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Gay Lea to buy central Ontario butter maker

Butterball Farms selling Stirling Creamery next month

A U.S.-owned artisanal butter processor in central Ontario is set to become an arm of Ontario dairy co-operative Gay Lea Foods.

Michigan-based butter producer Butterball Farms has agreed to sell Stirling Creamery, based at Stirling, Ont., north of Belleville, to Gay Lea effective Nov. 1.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, though Gay Lea said it will maintain “full operations” at the Stirling plant and “preserve all relationships” with Stirling’s customers, suppliers and employees.

Stirling Creamery, which was set up by the West family in 1925, today has about 25 employees, mainly in Stirling, with some Toronto-area sales staff.

Stirling makes natural and flavoured butters, including Churn 84 European-style butters, whey butter, the Stirling Premium Balls brand and various types of medallions and spreads for foodservice uses.

In Canada, the company’s products are sold in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta.

Gay Lea said its deal for Stirling will add its butter collections to the Gay Lea product mix, “further increase our production capacity, and support our co-operative’s core principle concern for investment in rural communities.”

The deal also allows Gay Lea “added flexibility to meet customer needs in the current high-demand market for butter,” the co-op said in a release Tuesday.

Gay Lea’s acquisitions in recent years have included Black River Cheese, Hewitt’s Dairy, Salerno Dairy, Ivanhoe Cheese and a stake in goat’s milk processor Mariposa Dairy.

“With this acquisition, we continue the tradition of supporting family farms in Ontario while further strengthening Gay Lea Foods’ presence in the Canadian dairy industry,” Gay Lea chair Steve Dolson said in Tuesday’s release.

Butterball Farms, which bought Stirling Creamery in 2006, has operated since 1951 and also began producing Butterball brand turkeys in 1954.

The company kept the Butterball brand for its butter business when founder Leo Peters sold off the turkey brand and patents in the late 1960s. — AGCanada.com Network

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