October 18, 2013 7:59 pm
Updated: October 19, 2013 11:56 am

Federal government to boost bison industry


REGINA – “We have quality and consistency. We have top quality products,” said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, Friday.

Now, those products can be shipped off to Europe, without a hefty price tag.

“That’s all good news,” added Ritz.

Friday’s free trade agreement with the European Union means Canada will be exempt from expensive export tariffs on livestock. Along with that, the Harper government is spending $225,000, selling bison to new markets like Mexico and China, where Canada can also send more meat than before.

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“We estimate upwards of a $50 million aid to the bison industry over time as we grow that market,” said Mark Silzer, President of the Canadian Bison Association.

Nearly 30 per cent of Canada’s bison is raised in Saskatchewan. The majority of that though, is actually processed in other provinces, since we do not have any federal slaughter houses here. It’s forcing many local butchers to shop for meat elsewhere.

“As a franchise growing across Canada, we choose to stay federally inspected, so everybody has the same quality throughout,” said Fred Lingelbach.

So to maintain standards, they have to look outside the province. And there’s little hope the government will fund a bison slaughter house, unless the market demands it.

News of this deal has also sparked concerns imported cheese could damage the country’s dairy industry. For now though, the minister is dispelling that fear.

“No one was thrown under the bus. It makes for good media coverage, but it’s certainly not true,” said Ritz.

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