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Ont. puts up $3M for poultry packer at soup plant

The new owner of a shuttered Campbell’s Soup plant in southern Ontario will get almost $3 million in public funds to set up poultry processing operations there.

Mississauga-based Erie Meat Products plans to process chicken and turkey at the facility in Listowel and hire and train 500 workers over the next three years to do so, the provincial government said in a release Thursday.

The investment, part of the new “Open Ontario” plan introduced Monday in the province’s Throne speech, is meant to allow Erie Meat to get refrigeration equipment and new production lines up and running at the plant.

The soup plant, formerly a major employer in the Listowel area, about 50 km northwest of Kitchener, faced an uncertain future when New Jersey-based Campbell announced in April 2008 that U.S. contractors would take over the plant’s production within the following year.

The iconic soup maker announced the plant’s closure among the sales of several of its businesses at that time to “enhance long-term profitability.”

The 50-year-old plant had been set up to house 500 staff making mostly frozen products for Campbell such as soup, entrees, ramen noodles and Pepperidge Farm-brand products.

According to the ag newspaper Ontario Farmer in late 2009, Erie Meat’s owner Simon Rosen paid $4.8 million to buy the shuttered facility.

Erie Meat’s plan, the newspaper said at that time, was to use the ex-Campbell plant as cold storage for 50 to 60 million pounds of its own production and other companies’ meats, destined for export markets.

However, the facility as described Thursday is expected to “process chicken and turkey meat for sale around the world,” in the province’s words.

“The global demand for poultry is growing every day,” provincial Agriculture Minister Carol Mitchell said in the province’s release. “Erie Meat will serve as a vital contributor to our agri-food sector, to our growing workforce, and to building a brighter future for Listowel families.”

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