I even spoke with the RCMP about the legality of hunting with out a PAL and even they couldn’t give me a definitive answer.

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