The Winnipeg pork further-processing plant previously earmarked as Maple Leaf Foods’ “ham centre of excellence” now gets the same billing for bacon.
The major Toronto meat processor announced Tuesday it had completed a $182 million, 73,000-square foot expansion at its Lagimodiere Boulevard prepared meats plant, to “significantly” increase its bacon production capacity.
The expansion, Maple Leaf said, provides “new in-house capacity for pre-cooked, microwaveable bacon.”
Final commissioning of the expansion is expected to be completed “in the near term” with commercial production ramping up “over the course of the coming months,” requiring another 350 new jobs at the facility, bringing its total workforce to over 1,900 people.
The Manitoba government on Tuesday announced it would put up about $1.9 million under a new two-year agreement with Maple Leaf via the provincial Industry Expansion Program, to help fund skills training for the expanded workforce.
With the expansion, the Lagimodiere plant will become Maple Leaf’s primary pre-cooked bacon production facility — where its pre-cooked bacon has until now been processed by co-manufacturers in the U.S., using pork from Maple Leaf’s primary hog slaughter plant at Brandon, Man.
The Lagimodiere plant was already the single biggest bacon processing plant in Canada, thanks to a major expansion in tandem with sweeping consolidation of Maple Leaf’s further-processing work in the early 2010s.
The company in 2013 and 2014 closed a bacon plant at North Battleford, Sask. and a sliced meats plant handling bacon in Moncton and moved those plants’ work to Winnipeg, where new ham and bacon smokehouses and other equipment were then installed.
Maple Leaf in 2011 said the Lagimodiere plant would become its “centre of excellence” for ham. Provincial Ag Minister Ralph Eichler in 2016 described the plant as a “bacon centre of excellence” following another expansion of its bacon processing capacity — a title Maple Leaf conferred on the plant on Tuesday.
“Our vision to become the most sustainable protein company on earth applies even to our very best convenience food, which includes delicious pre-cooked bacon,” Maple Leaf CEO Michael McCain said in Tuesday’s release.
“This state-of-the-art facility will deliver sustainably-made cooked bacon products from meat humanely raised and without antibiotics, made by a carbon-neutral company. We are really proud of this.”
Moving the pre-cooked bacon processing away from co-packers to the Lagimodiere plant will also help Maple Leaf cut its freight and product costs, the province noted.
“The pre-cooked bacon industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in North America,” provincial Economic Development Minister Jon Reyes said in a separate release.
The provincial funding, he said, “will help Manitoba’s economy to recover from COVID-19, strengthen training opportunities in the meat sector, and support innovation and job creation in an industry that is in high demand.”
“This expansion has the potential to benefit not just our company, but Winnipeg and its residents through good employment opportunities and increased production of nutritious, great-tasting and sustainable products in which we can all take pride,” Iain Stewart, Maple Leaf’s senior vice-president for operations, supply chain and purchasing, said in the province’s release. — Glacier FarmMedia Network