Opportunities in Provincial Meat Processing

October 29, 2021 | Suzanne Armstrong

Opportunities in Provincial Meat Processing

The cost of meat is increasing, along with many other foods, in the face of drought, labour shortages and disruptions in the processing sector, to name just a few. Concern over existing issues and ongoing risks has shone a light on concentration within the processing sector. Small and medium-sized meat processors have potential to build greater resiliency and overall capacity into the processing sector.

The CFFO has been working with government, fellow agriculture organizations and Meat & Poultry Ontario to try to address both the challenges and the possibilities for provincially inspected meat processors.

In our most recent communication with the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, we have emphasized the importance of regulation focused on food safety outcomes, fair application of regulations for all operators, reducing risks to meat processing entrepreneurs and training for both new and existing employees and managers. Others are also making similar recommendations.

The Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI) has released two reports in the past year to look at the viability of increasing small and medium-sized meat plant capacity in Canada. Last November, a report by James Rude from the University of Alberta highlighted different options to increase overall resilience in the processing sector. He pointed out that there are costs, risks and benefits to increasing capacity in both big and small processors. The question is how to meet the needs of the sector and consumers at the lowest cost.

The most recent CAPI report, “Managing Surge Capacity and Boosting Resilience in Meat Supply Chains,” by Al Mussell and Darryl Robinson, re-examines opportunities for small and medium-sized meat plants. In particular, they highlight the importance of outcome-based food safety regulations and good management for the success of small and medium-sized processors.

The report points out that “outcome-based regulation generally lessens the regulatory burden for small and medium-sized plants, without sacrificing any of the intents of the regulation.” Food safety need not be compromised while costs, especially for smaller operators, can be reduced.

Ultimately, people ensure food safety and bring creativity and ingenuity into the sector. Mussell and Robinson point out that well-managed smaller operations can outperform larger operations, even without the advantage of size. “Small and medium-sized meat plants need high quality human resources as a means to offset disadvantages in scale.” The challenge is getting that high-quality staff. Training is one key aspect of ensuring the success of small and medium-sized operations.

The CFFO wants to see our provincially inspected meat processors expand and succeed. Ontario livestock producers stand to benefit from a strong Ontario processing sector. We continue to work collaboratively with government and other agriculture related organizations to find solutions that will benefit agriculture, processors and consumers.

Suzanne Armstrong is Director of Policy & Research for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and CHLP Listowel.