Conestoga Meats funded to improve fresh pork

It occurs at a time of greater export uncertainty

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By Jim Romahn

The federal government is lending Conestoga Meats $10 million to invest in equipment to improve the quality of fresh pork.

It’s the second multi-million government gift; the company got $5.3 million from the province in 2017 for an expansion. It has received a number of grants and government loans over the last two decades as it went through six expansions.

The company was started by hog farmers looking for a way to reduce their risks of dire plunges in hog prices and profits.

The theory was that when hog prices are low, packing margins improve and vice versa.

The plant is located on an isolated site in the midst of farm fields near Breslau, which is east of Kitchener.

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau was at the plant to make the announcement.

She is scheduled to make another pork industry investment announcement at Piller’s Meats and Delicatessens Ltd. in Waterloo on May 2.

One of the pork industry’s concerns now is China’s warning that the paperwork for Canadian pork needs to be brought up-to-date. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it’s working on the issue.

China is now Canada’s second-largest pork buyer and there is a pilot project in the works to try marketing fresh chilled pork to China.

The government news release that accompanied the Conestoga Meats announcement said, “the investment will help the company upgrade its facilities and install a state-of-the art cooling system.

“This unique, custom built system will allow for more controlled temperature reduction.

“The technology will also reduce processing time and improve product shelf life for fresh pork.

” These improvements will help increase production and significantly expand export opportunities in Japan and across Asia. Exporting to these areas requires advance capabilities to improve shelf life for chilled pork.

The plant employs about 1,000 workers now slaughtering 37,000 hogs per week and will add 200 workers.

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