Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Pork packer considering Moose Jaw’s ex-beef plant

Donald's Fine Foods announces 'feasibility study'

(Dk_photos/iStock/Getty Images)

A potential buyer’s study could soon show whether a former beef packing plant in southern Saskatchewan has the bones to support a pork processing operation for cull sows.

Richmond, B.C.-based Donald’s Fine Foods, which since 2010 has operated the Thunder Creek Pork hog plant at Moose Jaw, announced last week it plans to run a “feasibility study to determine the viability” of Moose Jaw’s former XL Beef plant as a sow processing facility.

Such a study would “consider the financial feasibility, plus the overall support from producers, the public and government for creating a technologically advanced sow processing facility” to serve Prairie hog farmers.

Today, over 80 per cent of Western Canada’s cull sows are exported to the U.S., Donald’s said in a May 26 release.

With a sow plant set up in the region, producers could see “greater profitability for sows due to reduced transport costs (and) greater ability to deliver direct, increased biosecurity.”

A Prairie plant would also limit producers’ risks from market loss to any Canada-U.S. border closures, the company said.

A Moose Jaw sow processing facility would also create 100 “entirely new” jobs and would “complement” Thunder Creek Pork, where Donald’s today employs about 250 people processing market hogs. The sow plant would run “independently” from that operation, Donald’s said.

“We want to create more opportunities for pork producers and support the forecasted need for domestic sow processing capacity,” Donald’s CEO Allan Leung said in the release.

Moose Jaw Mayor Fraser Tolmie, in the same release, said the city had been talking with Donald’s since December 2016 about the possibility of expanding the company’s operations using the mothballed XL Beef plant.

Then-owner Nilsson Bros. permanently shut the XL plant in 2010 after announcing what had been expected to be a temporary closure in 2009, followed by a 10-month labour lockout.

The plant, formerly known as Western Canadian Beef Packers (WCB), had operated in the city since 1991. The Saskatchewan government’s Crown Investments Corp. (CIC) was left with ownership of the plant in 1998 and sold it to XL in 2000.

In the wake of a massive meat recall in 2012, XL stepped out of beef packing altogether in 2013, selling its major packing plant at Brooks, Alta. and two U.S. plants to JBS, but the Moose Jaw plant was not part of those transactions. A Regina holding company reportedly took over the site in May last year.

Donald’s said last week it expects to complete its feasibility study in “six to eight weeks” and the “future of the plant will be determined” based on feedback received from producers, “industry partners” and levels of government. –– Glacier FarmMedia Network

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