Olymel is investing CA$14 million (US$11 million) to redevelop a section of its poultry processing plant in Berthierville, Quebec, and installing a new controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS) system.

The work, which will start in December, should be completed by the fall of 2018 and includes the construction of a new building designed for receiving birds and conducting carbon dioxide anaesthesia, as well as the addition of new equipment for the operation of this new slaughtering method and other stages of production.

"By this strategic investment, Olymel continues to modernize its poultry sector installations. The completion of this project will enable us to achieve our objectives in terms of enhancing animal welfare, while significantly improving the working environment and the safety of our employees. This investment will also have a positive effect on the Berthierville plant's production capacity, placing us in a position to better respond to the growing demand for quality poultry products," said the President and CEO of Olymel, Réjean Nadeau.

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Improving animal welfare and the working environment

The CAS system that will be installed in the Berthierville plant offers multiple advantages, according to a press release from the company. First of all, it improves animal welfare by reducing bird stress, in particular due to a 40 percent larger crate. Reduced bird stress also helps to avoid injuries, consequently improving the quality of the meat. This system does not require changes to farm buildings. In addition, one of the great features of carbon dioxide anaesthesia is that it significantly improves the working environment for employees assigned to slaughtering, who will work in an area with better lighting and air conditioning, as well as far less dust. Finally, the installation of this system will also increase the plant's production capacity in terms of volume.

The CAS system that Olymel has chosen meets the industry's highest standards for animal welfare. The company intends to implement the same slaughtering method by 2019 at its other primary poultry processing plants in St-Damase, Montérégie and Clair, New Brunswick. The latter is jointly owned with the Westco Group, one of the largest poultry producers in Canada. In 2011, Olymel installed the same type of anaesthesia system for turkeys at its St-Jean-Baptiste-de-Rouville turkey plant in Montérégie, jointly owned with Exceldor.

Olymel's Berthierville poultry processing plant in Lanaudière specializes in chicken slaughtering, cutting and deboning, and has a weekly capacity of nearly one million birds. The plant employs more than 425 people. The majority of its production consists of fresh products, such as trussed chickens for rotisseries and various cuts. The plant also supplies other Olymel further processing plants with fresh poultry meat.