News Local

Ontario Government funds poultry processing in Renfrew County

By Celina Ip

Poultry farm (Reuters file photo)

Poultry farm (Reuters file photo)

Reiche Meat Products Ltd. is one of two dozen projects that will benefit from Ontario’s Greenbelt Fund.

In 2015, the Ontario government provided the Greenbelt Fund with $6 million to be invested in provincial agri-food projects over the course of three years.

The multi-million-dollar investment was aimed at initiatives that would help support the province's local food strategy by enhancing consumer awareness and access to local food, as well as generating demand and supply of Ontario foods and beverages.

This year, on April 18, the Ontario government announced that it would be investing over $830,000 of those funds in 24 innovative projects that will bring more local food to families across the province.

Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs made the announcement along with Burkhard Mausberg, CEO of the Greenbelt Fund at McLean Farms.

"Through the Local Food Investment Fund, our government is making it easier for Ontarians to enjoy the good things grown, harvested and made in Ontario. When we invest in projects that support Ontario's powerhouse agri-food sector, we are helping strengthen our communities, both rural and urban, create good jobs and boost our local economies," said Leal.

Among those chosen recipients is Pembroke’s Reiche Meat Products.

The local agri-food business will be receiving $14,550 to support its mission to grow opportunities for local poultry.

“The funds will cover about 30 per cent of the overall cost of adding a chicken processing line to our facility,” said Jeffrey Bennett, Reiche Meat Products owner. “Specifically, the funds will go towards the purchase of equipment along with training.”

With the funds, Reiche Meat Products will be able to meet a significant gap in the agricultural system in Renfrew County by establishing poultry processing facilities, which are currently not available in the county.

The availability of an abattoir in the county will allow existing small-scale poultry farms to scale up and meet growing demand for local poultry at farmers' markets and in stores.

“In the county right now, there is no licensed poultry processing facility. This makes it difficult for small farmers with poultry, because unless birds are inspected they are not legally allowed to be sold in Ontario.” said Bennett. “So many farmers have had to drive three or more hours to get to the first processing plant outside of the county. With these funds, they’ll soon be able to travel right here to Pembroke to have them inspected.”

Further to that, Bennett shared a number of other benefits that the new poultry processing facilities will provide to the county.

“It's going to keep more revenue inside the county because you won’t have farmers travelling out of the county and spending their money in other counties. It'll also increase the amount of local food that's available in the county for consumers and more jobs will be created as we will have to increase our workforce a little bit here to be able to accommodate poultry,” said Bennett.

The project is expected to increase local food sales by $100,000 and bring 20 new farmers to market.

cip@postmedia.com