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N.B. poultry packer rejected offer: Westco

New Brunswick poultry producer Groupe Westco says its “contract-kill” proposal to supply chickens the province’s lone federally-inspected slaughter plant has been rejected.

Westco on Saturday said it proposed an arrangement in which it would continue to ship birds to Nadeau Poultry Farm’s slaughter plant at St-Francois-de-Madawaska, in keeping with the province’s ministerial order Jan. 20 that directs all chicken production in the province to be slaughtered at the Nadeau plant.

Westco, however, proposed that Nadeau would return the chicken to Westco after slaughter and processing, for marketing and distribution by Sunnymel, a joint-venture operation between Westco and Quebec meat packer Olymel.

The Jan. 20 ministerial order by Agriculture Minister Ron Ouellette followed Nadeau’s decision to lay off up to 175 workers. Nadeau’s announcement came after Westco began shipping birds to Olymel facilities in Quebec.

The Sunnymel arrangement had required Westco to ship to Olymel’s plants until Sunnymel completes a planned $30 million poultry slaughter and processing plant at Clair, N.B., just east of St-Francois.

“As the government requested, we proposed a solution that implemented the terms of the ministerial order,” Westco CEO Thomas Soucy said in a release Wednesday.

But according to Westco, Nadeau now insists “that Westco cede ownership of its birds so that Nadeau can sell them itself after slaughtering and processing are completed.”

No more concessions

The ministerial order, which Ouellette said was meant to preserve jobs at Nadeau, was not written to block Westco from selling its own chicken after processing, Westco said.

“We hope that (Ouellette) will be able to convince Nadeau… to reconsider its position so that Westco can begin delivering chickens for contract killing as soon as possible,” Soucy said.

“We have done everything possible to be in compliance with the ministerial order, in spite of the short deadlines, and Westco will not make any more concessions beyond what is required in the order,”

Westco, which itself is headquartered at St-Francois, said it “still regards the (province’s) decision as invalid and unconstitutional, and continues to explore all available recourses.”

Westco also said Nadeau, a wing of Ontario meat company Maple Lodge, “no longer speaks of the 175 workers it claimed had lost their jobs.”

Instead, Westco said, Nadeau’s reply to the contract-kill offer “mentions only 115 workers.”

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