N.S. meat plant to be retooled as poultry packer

A western Nova Scotia prepared meats plant, slated to be shut down by the end of this month, is now to be sold and reopened by summer next year as a poultry packer.

Eden Valley Poultry, a joint venture between poultry producers in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and Brampton, Ont. poultry processor Maple Lodge, plans to buy the former Larsen Packers plant for an undisclosed sum.

Right now the 200,000-square-foot plant at Berwick, about 20 km west of Kentville, is the property of food processing giant Maple Leaf Foods, which said in November it will shut the plant by the end of April.

“We are very pleased to have reached this agreement that will result in the plant being converted into a new poultry primary processing facility,” Rick Young, executive vice-president for transformation with Maple Leaf Consumer Foods, said in a release Friday.

“This is a very positive outcome which will bring new opportunities for people currently employed at Berwick and the community of Kings County,” he said. “It also fulfils the commitment we made last November to find an alternate use for the plant that would leverage the benefits of the existing facility.”

The plant right now employs about 280 people processing bacon, ham, sliced meats, sausage and deli goods under the Larsen, Simons, Brandywyne, Trim Cut and Lite n Low brand names and for private labels.

Maple Leaf said in November it will move the further-processing work to its other prepared meats facilities in New Brunswick and Ontario.

Retrofitting

The deal with Eden Valley Poultry is expected to close May 13, Maple Leaf said. Eden Valley will then “immediately” start work decommissioning the facility, with construction and retrofitting to follow “as soon as possible.”

The repurposed facility should be up and running by early summer 2012, the companies estimate. As a poultry plant, it’s expected the Berwick facility will need about 200 employees to process over 40 million kg of meat per year.

The poultry farmers’ group, dubbed United Poultry Producers Inc., until now had been working with Maple Lodge on plans for a brand-new poultry plant at nearby Kentville, following Maple Leaf’s closure of a poultry facility at nearby Canard in 2007 that left some of the producers without a plant.

Toronto-based Maple Leaf had bought Larsen’s pork slaughter and further-processing operations at Berwick in 2000 as part of its takeover of Hub Meat Packers of Moncton. Maple Leaf quietly shut down the Berwick hog slaughter plant in late March 2010, citing a drop in hog production in the Maritimes.

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