While many local shoppers may be taking steak off their grocery lists this month in response to the XL Foods Inc. beef recall, not all meat vendors have felt the pinch.
Rino Cioffi, owner and manager of Cioffi's Meat Market and Deli in Burnaby Heights, said wholesale beef sales at his shop have gone up somewhat since the recall started.
"I find that now some restaurants that were buying from Costco are now buying from us," he said.
The nation-wide beef recall began last month after it was discovered a strain of E. coli had contaminated beef products from the Brooks, Alta. processing plant.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has confirmed 16 Canadians have fallen ill after eating meat from that plant as of Oct. 24.
Cioffi suggested the beef 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. "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."
At Queen's Park Meat Market in New Westminster, butcher and owner Peter Corbeil says his beef sales have also 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."
Corbeil used to work in the meat department 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.
Regardless of where it comes from, Cioffi believes the price of food is unsustainably low.
"We are taking for granted that food is cheap and it's going to have to change," he said. "For everybody to get quality product, grown properly and grown the way it's supposed to be, it's going to have to go up."