Proposed North Bay slaughterhouse could create 150 jobs and expand export market

Due to a shortage of workers in North Bay qualified to work in a slaughterhouse, Canada Meat Group may need to recruit from other regions, such as southern Ontario, in order to meet its needs.

A brand new federally inspected slaughterhouse planned for North Bay has the potential to create 150 jobs in the city and boost the regional meat export market, according to Canada Meat Group, the company proposing the project.

As of March 2020, Canada Meat Group has operated a federally regulated 16,000 square foot meat processing plant and cold storage facility in the North Bay Airport Industrial Park, where the company prepares beef and halal beef products for domestic and international sale.

The company is now planning the next stage of its operation: a 50,000 square foot slaughterhouse that would employ 150 people and source its cattle from farms in northeastern Ontario and northern Quebec.

“We have seen through COVID the importance of building a strong local supply chain; we have all faced disruptions to the supply chain and access to raw materials,” said Rafik Lang, who oversees special projects and regulatory support for Canada Meat Group. .

“So being able to be vertically integrated, community integrated, and regionally integrated, we think that’s a really important and long-term sustainable point of this project.”

Lang presented the Canada Meat Group’s plans during a Feb. 8 online presentation hosted by the Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

Approximately 85 stakeholders took part in the discussion, many of whom were cowpreaders from across the North, who expressed an interest in learning more about the facility.

In international markets, Canadian beef is “widely consumed and widely accepted” and as a result, demand is high, Lang said.

In particular, halal beef – meat prepared with respect for Muslim beliefs – is one of the fastest growing commodities in the beef market, he added.

“This is a market segment that Canada Meat Group is currently targeting,” he noted. “We are a halal-certified processing plant; a large percentage of the products we supply are for the halal market.

Demand for organic beef is also growing, and Canada Meat Groups sees the United States, Japan, the European Union and the Middle East as target markets for its product.

According to company plans, the federally regulated facility would process 200 head a day of beef, veal and lamb, two to five days a week.

Lang said the company would also consider offering custom slaughtering and processing services to meet its daily target.

Although the plant will have to meet strict federal regulations, Lang said Canada Meat Group strives to go above and beyond what is required in this type of facility.

This includes improved biosecurity and animal welfare, as well as a well-designed facility and premises in an effort to avoid “some of the issues we have seen with other slaughterhouses, particularly in southern Ontario”.

Describing the abattoir as having an “efficient, modern and highly versatile processing line”, Lang said the facility will rely heavily on automation, from animal slaughter through processing and through to packaging of the final product.

The company brought in Reiser, a packaging equipment manufacturer from Burlington, Ontario, and Iceland-based Marel, which manufactures processing equipment, to outfit the facility.

Lang expects this to improve livestock traceability and quality control, as well as production efficiency.

“This equipment will also help us to really reduce some of the issues we’re seeing in the industry right now with human error,” he said.

The facility’s design will also consider its environmental footprint, Lang said, with innovative water treatment and reclamation processes built in to help reduce its overall carbon footprint.

Regarding labor, Lang acknowledged that there is currently a shortage of qualified workers in North Bay to work in a slaughterhouse.

The company may need to recruit from other regions, such as southern Ontario, to meet its needs, he said.

But he is also working with Canadore College on programs that would help ease the shortage.

“We will work closely with them on an industry-specific meat cutter training program,” Lang said.

“So that’s something that Canadore College will be offering through the slaughterhouse to build a local talent pool of skilled workers.”

Development of the course is underway and it should be ready to accept the first students for enrollment this spring.

What kinds of deals the Canada Meat Group might enter into with local farmers to supply livestock remain unknown at this time, Lang said.

Regionally, it is understood that there is currently not enough beef production in northeastern Ontario to supply a 200 head a day operation, a problem Lang says the company is fully aware.

But Canada Meat Group is optimistic that by generating interest and awareness, it can work with local producers to build capacity, eventually creating a fully integrated operation.

“Our goal here is to build a local beef processing economy and become a partner to the economy, farmers and manufacturers, and really encourage the production of high quality, locally sourced beef products for the selling nationally and internationally,” he said.

Lang did not provide details on the cost of the project, or whether funding had been secured.

In the past, Canada Meat Group received $2.4 million in combined federal and provincial funding, which was used to build its processing plant.

Although Lang could not determine an exact timeline for the project, the slaughterhouse is a “sooner rather than later project,” he said.

Canada Meat Group has secured land, purchased equipment and completed the design of the plant, and fully intends to move forward with its plans, he noted.

“It’s integral and tied to our ongoing operations, so it’s ongoing.”

About Donnie R. Losey

Check Also

The Fed runs the economy without knowing its speed limit

The economy cannot go so fast without overheating. A big problem now is that no …