By Connor Lynch
TORONTO — Beef processing capacity, or lack thereof, was the big topic at the Beef Farmers of Ontario’s AGM in Toronto last month.
“That was basically the spectre across the whole thing,” said Lambton County Cattlemen’s Association president Joe Dickinson.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency shut down Ryding-Regency Meat Packers, the third-largest federally licensed meat packing plant in Ontario, last fall over food safety concerns, after a massive recall for e. Coli.
The plant processed as much as 10 per cent of Ontario’s beef, and larger animals to boot, which farmers face a discount for sending elsewhere. Beef Farmers of Ontario’s feedlot director, Jack Chaffe, said the issue could squeeze out as much as 20 per cent of Ontario’s beef production. Many producers had to send overfat animals through the system, taking a 35 cent/lb. discount for the extra weight. Ontario beef carcass prices were around 22 cents/lb. lower than in Alberta early in the year Chaffe said, which just added to the pain.
Five of the 20 resolutions passed at the AGM dealt with the capacity issue. Some included working with ag minister Ernie Hardeman to keep operations open and avoid more red tape, while others proposed BFO look at how to get more kill capacity into the province. Ontario lost about 25 per cent of its slaughterhouses from 2006 to 2016, dropping from 189 to 141.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom. Canfax’s Brian Perillat, talking about trends in demand, had some good news for the sector. Said Dickinson: “What we’re hearing is that, basically, the demand (for beef) is there. We just have a bottleneck.”
Ideally, he said, producers need another two or three processors up and running. But in the meantime, at least getting Ryding-Regency going and taking advantage of provincial slaughterhouses is the best producers can do, he said. Federal plants may be filled to bursting but some provincial slaughterhouses in Ontario aren’t running at capacity.
“If we could just get Ryding going and better utilize our provincial plants, that would help a little bit.” When asked if or when Ryding-Regency might reopen, Dickinson said: “I’ll put it this way. It’s not going to open next month.”
Lack of slaughter capacity in the system top issue at BFO AGM
By Connor Lynch