In making the announcement, the company said the decision is a reflection of Maple Leaf Foods’ commitment to building on its leadership in animal care, the poultry sector and value-added branded fresh chicken.
Maple Leaf Foods will convert its transportation, lairage and receiving area and handling systems to optimize rest-time and create a climate-controlled environment as it implements this technology. The new lairage system will enhance lighting, air quality and temperature control, allowing chickens to rest comfortably and significantly reducing stress, the company stated.
The CAS technology selected is a very humane system that will ensure birds are fully insensible prior to processing. The conversion will result in a 26,000-square foot expansion at the Edmonton facility, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
"We are on a journey to become the most sustainable protein company on earth and being a leader in animal care is a cornerstone of this vision," said Michael McCain, president and CEO, Maple Leaf Foods. "We are deploying world-class technologies and best practices that support our goal to eliminate stress and pain and provide humane treatment of animals in our care, while enhancing employee health and safety and food quality. With Canada's leading poultry brands, we are advancing many dimensions of sustainability, from eliminating antibiotics, to best practices in animal care and dramatic reductions in our environmental footprint."
"Controlled Atmosphere Stunning (CAS) provides many advantages to animal welfare, ensuring chickens are fully unconscious and humanely euthanized, while greatly reducing stress," according to Dr. Greg Douglas, vice-president, animal care. "This technology, which we have also installed at our pork processing facility in Manitoba, is acknowledged as a best practice around the world," Douglas added.
Remote video auditing technology also being added
Maple Leaf Foods is also installing remote video auditing at this facility, a powerful training and auditing tool that supports rigorous monitoring and compliance to best practices of animal care. This will be the ninth implementation as part of Maple Leaf's commitment to incorporate remote video auditing across its network.
Poultry is the most consumed protein in Canada and Maple Leaf Foods has the leading national brands and market position in value-added poultry, which continues to experience significant growth. To support its leadership, Maple Leaf has added a second shift at this facility to keep pace with demand and recently invested approximately $16 million to expand capacity at its hatchery operations in Wetaskiwin, Alberta. Maple Leaf has additionally reached an agreement to acquire two poultry processing facilities and related supply, with significant value-added capabilities, from Cericola Farms.