July 29, 2008
New Producer-Owned Beef Plant for Winnipeg
WINNIPEG, MANITOBA--(Marketwire - July 29, 2008) - Natural Prairie Beef Inc. announced today it has purchased a former Winnipeg meat processing plant and begun to upgrade and redevelop it to produce premium-branded Manitoba beef. Following a new business model for the Canadian beef industry, the producer-owned company will target niche markets and own more parts of the value chain from gate-to-plate.
The first phase, which is expected to begin operations by the end of 2008, will employ 15-20 people and focus on processing value- added beef products for local markets. The company plans to renovate and upgrade the plant completely over the next two years to create a federally-inspected beef slaughtering and processing facility that will market premium beef products across North America and into Asia and the European Union. The plant is expected to employ about 80 people when complete.
"This is a major step forward for Natural Prairie Beef and for the Manitoba cattle industry," said Kelly Penner, President and CEO of Natural Prairie Beef. "We are moving our business plan forward to create a high quality, vertically-integrated operation that will target growing, lucrative niche markets. We are looking forward to introducing our product to Manitoba dining tables later this year and to the rest of the world by 2010."
The company has already begun upgrading the former pork processing plant at 663 Marion St., which it purchased from Maple Leaf in July. Once it is up to full speed in 2010, it will handle 250 head per day and will be easily upgraded to 500 head per day. Natural Prairie is currently finalizing financing arrangements with other partners and lending institutions.
It will be the first new federally-inspected beef facility for the province in more than a generation and the first to service export markets. One of the key markets for the company is raising and processing Natural beef. Natural beef is raised without hormones and antibiotics, and delivers a healthy, high quality great tasting product. Natural Prairie will also accept conventionally-raised cattle to target the growing kosher and halal markets in Canada, the U.S. and in certain export markets, both of which call for strict processing requirements to meet both religious and health standards.
"We've conducted extensive research to create a business plan that we believe addresses the risks associated with entering a competitive industry," said Penner. "We're building a highly efficient operation with a focus on niche markets. That will help us avoid competing against the industry's major packing companies."
Natural Prairie Beef is a private company owned by 50 Manitoba beef producers. The Manitoba Cattle Enhancement Council has invested $2.4 million in the company to help it bring the plant on stream for the benefit of the province's beef industry. MCEC administers an investment pool that is funded by Manitoba cattle producers through a $2 per head levy on every animal sold. The provincial government matches producers' contributions, turning every $2 into $4.
"We're very pleased to have MCEC on board as an equity investor in our company," said Penner. "This project wouldn't be possible without the strong support and guidance we've received from the council."
"This is a solid investment for MCEC. It's a great step forward towards opening new markets for Manitoba beef," said MCEC Executive Director Kate Butler. "Being located centrally in Winnipeg helps minimize transportation costs for the plant and for producers. It's also going to benefit from Winnipeg's labour pool. And we were pleased that the plant has already passed a critical environmental assessment."
Traceability and Quality
The plant will employ the latest technology to trace every animal from gate to plate. This process allows the plant to capture significant efficiencies and assures consumers that every animal is of the highest quality. This is critical to address food safety.
"Consumers today are looking for healthier, high quality, great tasting food products," said Penner. "We're investing in the best systems possible to make sure that our beef will stack up against any other brand in the world."
High Environmental Standards
The company is committed to ensuring the renovated plant meets or exceeds all environmental standards. The plant passed a rigorous Phase II environmental assessment earlier this year. Independent engineers have stated that the plant will produce significantly less waste than it did previously.
"We're holding ourselves to very high environmental and community standards," said Penner. "We're developing a first-class facility that will use the latest technology. We're also committed to continuously searching out new ways to reduce waste."
The company is working closely with the City of Winnipeg and Manitoba Conservation to ensure it meets or exceeds all environmental regulations. It also plans to host a public open house later this year to give its neighbours and the broader community an opportunity to learn more about Natural Prairie Beef.
Founded in 2004, Natural Prairie Beef Inc. raises and markets cattle under its Natural branded beef program. For more information on the company, please visit www.naturalprairiebeef.ca.
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