Abattoir construction underway at Prov

by Betty Bardswich

PROVIDENCE BAY—Island cattlemen and farmers will be pleased to know that construction of the Manitoulin abattoir is well underway at the corner of Monument and Cranston roads in the township of Central Manitoulin.

The concrete has been poured and the foundation walls and footings are in place. The steel assembly of the building itself will start shortly and it is expected that the abattoir will be open for business in early May.

The steel prefab building is being constructed by Coldbox Builders of Vaughan, a company that specializes in cold storage and food plants, with as much subcontracting as possible going to local people. The aggregate needs as well as concrete work have been done by Islanders, with probably only the steel coming from elsewhere.

The abattoir sits on 10 acres of land, will be rectangular in shape and will be 42 by 100 feet. On completion, the building will handle cattle, hogs, and lamb, and if need be, can also take in bison as interest has been expressed by people in Wikwemikong. The structure is the result of work done by Manitoulin Island Community Abattoir (MICA), which is headed by Birgit Martin, chair of the board of directors.

As Ms. Martin explained, Papa’s Meats in Providence Bay has been bought by a group of about 50 Island farmers and any interested party can be an investor in the for-profit enterprise. The retail store will carry on with business as usual until the abattoir comes online, and former owner Jim McCormick will stay on at the meat shop to train new employees and ensure a smooth transition. Ms. Martin is pleased with the purchase of Papa’s Meats, saying, “They have very good products there. We are happy to be taking over such a reputable business.”

As she explained further, the store will carry the grocery products that it has in the past, but will feature more local foods in the future, including honey, baking, produce, maple syrup and pretty well any product grown and produced on Manitoulin.

Deer cutting and wrapping will also continue at the shop. “I think the farmers will be very happy with the new abattoir,” said Mr. McCormick.

MICA has posted for two jobs with the construction of the new abattoir and these positions of meat manager and assistant manager will see the employees working at both the abattoir and Papa’s Meats. As well, as Mr. McCormick and Ms. Martin explained, changes will have to be made to the retail store to bring it up to standards of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) from the current health unit inspection rules. These changes are necessary if the business is to carry out smoking, cooking or curing of meat products, as there is a different set of standards for these enterprises. It is hoped that the renovations needed will be done by March of 2013.

The idea for the Island abattoir came about in 2007 as a result of business retention and expansion workshops. An initiative of the Lacloche Manitoulin Business Assistance Corporation (LAMBAC), these workshops took place in Little Current, Gore Bay and Mindemoya. “The agricultural people brainstormed and the abattoir evolved from there,” said Ms. Martin.

After a lot of hard work, the Island abattoir is becoming a reality and will help to ensure the sustainability of local beef, lamb and hog farms.