The closure of two Olymel meat processing plants in Quebec this spring will not impact operations at its slaughtering plant in Red Deer.
Earlier this month Olymel announced the closure of its facilities in Blainville and Laval as part of the company’s re-organization plans undertaken in 2021 to optimize operations. The plants will close on April 28 and will result in the loss of 170 jobs.
Richard Vigneault, with Olymel corporate communications, said the fresh pork sector, which includes the Red Deer plant, will not be affected by the closures. Most of the pork from Red Deer is exported.
In 2021, the Red Deer plant saw shift changes to optimize production to adjust to labour shortages.
Vigneault said the Red Deer plant currently has 1,650 unionized employees and is still recruiting workers. The plant has 40 temporary foreign workers from Mexico and Mauritius, and another 180 workers are expected in the coming months.
Weekly slaughtering capacity is now at about 43,000 hogs.
He said in recent years the facility has faced challenges, including China’s three-year ban on pork from Red Deer’s slaughterhouse. Exports have only recently started to flow again after China lifted the ban at the end of 2022.
In early 2021, the Red Deer plant also had about 500 cases of COVID-19 and four fatalities linked to an outbreak, including three workers who died.
“It was a tough period for Olymel and for the employees. The employees were very dedicated, very courageous.”
Vigneault said Olymel remains vigilant when it comes to COVID-19.
Olymel, which processes pork and poultry, also has facilities Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and more in Quebec.
The Blainville and Laval plants specialize in the production of hams, pâtés and deli meats. Most of the brands will be maintained and production volumes will be handled by other Olymel facilities.
A statement from Olymel president and CEO Yanick Gervais said the closures should enable Olymel to achieve its operational optimization objectives more rapidly in the face of unfavorable economic conditions with rising raw material costs, labour shortages and the weakness of certain markets all affecting the company’s profitability.
The company celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2021 and operates about 30 plants in Canada. Olymel acquired the Red Deer slaughterhouse and butchering facility in 2001.
Olymel exports nearly a third of its total products, with annual sales topping $4.5 billion.