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Beef packer XL Foods funded for capacity upgrade

Canada’s biggest domestically-owned beef packing firm will get $1.6 million in government grants toward new systems expected to help double its ground beef processing capacity at Brooks, Alta.

The grants, backed by the federal/provincial Growing Forward ag policy funding framework and approved through the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA), will be paid out over two years, the governments announced in a release Thursday.

The funding will go toward upgrades to the trim sorting and ground beef lines at XL’s Lakeside Packers plant at Brooks, doubling the plant’s beef grinding capacity and allowing it to provide “higher-quality” beef trim to value-added processors.

The grants are also to back installation of new technology into two areas of the plant allowing reuse of its water supply, reducing wastewater and recycling salt.

The new equipment is to include a brine crystallizer that would recover and reuse a “large portion” of the salt used to process hides.

Pure water, a byproduct of that system, would then be used for “local irrigation,” the governments said.

The Brooks facility, sold to XL by Tyson Foods in 2009, includes a 5,000-acre irrigated land base for silage.

“Initiatives such as this are important in helping to further strengthen Alberta’s beef industry while reducing the impact that the agriculture industry has on the environment,” provincial Agriculture Minister Jack Hayden said in the governments’ release.

XL’s co-CEO Brian Nilsson said the grant “will assist us in maintaining our competitiveness as we adapt to the global marketplace.”

The funding will flow through two Growing Forward programs administered in Alberta by ALMA: the Agri-Business Automation and Lean Manufacturing Program and Agri-Business and Product Development Program, funded for $7 million and $2 million respectively in 2010-11.

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