Major Ontario pork packer expects to re-open Monday

Conestoga Meats went offline April 27

The hog slaughter and processing plant billed as Ontario’s second-biggest pork producer expects to be back in business Monday after a week-long COVID-19-related shutdown.

Conestoga Meats, based at Breslau, just east of Kitchener, notified hog farmers and shippers on Friday that it would suspend “most operations” during the week of April 27 to May 1, Ontario Pork said in a memo to producers.

The company, which has operated since 1982 and has been owned by the Progressive Pork Producers co-operative since 2001, announced the temporary shutdown after a “small number” of employees tested positive for COVID-19, the hog producer agency said.

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The company “has determined that it would benefit from additional time to enhance health and safety measures further” at the federally-inspected plant, Ontario Pork said.

Processing at Conestoga is thus expected to resume on Monday (May 4), and cutting on Tuesday.

The company in early April announced it will screen all employees with questions about possible symptoms and potential exposure prior to the start of shifts, further step up cleaning and sanitizing and take “all possible measures to ensure appropriate social distancing.”

Those measures included rearranging shifts to have fewer people in the plant at a time; setting up “alternate entries” to maintain distance and limit interaction at shift changes; repurposing meeting rooms and adding tents to expand employee eating and break areas; and suspending all unnecessary training and meetings, the company said.

The company on March 23 also announced a $2 per hour “hero premium” for all hourly employees at its processing and distribution centre until further notice.

The usual supply chains for hog producers in Ontario had come under strain in late March when meat packer Olymel temporarily shut its plant at Yamachiche, Que., about 20 km west of Trois-Rivieres due to COVID-19 cases among employees.

That plant re-opened April 14 at “limited capacity,” Ontario Pork said, noting force majeure notifications Olymel sent to Ontario producers still apply and the company will still accept Ontario hogs at “proportionate volumes.”

Meanwhile, Ontario’s other major federally inspected pork slaughter and processing plant, the Fearman’s Pork facility at Burlington, has “implemented strict COVID-19 protocols” similar to Conestoga, Ontario Pork said.

Sofina Foods, the Burlington plant’s owner since 2012, also set up a $2 per hour premium for front-line employees in production and distribution starting March 25. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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Editor, Daily News

Dave Bedard

Editor of Daily News for the Glacier FarmMedia Network. A Saskatchewan transplant in Winnipeg.

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