The Mad Butcher owner Ron Burndred has decided reluctantly to close his doors for good.
Burndred’s Innisfail business was hit by a fire last August. The fire started on the kill floor and destroyed a third of the building before firefighters could put it out.
Burndred was insured and had hoped to reopen within a few months. The well-known butcher shop and meat processing plant employed 43.
However, when he looked into the cost of rebuilding to the latest government regulations, it became clear it wasn’t financially feasible.
“It was never a matter of not having enough insurance. It was a matter of regulations,” said Burndred, who has owned the business and its associated Innisfail Meats Ltd. with wife Yvette for eight years. The business itself has been a fixture in Innisfail for more than 25 years.
“In no way did we ever want to exit like this,” he added. “We would have rebuilt if the opportunity had been there.
“But at those numbers, it just was not feasible. It just did not work.”
Burndred doesn’t take issue with the regulations but they would have required upgrades well beyond his insurance coverage.
“The regulations are set up for everybody, which is fine. We didn’t ask for any relaxations of any kind, only rightly so because the regulations are there for a reason.”
The plant was run to a high standard and it exceeded all regulations before the blaze, which was sparked by a broken propane line.
“But because of the fire we had to go to the next level. Basically, we had to reconfigure and actually redo pretty much the whole plant. That brought to us between $9 million and $10 million to rebuild it and that was over our policy limit.
“When we started doing the numbers, it brought us up $3 million higher than we anticipated, and there was just no way.”
It is also too costly to try to renovate the remaining building for other tenants. So this summer, the shop and packing plant at 5107 47th Ave. will be torn down.
For Burndred, the closure of the business ends nearly 36 years in the meat-packing business, most of it spent in Central Alberta with stops at Safeway, Woodward’s, IGA and Federated Co-op. He began his career with Burns Foods in Calgary in the early 1970s.
However, the Burndreds most keenly feel for their staff, who must now find new work. Some of them have already found jobs but others have not been so lucky.
“That is a worry to us because they were good to us.”
The closure will also hurt local producers who supplied livestock.
“Being as we were a pretty viable business there, our producers are definitely going to see a difference out there. We processed from animals as far away as 200 miles.”
Besides buying from local producers, Burndred also had his own supply of cattle.
Losing Innisfail Meats will be a double whammy for Innisfail.
Last October, SunGold Specialty Meats Ltd. announced it was laying off 75 workers after access to critical overseas markets were lost because quotas were snapped up by what the company termed “illegitimate importers.”
The plant, which has employed more than 130 people, planned to continue to custom-slaughter beef and bison.