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Que. meat processor funded to equip expanded plant

A Quebec meat processing firm wrapping up work on a multi-million dollar expansion project will get another $1 million federal loan for new equipment.

The “conditionally repayable” funding for Les Viandes Laroche, based at Asbestos, Que. about 60 km north of Sherbrooke, will flow through the federal Slaughter Improvement Program, the government announced Thursday.

“This investment will help Les Viandes Laroche Inc. purchase new equipment for their new facilities and continue to provide the industry with the much-needed beef processing service,” Quebec MP Jean-Pierre Blackburn, the federal minister of state for agriculture, said in a release.

The company processes and markets beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, veal and deli meats, including its Viandes Selectionnees des Cantons (VSC) brand of certified hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, and also handles custom work for other food companies.

The funding will help the company “complete our beef production chain, from farmer to consumer,” company president Claude Laroche said in Thursday’s release.

“By meeting European Community standards, we can target foreign markets with our (VSC) beef, respond better to the demand for beef produced our by local breeders, and continue distributing niche products.”

The federal government in January last year advanced Laroche repayable funding of $900,000 from its Business and Regional Growth program and its Community Adjustment Fund for the new plant, while the Quebec government kicked in $500,000 in grants from its economic development and ag ministries.

Laroche’s expansion involves a larger facility in Asbestos consolidating its slaughter, processing and storage operations and nearly doubling the company’s staff to 57 people.

Projects funded under the three-year, $50 million Slaughter Improvement Program must be completed by the end of March 2012.

The program is meant to help red meat processors improve and modernize their plants and to boost slaughter capacity in areas of the country where a “demonstrated regional gap… is constraining sector growth.”

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