Michael McCain, president and chief executive officer for Maple Leaf Foods Inc., says he wants more hogs and more workers for the company’s huge hog-packing plant at Brandon.
“We’re not advocating unbridled growth, we’re advocating an efficient industry that needs balance,” he told a meeting of the Manitoba Pork council.
The plant has capacity to slaughter 90,000 hogs a week, but gets only 70,000. That’s one million pigs per year and McCain said “we think it’s in everybody’s interest to find the path to balance that.”
The province brought in strict environmental guidelines in 2008 that has stymied the building of new hog barns.
McCain was pleased to learn from the pork council members that the provincial government is easing the restrictions; he said the industry needs about 175 new barns.
Maple Leaf is also seeking workers from across Canada after the federal government tightened rules governing the temporary foreign workers program.
“On labour supply, we have more obstacles than we have support,” he said.
“In the temporary foreign worker program across the country, from coast to coast, there were issues, there were abuses, and they needed to be corrected, but Brandon, Manitoba (and) Manitoba at large, was not one of them,” he said.
“We have the need, we have the infrastructure, it was managed responsibly and we think that’s an important component of getting back to a balanced and efficient industry.”
He said more than 800 of the more than 1,000 workers Maple Leaf brought to Brandon have become permanent residents. That government approval is a step towards becoming Canadian citizens.
“That’s something we should be proud of,” he said.
He said Maple Leaf runs a successful domestic recruiting program across Canada, but it won’t be able to meet demand.