While many local shoppers may be taking steak off their grocery lists this month as the XL Foods Inc. beef recall continued to expand, not all meat vendors have felt the pinch.
At Queen's Park Meat Market in New Westminster, butcher and owner Peter Corbeil says his beef sales have actually risen slightly in the last few weeks.
"My beef isn't affected by the recall," he said. "Mine is carcass beef from Alberta - but it's carcass, it's not the processed stuff they're selling at the chain stores."
The nationwide beef recall began last month after it was discovered a strain of E. coli had contaminated beef products from the Brooks, Alta. processing plant.
At least 16 Canadians have fallen ill after eating meat from that plant, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Just before Thanksgiving, Corbeil signed an affidavit for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency stating he has never had any beef from XL Foods at his shop.
Corbeil used to work in meat departments at big name grocery stores.
For the past 14 years, he has run the small shop at the corner of Second Street and Fourth Avenue, selling meat the "old fashioned" way - cutting and aging the beef, pork, chicken and turkey himself.
He said he noticed less quality control over the meat handling process in the meat departments at the larger retailers, and so today encourages shoppers to get to know where their meat is coming from. "You've got to know your suppliers and have trust in the person who's selling it to you," he said, suggesting this is more important than buying local when it comes to food safety.
Leslie Ste. Marie is a regular customer who has been dropping in to Corbeil's shop for more than a decade.
She said she initially came for the custom orders but now an added motive is the peace of mind in knowing who is handling her food.
"Because I come here so often, I know Peter," she said. "I'm here a couple of times a week, so I can just ask him if I have any concerns about something."
Rino Cioffi, owner and manager of Cioffi's Meat Market and Deli in Burnaby Heights, has also found his beef sales have been affected by the Alberta beef recall.
He said some restaurants that were buying beef from larger retailers are now buying from him.
Cioffi believes the XL recall reflects a need for the public to reconsider general attitudes towards food production and consumption.
"Forty per cent of our wages used to go to food and now it's only 10 per cent," he said. "I think that's totally crazy. ... We're all trying to get the cheapest thing in food and it's the wrong way to do it."
Amy Frye, acting director for the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at the University of British Columbia farm, agreed with Cioffi's sentiment.
She said consumers should carefully consider their food choices and think about which food systems they want to support.
"What cost do you place on your health, when you consider outbreaks and recalls like this one?" she said in an email to The Record. "The externalized environmental and health costs of the industrialized food system are significant, and the price tags at the store don't reflect the true cost of that food."
Frye suggested the B.C. meat inspection regulations - implemented as part of the Food Safety Act - have actually hindered the creation of a safe food supply by making it more difficult and expensive to process meat locally.
"We need policies that make it easier, not harder, for farmers and consumers alike to participate in a local food system," she said. "We need more regional infrastructure to support processing locally. I believe that it's everyone's right to have access to a safe and secure food supply, but current regulations move us further away from that outcome, rather than toward it. And it's really a question of how much risk we are willing to live with."