North Bay beef processor targets halal market

Future plans include a federally inspected kill plant in province’s northeast

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The Ukrainian owners behind a new meat processing plant currently under construction in North Bay hope to start processing cattle in December.

Products from the federally inspected plant will be aimed at the halal market, locally and internationally.

Why it matters: It is hoped that the location of a cattle processing plant in Northern Ontario will help to encourage more cattle production in the region.

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“The construction is 80 per cent complete at this point,” Oleksandr Zahrebelnyi, president of start-up company Canada Meat Group Inc. said in late September.

Ground for the facility was broken in mid-September, 2018, on Roundel Road in the city’s Airport Industrial Business Park.

The plant at this point will only process carcasses, and a kill plant will be needed in the north for more cattle from that region to be processed there.

According to Zahrebelnyi, the company’s owners operate an abbatoir and meat processing facility in the Ukrainian capital city of Kiev.

The Arabic word “halal” translates into English as “permissible,” and in meat products it refers to meat from animals that have been slaughtered and processed according to the principles of Islam. Zahrebelnyi added that, “following the opening of the facility (Canada Meat Group) will acquire our export certifications to sell our Canadian halal product to countries in the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

“We already have established relationships internationally and preliminary agreements in place to distribute our product within this network.”

Since beginning its investigations approximately three years ago into establishing a presence in Canada, the company has received support from various public institutions – both governmental and non-governmental. At the time of the 2018 ground-breaking, Zahrebelnyi told the North Bay Nugget newspaper that he took the opportunity to explore Canadian expansion during visits to Vancouver, where his son was attending university.

The Nugget reported at the time that the city sold the approximately three-acre site for approximately $123,000, and that its Invest North Bay economic development corporation negotiated $25,135 in rebates for permitting fees and $29,862 in municipal tax rebates over three years.

Earlier this year $2.4 million in funding was announced from the federal and provincial governments. Canadore College also, in its way, put money behind the project. In May, 2019, the North Bay-based post-secondary institution’s board of governors approved a new meat processing fundamentals certificate program, which will see students complete at least 600 hours of training that will include a mandatory paid work placement.

Zahrebelnyi told Farmtario, “there will be approximately 20-25 employees within the first year of operation.”

Barry Potter, a Northern Ontario-based beef extension specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, welcomes the potential benefits that the new plant will bring to the region’s beef sector.

“Everybody recognizes the need for more cattle,” Potter said, adding that “we continue to recognize the opportunities for expansion of livestock production in Northern Ontario, due to land availability.”

He acknowledged that, initially, Canada Meat Group does not have ready access to cattle directly from the region. But if the 15,000 square-foot facility’s opening leads to the subsequent opening of a federally-inspected kill plant in Northern Ontario, that could certainly change.

Potter added that North Bay is central to a few different beef producing areas in the province’s north, including Temiskaming, Powassan and Manitoulin Island. Plus it’s at the junction of Highway 11 and Highway 17, “the two main corridors from the north,” meaning transporting animals and/or carcasses to the Canada Meat Group facility should be efficient.

Zahrebelnyi, meanwhile, confirmed the company is considering participating in the opening of a new Northern Ontario kill plant.

“Our next step is to open an abattoir within the Northeastern Ontario region and we believe that this will encourage beef farmers to raise more cattle as the transportation and logistics will be easier and less expensive for processing,” the company’s president said.

Also in the mid-term plans is the processing of meat to comply with the kosher requirements of the Jewish faith.

About the author

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Stew Slater operates a small dairy farm on 150 acres near St. Marys, Ont., and has been writing about rural and agricultural issues since 1999.

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