MISSISSAUGA, Ontario – Maple Leaf Foods is investing $28 million to transition its Edmonton poultry processing facility to controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS) technology, the company announced Aug. 1. Incorporating this new technology will result in a 26,000-sq.-ft. 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." 

As the company incorporates the CAS technology, it will convert its transportation, lairage and receiving area and handling systems to “optimize rest-time and create a climate-controlled environment,” the company said. “The new lairage system will enhance lighting, air quality and temperature control, allowing chickens to rest comfortably and significantly reducing stress.”

The CAS technology Maple Leaf has selected is a humane system that will ensure birds are fully insensible prior to processing.

"Controlled Atmosphere Stunning (CAS) provides many advantages to animal welfare, ensuring chickens are fully unconscious and humanely euthanized, while greatly reducing stress," according to Greg Douglas, DVM, vice president of 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."

Maple Leaf Foods is also installing Remote Video Auditing (RVA) at the Edmonton facility. RVA allows for monitoring and auditing of the facility to ensure proper animal handling occurs throughout the process. This will be the ninth Maple Leaf facility to incorporate RVA into its process.

Maple Leaf has also added a second shift at the Edmonton facility and recently invested approximately $16 million to expand capacity at its hatchery operations in Wetaskiwin, Alberta. Additionallly, Maple Leaf Foods recently reached an agreement to acquire two poultry plants and associated supply from Cericola Farms. The two facilities are in Bradford, Ontario, and Drummondville, Quebec, and process approximately 70.5 million lbs. of chickens annually.