A new $660 million plant at London, Ont. will house Maple Leaf Foods’ Ontario fresh poultry processing operations by mid-2021 as the food processing firm prepares to shut three older facilities. The planned 640,000-square foot plant is billed as “one of the most technologically advanced poultry-processing plants in the world, with leading-edge food safety, environmental, and animal welfare processes and technologies.”
Construction is expected to start next spring with a goal of having the plant operational in the second quarter of 2021.
“This world-class facility will enable Maple Leaf to meet the steadily growing consumer demand for premium, value-added poultry products, and strengthen Canada’s food system,” CEO Michael McCain said in a release.
The new plant, he said, is expected to support over 1,450 direct full- and part-time jobs at first and ensure Canada has “sufficient domestic processing capacity to meet forecasted poultry production and demand.” The company noted “particularly high demand for raised without antibiotics and halal chicken products, where Maple Leaf has the leading national brands.”
The new London plant “will address constraints in Maple Leaf’s current Ontario network, enhance operating efficiencies, and expand its value-added product mix and capacity to meet growing consumer demand.”
To that end, production from three “sub-scale and aging” poultry plants in Ontario will be moved to London, Maple Leaf said.
The company said it will close the former Schneiders poultry plant at St. Marys by late 2021, and its Toronto and Brampton poultry plants by mid- to late 2022. Those three plants are each 50 to 60 years old, Maple Leaf said, with “location, footprint and infrastructure constraints that limit opportunities to expand and modernize to meet growing market demand.”
The $660 million to build the London plant will include an investment of $34.5 million from the Ontario government, plus $20 million from the federal Strategic Innovation Fund and an $8 million loan from the AgriInnovate Fund, Maple Leaf said.
The federal funding agreement also calls for Maple Leaf to put up $5 million over the next five years on projects which “accelerate adoption of advanced manufacturing and production technologies and support the company’s goal to reduce its environmental footprint by 50 per cent by 2025.”