Man. hog industry welcomes expansion

Manitoba’s hog industry is keen to see HyLife Foods expand its Neepawa slaughter plant.

For that to happen, new feeder barns need to be built, which would show that the drought of investment money is over and the industry can grow again.

“They are going to do it,” said Andrew Dickson, general manager of the Manitoba Pork Council.

“They want to increase the number of pigs arriving at their processing plant.”

HyLife has said it plans to build feeder barns and a feed mill and expand and modernize the slaughter plant.

It is a major Manitoba hog production company that exports meat around the world with major sales to China and Japan. It owns barns, feed mills and the Neepawa slaughter plant. 

Like the Maple Leaf Foods plant in Brandon, the HyLife plant has been running beneath capacity because Manitoba and Saskatchewan produce too few pigs to support full second shifts at both plants.

Manitoba has had a province-wide ban on new barn construction since 2011, following a 2008 ban on new barns in the Red River Valley. That coincided with a prolonged period of losses and low returns. Profitability returned in the last few years, but the provincial restrictions continued.

Dickson said the new provincial government is signalling that it will allow new barns to be built if they include two-stage manure lagoons, which is far more affordable than the anaerobic digesters that had originally been required for a barn to be approved.

However, the barns don’t need to be located near the plant.

“Do they build in Manitoba? Do they build in Saskatchewan?” Dickson said.

The barns and the mill are likely to be grouped relatively closely with the feed mill nearby because transportation costs for weekly feed shipments are much greater than shipping hogs to the slaughter plant, which only has to be done once.

HyLife has grown dramatically after beginning as a small network of hog barns in eastern Manitoba. It is a vertically integrated company that says it sells to customers in 23 countries. 

It has a sales office in Shanghai, seeing the shrinking Chinese hog herd as a market opportunity, and sells high value cuts to Japan, which is a high-paying market.

The company also operates a restaurant in Japan, called HyLife Pork Table, featuring cuts of its premium pork.

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