Olymel ham consolidation spurs more plant upgrades

Meat packer Olymel’s plans to consolidate its ham production work has led to a new round of plant upgrades.

Olymel, the protein arm of Quebec agricultural co-operative La Coop federee, announced Wednesday it has budgeted $3 million in “redevelopment” work for its Beauce-region hog slaughter plant at Vallee-Jonction, about 60 km southeast of Quebec City.

The plant’s butchering and chilled fresh products storage room will be renovated starting next month to make room for a ham deboning table, Olymel said.

Ham deboning is “a new operation” for the Vallee-Jonction plant, the company said, but it expects the redevelopment work to be done in February “without requiring any interruption in the facility’s current operations.”

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The Vallee-Jonction plant is mainly devoted to producing fresh chilled pork for export to Japan, along with “raw materials” to supply its further-processing plant at nearby St-Henri-de-Levis.

The company in June announced the St-Henri-de-Levis plant, until now devoted mainly to sausage production, would be repurposed for ham processing. Last month the company announced an $11 million budget for related upgrades and expansions at that plant.

Adding ham deboning at Vallee-Jonction is expected to create 160 new jobs at the plant and bring its total workforce to near 1,200, the company said.

However, “in the context of this investment and the manpower needs it entails,” the company has also kicked off a “major recruitment campaign,” backed with print and radio ads, in the Beauce and greater Quebec City area.

The company described the upgrades as an “integral part of the reorganization of Olymel’s fresh pork sector in Quebec with a view to optimizing performance and improving efficiency.”

The company had announced in August it would shut down the ham deboning operations at its St-Hyacinthe further-processing plant and move that work to hog slaughter plants by September next year. The move is expected to cost 340 jobs at the St-Hyacinthe site.

Moving the ham work to the slaughter plants is expected to cut fixed costs and shipping costs “considerably,” Olymel said at the time.

Olymel’s recent reorganizations follow La Coop federee’s announcement in Feburary that it plans to sell an ownership stake of up to 49 per cent in Olymel, to finance expansions in pork processing and ag retail in Western Canada. — AGCanada.com Network

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