North 49 Foods held the grand opening of their new state-of-the-art sow processing plant in Moose Jaw on Friday morning, with Scott Moe, Premier of Saskatchewan, David Marit, Minister of Agriculture, and other Saskatchewan dignitaries in attendance for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The property, which consists of 100 acres of industrial land, was formerly the XL beef plant but was purchased by Donald’s Fine Foods in 2019. Since then, they have refurbished the plant, investing in excess of $60 million into the facility.
Allan Leung, CEO of Donald’s Fine Foods, spoke to the importance of the plant in Saskatchewan.
“Most of the sows in Western Canada are transported to distant harvesting plants in the USA, which would create a conduit for animal diseases coming back to our farms,” said Leung.
“Border issues are always a threat to our industry. We wanted to take a collaborative approach and address these issues with our industry.”
The Saskatchewan Government and Sask Pork provided $1 million for a specialized cull line, which would be used in the event of any disease outbreaks, in order to ensure confidence in the sector.
"[The cull line] is the first of its kind in this province, and most certainly I think prepares the industry and provides that added layer of resiliency to the entire pork industry in Western Canada, the Canadian pork industry,” said Moe.
"The [cull] line will ensure a very quick response that will allow our industry to rebound quicker, regain access to those markets by providing that certainty of the Saskatchewan supply. This is just yet another measure to help build and most certainly protect a vital part of our provincial economy,” said Moe.
Aside from creating greater protections against cross-border disease outbreaks, Leung said that the location of this plant in Saskatchewan reduces the freight costs for producers, as well as the carbon footprint of transporting sows to facilities over the border.
The full production capacity of the facility will be up to 225,000 sows per year.
Prairies Economic Development Canada provided a $5 million interest-free loan investment to the North 49 Foods project.
“Our department, on behalf of the Government of Canada, was pleased to provide $5,000,000 under the Jobs and Growth Fund to support the conversion of this existing facility on the site to the modern processing plant that you see here today,” said Doug Zolinsky, Director General of Prairies Economic Development Canada
Donald’s Fine Foods also owns Thunder Creek Pork in Moose Jaw. North 49 Foods will have approximately 80 employees to begin operations, and that number is projected to grow to 200 employees after a year. Between the two Moose Jaw pork plants, this could create upwards of 500 jobs when the new plant is operating at full capacity.
In line with their desire to grow and invest in the local community, North 49 Foods also presented $50,000 each to the Moose Jaw Health Foundation and the Moose Jaw Food Bank.
“We normally present a special anniversary gift to our partners and friends on our milestones. However, for our 30th year anniversary, we decided to use this budget for our community purposes instead. Today we are donating $50,000 to the Moose Jaw Health Foundation, and $50,000 to the Moose Jaw Food Bank,” said Leung.
The new facility is expected to be operational next week.