Manitoulin producers taking advantage of opportunity to develop own clientele

MANITOULIN—The Manitoulin Island Community Abattoir is moving into its third year of operations and is not only excelling, but is now in a position to hone in on its original goals and begin mass promoting and selling Manitoulin meats.

“The first two years here we were figuring out hiccups and just focussing on getting everything running smoothly,” explained abattoir manager Angela Johnston. “Now we are in a place to focus on our real goal, getting Manitoulin meats out to the public. We have established a new logo for Manitoulin Island Meats (previously Papa’s Meats) in Providence Bay and are working on developing a website to help us expand our market.”

The abattoir works as a co-op, Ms. Johnston explained to The Expositor, with producers either becoming a member and having part ownership in the abattoir and a discounted rate to use the facility, or paying a flat fee to utilize the facility. Manitoulin Island Meats is a subsidiary of the abattoir with a separate board of directors and deals with promoting and selling meat from the abattoir.

“The abattoir purchases meat—beef, pork and lamb—from producers across the Island and then markets the meat through the store (Manitoulin Island Meats),” added Ms. Johnston. “We have protocols in place such as no hormones and no antibiotics for beef and we are currently developing similar protocols for pork and lamb—we want to sell good quality meat. We have starting selling boxes of packaged meat to individuals and businesses such as Andy’s in Wikwemikong and the West Bay General in M’Chigeeng. We hope to now really start branding Manitoulin Island Meats and reach new markets.”

With the introduction of the new website, Ms. Johnston also hopes to make things easier for Island producers with features such as scheduling and a message board where meat orders can be posted.

The Expositor asked Ms. Johnston if the Blue Goose withdrawal of Island cattle operations last year had an affect on the abattoir.

“Blue Goose wasn’t a part of the abattoir’s original plan” – Ms. Johnston

“Blue Goose wasn’t a part of the abattoir’s original plan,” responded Ms. Johnston. “They only processed a few beef cattle with us, so we haven’t felt a huge impact. Our goal is to break even this year, our third year. Our goal is 350 head of beef (with two pigs or four lambs equaling one cow as well). We are doing really well so far with our first quarter projections being right on target. In fact, we did better this first quarter then last year and that quarter actually included a few head from Blue Goose.”

Personally, the abattoir has had a huge impact on Ms. Johnston and her husband’s beef and lamb businesses, ‘Cheeky Heifer,’ and other Island producers.

MIM Logo“Before the abattoir all the lamb I sold had to be sold whole,” explained Bidwell producer Rob Pennie of ‘Hidden Springs Farms.’ “It (the abattoir) has been quite helpful. Now I can sell packaged lamb and it encouraged me expand to cattle as well.”

Mr. Pennie said that currently his meat is slaughtered at the abattoir, processed at Manitoulin Island Meats in Providence Bay and sold at The Island Jar in Little Current, but he hopes to expand this summer through Manitoulin Island Meats and introduce his product to new markets.

Steve Doane of ‘Tween the Lakes Farm,’ located between Big Lake and Lake Manitou, started raising heritage breed Berkshire pigs a few years ago in part due to the new abattoir.

“I have had very positive experiences with the abattoir and Manitoulin Island Meats,” said Mr. Doane. “My customers have commented on the quality of the pork and how it has been well processed—they are very professional and do a good job. Before the Manitoulin abattoir producers had to go off Island—now the process can be done locally. It is nice to be able to produce and sell ethically raised local food.”

Tween the Lakes pork can be purchased though Manitoulin Island Meats or directly through Mr. Doane.

To learn more about the abattoir or Manitoulin Island Meats visit ‘Manitoulin Abattoir’ on Facebook or call 705-377-5622 for meat inquiries and 705-377-5325 or 705-377-7960 for the abattoir.