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Supply chain issues push opening of sow processing plant to summer

The building conversion project is expected to cost roughly $13 million.

Supply chain issues have affected the conversion of the former XL Beef Plant into a sow processing plant, which means the venue will open in the summer instead of late March.

Donald’s Fine Foods — which owns Thunder Creek Pork Plant — purchased the building in May 2020 and conducted a feasibility study to consider the necessary renovations. The study concluded that the plant could meet the demand for a Western Canadian-based sow plant — the first in the region — and benefit Moose Jaw and area. 

About 200,000 sows in Western Canada are culled yearly; therefore, many could go to this plant. About 80 per cent of culled sows from the western Prairie provinces are exported for slaughter to the United States due to the lack of processing capabilities in Western Canada.

In recent years, pork producers paid $40 to $70 per animal to ship them to the U.S. for processing. Once the plant is built in Moose Jaw, Western Canadian pork producers will likely forgo some transportation costs to ship the animals.

Last June, the British Columbia-based company took out a building permit of $12.7 million for work on the shuttered beef plant on 24th Avenue Northwest. About 100 people then began working on converting the former building in August.  

Donald’s Fine Foods exports pork to 25 countries. 

The project is on schedule, but unexpected delays arose because some equipment has not arrived as planned, explained Michael Mensah-Wilson, director of quality and food safety. Delays in receiving equipment — gear used to process the animals — are not surprising given the plant’s size. 

“We are … very excited about the entire project and working closely with the City of Moose Jaw’s development team,” he continued, along with SaskJobs, the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program, Saskatchewan Polytechnic and the Aboriginal community. “We (also) look forward to working with area producers.”  

Good weather is necessary for construction to stay on track, and while there have been cold temperatures, those extremes have not affected the pace of work, Mensah-Wilson continued. 

Donald’s Fine Foods will make an announcement later in 2022 about the opening of the sow processing plant. 

“We are very excited because of the opportunity it creates in Moose Jaw and area communities,” he added.  

The XL Beef plant closed in 2010 when the company shut down rather than meet the demands of 200 striking workers.