Maple Leaf Foods expects to improve throughput at its Lethbridge pork processing plant by up to 200 hogs per day, by clearing bottlenecks in its carcass cooler and floor plan.
According to the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA), which has put up a grant of $492,259 for the project, Maple Leaf plans to spend over $2.5 million on "equipment upgrades include a new carcass cooler and modifications to the processing environment."
Outside the cooler, the facility has receiving and slaughter capacity to handle 1,500 hogs per day, but "our cooling capacity size and cut floor layout can't handle that volume," Severin Habetler, the Lethbridge plant's manager, said in a recent ALMA release.
Thus, the plant now processes around 1,300 hogs per day, mostly into specialty cuts for export to Japan -- but "since we already know there is demand, it makes sense for us to upgrade the facility" to process more, Habetler said.
Boosting the plant's handle by 200 hogs a day translates to added demand for at least 45,000 hogs a year, ALMA said, and the plant is "already a large buyer of pork in the Lethbridge area."
The plant upgrades would help provide local hog farms with "stable demand" and boost the industry's sustainability during "the current market difficulties," ALMA said.
ALMA, a provincial agency, was set up in 2008 to support projects that "stimulate innovation and encourage the adoption of best practices (and) develop new technologies and state-of-the-art processes."
"We're always excited to see an increase in processing capacity because it increases the demand for Alberta pigs," Alberta Pork executive director Darcy Fitzgerald said in the ALMA release.
The Lethbridge plant, he said, is "strategically important, as it sells Canadian pork into the Japanese and other international markets where the value of our high-quality pork is known."
"Every package of pork that leaves the Lethbridge plant and goes abroad helps to build up Canadian pork as a premium brand," Maple Leaf's vice-president for government and industry relations, Rory McAlpine, said in the same release.
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