Ont. rural development fund backs Maple Leaf turkey plant

A $2.6 million investment in new equipment and expansions at one of Maple Leaf’s turkey processing plants in southwestern Ontario is the latest on a long list of rural development grants to the province’s meat sector.

The provincial Rural Economic Development program on Wednesday pledged $2,617,656 to Maple Leaf Consumer Foods’ Cold Springs Farm, a turkey further-processing plant at Thamesford, about 20 km east of London.

The funding to Cold Springs is to go toward additional new processing equipment, more refrigeration space and “efficiency improvements” throughout the plant.

“This investment is a significant opportunity for Cold Springs Farm and the Ontario turkey industry at large,” Jeff McDowell, Maple Leaf Consumer Foods’ vice-president for poultry, said in the province’s release.

The RED grant for what McDowell called “the largest employer in Thamesford” is expected to allow Maple Leaf  to “source more turkey from Ontario farmers and increase product innovation, benefiting employees, producers, and customers.”

The plant upgrades and expansions are also expected to create 30 new jobs at the plant, the province noted.

Recipients of RED grants in recent weeks have ranged in scope from Maple Leaf-sized firms to local-level businesses, including:

  • Gourmet Meats, a Hamilton-area specialty beef and pork processor, which will get $257,500 for upgrades, including new panels and refrigeration equipment, at its plant at Mount Hope;
  • Black Angus Fine Meats and Game, receiving $223,190 for new equipment at its Thornbury plant in Grey County, plus added cold storage capacity, all of which owner Sean Kelly said will help boost consumer awareness and demand for game meats through “innovative product development, new market opportunities and expanded capacity to supply specialty meat products;”
  • Field Gate Organics, receiving $917,500 for increased cold storage space, market strategy development for both the Canadian and U.S. markets, training for existing staff and creation of 43 additional jobs at its federally-certified organic meat plant at Ingersoll, east of London;
  • VG Meats, which will get $417,500 for new equipment at its Simcoe plant, expected to more than double its processing capacity, allow for co-packing by other meat producers and suppliers and boost the company’s local-level product offering; 
  • Newmarket Meat Packers, receiving $495,000 for expansions and renovations to boost production speeds and volumes at its Newmarket plant, allowing it to develop new specialty meat products and create 11 additional jobs;
  • Burt Farm Country Meats of Manitoulin Island, which will get $44,000 toward new automated processing equipment to expand the company’s production and workforce and allow for more processing by local beef, pork, lamb and poultry producers;
  • Oxford County processor Norwich Packers, receiving $47,320 to help buy new equipment, boost storage space and develop a marketing plan and promotional materials for its antibiotic- and hormone-free beef products, which in turn are expected to help boost the plant’s production by 25 per cent and create up to 15 more jobs; and
  • Peterborough chicken processor Yorkshire Valley Farms, which will get $105,000 toward setting up its new organic chicken packaging and labelling line, allowing it to raise its production capacity by 400 per cent, add up to 14 jobs at its Peterborough plant and a Brampton co-packaging plant. The expansion is also expected to create up to eight jobs for local farmers, the province said.

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