Mindful meat

Next time you buy local beef from your butcher, be sure to get the name of the farmer who raised it.

And when you arrive at the grocery store to purchase a locally raised steak, don’t forget to ask your grocer which field the cow grazed in.

If the concept seems a bit silly to you, it shouldn’t, according to abattoir owner Ted Aman.

“It should be a good business practice to know where [meat] comes from, not just the location but the farm, and who farmed it,” says Aman of grocery stores and butcher shops. “It’s very deceiving because they’ll tell you that the meat was local, and a lot of times it isn’t true.”

Aman, who cuts meat for local farmers with local contracts, says that consumers of local foods should be aware that when meat is processed in Ontario it can be labelled as being made in Ontario, even if the animal itself never lived in Canada.

Be careful, too, how you define local. Aman’s Abattoir is provincially inspected, which means that the province has deemed the meat cut in his shop to be safe and proper, but does not have the capacity to cross provincial and federal borders; it must be sold within Ontario.

As a small-scale operation, this should not be a problem, but chain stores and restaurants refuse to buy meat from provincially inspected abattoirs and will only purchase from federally inspected plants.

“I don’t know really, why,” says Aman.“We could sell any product to any chain store in Ontario. They seem to be stuck on the fact that it needs to be federally inspected.”

There are two main problems with that attitude. First, federally inspected plants usually operate under the names of large corporations that take all control away from the farmer. Second, in Ontario, no federally inspected abattoir exists east of Toronto. Cattle grown in Milford might end up on a grocery shelf in Picton, but first it has to travel to Brampton to be slaughtered, packaged and stored, then travel back to the County, a 500- kilometre trip.

Aman has considered getting the federal certification, but the cost of investment would have to be justified. He would need enough local farmers to ensure enough varied contracts. He flips through a booklet a couple hundred pages in length—a checklist from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency—and cites one requirement that in itself would cost him thousands.

Some store owners are interested in supplying customers with local foods but are restricted by company policy. Sobey’s Store Manager Jamie Yeo has proven to be committed to local foods, focussing on stocking County cheese and produce as well as locally caught and farmed fish and seafood. But his local approach stops at beef. Sobey’s has a policy of buying federally inspected meat from Alberta, which is purchased in bulk and distributed to all Sobey’s stores in Ontario.

Yeo says consistency is the guideline for the policy— there just isn’t an operation in Ontario that’s big enough to supply every store in Ontario, and Sobey’s wants customers to expect consistent meat from one store to the next.

Although he wants to carry local meat,Yeo has to pick his battles. Eventually he hopes to persuade Sobey’s stakeholders to allow him to carry local meat. But it would be in a separate section marked local, and customers could choose to buy that meat instead of the usual supply, and understand that it may not always be consistent.

Aman doesn’t think consistency would be an issue for just supplying County chains.

“There’s a number of farmers in Prince Edward County that are raising excellent quality and consistent beef,” says Aman. “To get one farmer that could raise enough beef to supply a number of chain stores—it would be very difficult. But to supply one chain store, I think they could do it.”

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Windy issue

Navigating the murky politics behind wind energy: not for the birds

Power is a necessary part of the life we know. From our homes and vehicles to our offices, construction sites and manufacturing plants, everything needs power. But everything also comes at a price.

Right now that price is too high. Oil and fossil fuels are harmful from extraction through to use and disposal. Well known, internationally recognized environmental activists have been warning us for years of the long-term damage we’re doing to our planet by using these forms of power.

Wind and solar power are presented as alternative sources of electricity generation. The sun and wind don’t require us to scar the earth with mines, split the ocean floor with rigs and risk disasters like last year’s oil spill in the gulf of Mexico.

Everything comes at a price.

Prince Edward County is a windy place, right in the centre of one of the world’s largest lakes. It has been identified as a prime place to harvest wind energy. Perfect. Right?

Not so much. As it turns out, human beings are not the only species to use wind energy. Birds thought about it long before we did. For millennia migratory birds have been using the wind of the great lakes.

In fact Ostrander point, along with much of the south shore of the County, has been labelled an IBA; an important bird area.

Last Tuesday Gilead Power put together an information session about a planned industrial wind park at Ostrander point.

The presentation at the South Marysburgh central school in Milford was visited by wind power opponents concerned about human health effects. Dozens of residents stood outside of the school, holding signs and chanting “no turbines on Ostrander!”

Still another voice was heard: what about the birds?

Beth Harrington is an old hand at following wind power. She is the media relations coordinator for Wind Concerns Ontario, a group that opposes industrial wind turbines.

“The government is going through the process of potentially approving a project that would do so much harm to the environment,” says Harrington. “It would completely neutralize the impact of any benefits whatsoever that industrial wind turbines may provide.”

Harrington isn’t alone in protesting the environmental effects.

In November 2010 Mara Kerry, director of conservation for Nature Canada and Anne Bell, senior director of conservation and education for Ontario Nature, co-penned a letter to Gilead Power.

“Our organizations are strong supporters of the Ontario Government’s effort to rapidly deploy wind energy,” wrote Kerry and Bell.“However, we strongly oppose the development of the Ostrander Point Wind Energy Park at this location, inside the globally significant Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area.”

The letter goes on to cite at-risk species of birds that would suffer from the construction. It also discussed inadequacies in the methods used by the environmental research company to find out what birds fly though the area.

Paul Pede, president of Gilead Power, feels the company has made enough concessions to be able to proceed safely with the project.

“We’ve done four years of just specific avian studies,” says Pede. “Our studies suggest that any impact would be minimal. It’s expected that there can be bird impacts or mortalities from different birds.”

In response to the concerns from Nature Canada and Ontario Nature, Pede says that Gilead’s studies “certainly indicate that this project is still a very vibrant project that takes into consideration those types of issues.”

Wind power has been a hot topic internationally for over a decade, with powerhouse proponents like Al Gore and David Suzuki arguing that the damage caused by wind turbines is minor compared to the devastation of oil and coal power.

Opposition to wind power, especially in Ontario, has grown since Ontario’s Green Energy Act was legislated in 2009. It is the McGuinty Liberals’ attempt at becoming a leader in renewable energy. But activists argue that the Act lowers and eliminates public safeguards put in place specifically to protect the environment and safeguard human health.

To a newcomer, navigating the issue is exhausting. There is very little middle ground.

To those who support it, these turbines are taking us one step away from environmental Armageddon. To those who dispute it, these turbines are damaging our wildlife, our sleeping patterns and our landscapes.

To Gilead, these turbines are a good business decision.

What price are we willing to pay?

Hey, Belleville, help save the planet!

Want to save the planet? Get your index fingers ready.

On March 26 at 8:30 p.m., residents and corporations all over the world will be shutting off their lights for 60 minutes.

Earth Hour is considered one of the biggest voluntary actions in history. According to earthhour.org, the website created by the World Wildlife Fund, in 2010 Earth Hour became the world’s largest-ever global climate change initiative.

Belleville residents say they might use the hour to do simple things they wouldn’t normally think of doing.

Ashley Ballenthin is just going to enjoy nature.

“I’d probably go take a walk and actually enjoy being outside,” says Ballenthin. “You’re so busy in the day that you never really appreciate outside.”

Alexa Hansen-Forson doesn’t have too much planned.

“I celebrate it very minimally,” said Hansen-Forson. “Like I’ve done in the past, by turning off all the power in the house.”

Hansen-Forson recognizes the value of Earth Hour: “I think it’s to raise awareness that things need to be cut back, at the rate our civilization is going.”

Businesses in Belleville are participating, dimming lights and signage.

“We shut off the road sign and shut off a lot of the lights in the hotel,” said Brad Williams, general manager of the Clarion Inn and Suites in Belleville. “The guests understand because the whole street does it and we just follow suit.”

At the Quinte Mall, exteriors signs are dimmed and individual stores are encouraged to turn off whatever lights they can. In the concourse, just enough lights are left on to keep things safe.

“We have participated in Earth Hour for the last two years and we will this year,” said Greg Taylor, general manager of the mall. “We encourage all the retailers to participate.”

In previous years Belleville’s green task force committee, headed by city councillor Tom Lafferty has encouraged residents and businesses to get involved with Earth Hour. The committee may plan to do the same this year but none of the members were available for comment.

Some question the validity of switching off lights for only one hour a year but the exercise is meant as a message.

“The main point of Earth Hour,” reads earthhour.org, “is to show the world that a solution to the world’s environmental challenges is possible if we work on them together.”

Earth Hour began in 2007, organized in Sydney, Australia, by the World Wildlife Fund. More than two million residents and businesses worked together to organize an hour of darkness.

The idea caught on and in 2008 and spread throughout the world, with 35 countries and 371 cities. There were an estimated 50 million individuals who turned out their lights.

By 2010, the number of participating countries and territories had ballooned to over 120.