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Regulator salutes cattle's red-wine diet

Cows graze on a meadow near the mountain shelter Weilheimer Huette in the Alps mountains near the village Oberau, southern Germany, during nice weather with temperatures by 20 degrees, August 14, 2010.

CHRISTOF STACHE/Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images

Canada's food regulator says there is no risk to human health from beef cattle fed with red wine, an unusual practice being conducted by a Kelowna-area company.

Indeed, the Canada Food Inspection Agency respects the cutting-edge approach embodied by Sezmu Meats in West Kelowna, the agency's spokesman said Wednesday in a statement to The Globe and Mail.

"CFIA is supportive of industry innovation," wrote Tim O'Connor, media relations manager for the agency.

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Mr. O'Connor said while the wine product fed to the cattle was not approved, "there is no risk to human safety."

"We are co-operative and will review and assess any application for a new feed requested to be added to the approved list of feeds," he wrote.

He said the agency's "enforcement action" to tell the producer to stop feeding the wine product to the cattle was unnecessary because the matter was resolved "at the producer level."

Janice Ravndahl of Sezmu says she is proceeding with her program of feeding red wine to cattle - one litre a day in the last 90 days of a cattle's life - in order to enhance the flavour and texture of the meat.

She was inspired to do so by a television program about feeding beer to pigs to enhance the flavour of their meat. She decided to adapt the idea to cows by using wine and tested it out at her family's farm in Saskatchewan before bringing it into play for her current beef-production operation.

"I think we're on the same page. We're concerned with putting out a good product, a safe product," Ms. Ravndahl said in an interview.

"I am still doing business as usual. I have not received a letter that I need to stop."

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Mr. O'Connor, who did not return calls seeking further comment on his statement, said his agency conducted an investigation and informed "the producer" of relevant regulations related to using such products as feed.

He wrote that the animals were being fed waste by-products from a winery, known as lees, as a supplement to regular feed, describing lees as deposits of dead yeast or residual yeast and other particles.

"In addition, the Agency's investigation revealed that the by-product was being shipped in an unacceptable manner," he wrote.

"While the CFIA encourages the cattle industry to find innovative approaches to livestock feed, producers must respect regulations which help maintain the integrity and safety of the industry," he wrote.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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