Island beef is now available to consumers across Atlantic Canada.
Atlantic Beef Products in Albany has landed a deal to supply meat to grocery stores in the region, such as Co-op Atlantic, Loblaws and Sobeys.
While Co-op has been a long-time supporter of Island beef since the plant opened in 2004, the same has not been the case with Loblaws and Sobeys.
“We were able to convince them that it was time for them to support the local farmer and start buying product again,’’ said Paul de Jonge, president of the beef plant.
The three major grocery chains are now being supplied local product on a weekly basis but de Jonge said no contracts have been signed.
“We don’t sign long-term agreements. We operate on a handshake and we’re happy that we’ve been able to get these guys back in line.’’
With its Atlantic Signature Beef program, the Albany plant boasts stores and consumers are purchasing a superior quality product while supporting local farmers, the community and the environment.
The plant recently received a British Retail Consortium Global Standard for food safety certificate by a third-party auditing group.
“It’s the global standard for food safety and all major companies expect that you have been audited by this third-party auditing group. That means we measure right up there with any other meat-packing operation worldwide.’’
Such an audit looks at the entire operation — how it functions, how management trains the staff, how product is cut, how it receives animals and whether the operation is sanitary.
Markets around the world are already starting to notice. De Jonge said talks are underway with contacts in Asia and Mexico.
The more buyers there are, the quicker the product moves.
“The fresh meats industry is something where you need to move your product fresh. The fresher and quicker you sell it the better your margins are going to be.’’
De Jonge is part of a new management team that took over the plant last November. Prior to that the plant was losing as much as $3 million a year, leaning on a contribution from the provincial government of $1.5 million per year.
“We’re happy with the progress we’re making. With the margins, we see improvements there. The plant requires an improvement in margins but also an improvement in efficiency and volume that is put through. We see things
coming together in a good way.’’
De Jonge said he wants to stop relying on taxpayers to help financially.