Meat processor plans SE Ont. case-ready plant

A processor in Western Canada plans to open a new case-ready beef and pork packing plant this fall in southeastern Ontario to eventually supply supermarket meat cases across the East.

Calgary-based Vantage Foods on Friday confirmed its plans to launch a 48,000-square foot HACCP-certified, CFIA-compliant plant in November at Belleville.

The plant’s initial production will go to supply cut and packaged meat to 115 stores in Ontario grocery chain Food Basics, owned by Metro.

The plant, to be set up in an existing building in the city, is expected to employ 150 locals “with the expectation of further hires as plant capacity ramps up,” the company said in a release.

“Strategically, we have targeted expansion into Eastern Canada and believe that locating along the 401 corridor is optimal for our operations,” CEO Gary Haley said in the company’s release.

Highway 401 bisects Belleville, which Haley said “provides an excellent food distribution point for supply within Ontario and cost-effective access to markets in Quebec and the Maritimes.”

The company’s other production plants, in Winnipeg and in Chilliwack, B.C., serve mainly the West, including chains operated by Overwaitea, Canada Safeway and the North West Company.

Vantage in 2007 also opened a USDA-inspected plant at Lenoir, N.C., about 110 km northwest of Charlotte. That facility now supplies over 125 grocery chain stores in nine states.

“Presence”

The total cost of the Belleville plant wasn’t disclosed, but the Ontario government on Friday pledged $2.5 million in grants to the project.

The province’s contributions are to include $1.75 million from its Rural Economic Development program for design, engineering and site preparation work, all of which it noted is now about 90 per cent complete.

The remaining $750,000 from the Eastern Ontario Development Fund is to go toward capital equipment, pre-production labour costs, material and training — parts of the project now all underway, the province said.

The plant “will incorporate some of the latest technology in the food processing industry and also support local farmers by using Ontario-raised beef and pork,” the province said Friday.

The grants, Haley said in the province’s release, have “helped us expand into new markets and establish an important presence here in Eastern Ontario’s food processing network.”

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