Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Upgraded Olymel hog plant’s second shift begins

Ange-Gardien plant's slaughter pace to rise by up to 40 per cent

(Sollio Co-operative Group video screengrab via YouTube)

A promised second shift is now up and running at a major hog plant in Quebec’s Monteregie and is expected to eventually boost the plant’s weekly slaughter capacity by up to 40 per cent.

Plans for a second shift at Olymel’s packing plant at Ange-Gardien, about 50 km east of Montreal, have been in the works since February — but the need for an increased hog handle is more pressing now for Quebec producers up against a backlog of market-weight hogs on their farms.

Olymel, the meat packing arm of Sollio Co-operative, in February budgeted $9 million in renovations at the former F. Menard slaughter, cutting and deboning plant to handle a second shift.

The “addition of activities” at Ange-Gardien has led to 150 jobs created “so far,” Olymel said, bringing the number of employees working at the plant to over 700, with over 100 new positions to be filled “in the coming months.”

The upgrades, which were “completed on schedule,” include more refrigeration space and freezing capacity, an expanded cafeteria and parking areas, and improved wastewater treatment equipment.

The plant’s weekly slaughter capacity “will therefore increase from 25,000 to 35,000 hogs in the coming weeks,” Olymel said.

Adding capacity at Ange-Gardien “should also help improve the backlog of hogs awaiting slaughter, whose numbers have reached an unprecedented level in Quebec,” Olymel said.

The backlog stemmed mainly from a four-month strike at another Olymel hog slaughter plant at Vallee-Jonction, Que., about 240 km northeast of Ange-Gardien in the Beauce region.

Workers have since accepted a new contract and slaughter resumed Sept. 3 at Vallee-Jonction, where the weekly hog handle is also about 35,000 head.

As of Aug. 31, les Eleveurs de porcs du Quebec, the province’s hog farmer organization, estimated the backlog at about 180,000 head. Still more hogs were shipped to slaughter out-of-province while producers also sold off weanlings to clear up barn space for the larger animals remaining.

Past that, the boost in activity at Ange-Gardien “fulfills the development goals Olymel set when it acquired F. Menard” in early 2020, Olymel CEO Rejean Nadeau said in a release Friday.

“This investment will also allow our company to increase its production of value-added products, such as chilled pork, a product that is particularly popular in the Japanese market that the Ange-Gardien plant already serves, in addition to the domestic market,” he said. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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