RED DEER, ALBERTA – Olymel LP announced the gradual reopening of its hog slaughtering, cutting and boning plant in Red Deer, Alberta. With support from Alberta Health Services (AHS), the Red Deer facility resumed slaughter operations on March 4. Cutting room operations are slated to resume on March 5.

“The employees that are needed to ensure that the gradual restarting of operations goes smoothly will be recalled in accordance with applicable collective agreement provisions,” Olymel said.

Olymel temporarily closed its Red Deer, Alberta, hog processing plant in February after testing protocols, sanitary measures and a collaboration with AHS failed to control a resurgence of COVID-19 among plant employees. The temporary closure resulted in a backlog of market-ready hogs that led to Olymel shifting a substantial amount of company-owned pork production to the United States.

“Olymel plant supply teams are also in contact with Alberta hog farmers to plan the gradual resumption of deliveries,” the company said. “Since the temporary closure of the Red Deer plant, Olymel had made the necessary decisions to manage the flow of pigs from its own farms in order to facilitate a return to normal when operations resumed.”

Olymel said that since March 3, employee groups have participated in training sessions covering all implemented health measures, adjustments and additions made to some of those measures, and an action plan developed for reopening.

"The training sessions also focus on the important role information plays in compliance with all the health measures that are in place at the plant," the company said.

“Additional staff has already been assigned to monitor and enforce these measures,” Olymel continued. “Social distancing protocols have been further adjusted and enhanced, in particular through the addition of physical space. Health and safety meetings between management and union representatives are scheduled daily.”

AHS authorities noted that the coronavirus is still spreading and that everyone is at risk of contracting it, whether in the community or otherwise. AHS experts will be on site when operations resume, Olymel said, and will offer rapid testing to anyone who has not tested positive and wishes to be tested. Since Jan. 1, 2021, 1,370 employees at the Red Deer plant have been tested for the coronavirus, according to the company.