Investment in poultry processing yields big payoff for Manitoba farmers

Plant Expansion - This was the largest expansion and renovation project in the history of Granny's Poultry Cooperative

The largest expansion and renovation project in the history of Granny’s Poultry Cooperative began in July of 2015 with the aim to modernize operations. With assistance from Growing Forward 2, the renovations included an on-site fabrication shop, water chiller and a cut and pack room using new, state-of-the-art technology including a variable retention time (VRT) freezer-one of only two such freezers currently being used in Canada.

“Granny’s Poultry is a major player in poultry processing in Manitoba with a multitude of industry partners who rely on us,” said Craig Evans, CEO of Granny’s Poultry. “These upgrades are an investment in our future and the broader Manitoban poultry industry.”

Streamlining the industry

With the upgrades, the plant has increased capacities, capabilities and improved processing and packaging lines, reducing production costs for both chicken and turkey. The plant is now able to process up to 30 per cent more turkeys than before.

“Because of these upgrades, Granny’s is now processing more efficiently than ever before,” said Evans. “We expect annual savings of $3.5-4 million which will go a long way towards ensuring we remain competitive in the national marketplace.”

VRT Freezer - This cutting-edge system is the only Variable Retention Time Freezer in Western Canada.  It sorts, accumulates, scales and stores all product automatically which will reduce handling, dwell time and improve product shelf life.

Another focal point is food safety. By replacing equipment, some of which was more than 50 years old, and installing new and innovative technology, Granny’s is able to meet or exceed regulatory standards for safe food handling.

“Consumers want to know that the food they eat is safe for them and their families. With anything food-related, it’s particularly important to invest in updating equipment and processes to ensure food is processed safely.” said Grant Carlson, industry development leader, Food and Agri-Product Processing branch, Manitoba Agriculture.

The upgrades also included eco-friendly, cost-saving measures resulting in significant reductions in water and energy consumption.

As with most industries, growth generates growth. Granny’s plant expansion proved to be an economic success not just for the plant, but for the wider community. The economic activity spurred by the upgrades served to create job opportunities in rural areas, with possible further development in the future.

Flock of support from producers

With its increased capacity, Granny’s Poultry has the ability to purchase more live product from local producers and additional plant space means improved efficiencies and the opportunity for new product lines, including marinating and a line of roast products recently developed for a customer.

“Granny’s processes about half of our chickens so we have a vested interest in their success,” said Wayne Hiltz, executive director, Manitoba Chicken Producers. “We’re very happy with the upgrades. This is a major investment in the poultry industry and will benefit all of us enormously.”

The turkey industry, too, is a major beneficiary of the company’s expansion. As the only turkey processor in Manitoba, Granny’s is vital to the province’s turkey farmers.

“This was a great investment which created a lot of opportunities for turkey farmers in Manitoba,” said Helga Wheddon, general manager, Manitoba Turkey Producers. “It’s going to help grow and develop the poultry industry in Manitoba.”

Transition to the Canadian Agricultural Partnership

Growing Forward 2 expired on March 31, 2018. The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is the new federal-provincial-territorial agriculture policy framework which replaces Growing Forward 2 and will continue until March 31, 2023.