REGINA, SASKATCHEWAN — After releasing a recent study on the feasibility of building and operating a meat packing plant in Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association (SSGA) concluded that the venture is not only viable but beneficial to the region. The Opportunities & Challenges for Growing Saskatchewan’s Beef Processing Sector study supports the Saskatchewan government’s plan to grow the meat processing sector’s value-added revenue to $1 billion by 2030.

Officials said Saskatchewan produces 30% of Canada’s beef cattle but because the province lacks a federally inspected packing facility, it sells the beef out-of-province at a discount.

“COVID showed us where the present value chain is weak,” said SSGA President Garner Deobald. “Bottlenecks at the two big Alberta plants distorted the supply-and-demand dynamic, and it’s the cow-calf producers who suffered the most.”

Saskatchewan’s current cow herd is approximately 1.1 million head, with roughly the same number of calves born each year, SSGA said. About 250,000 head are exported either to other provinces or to the United States for slaughter every year, and more than a million leave the province as feeder cattle.

According to the study, a Saskatchewan-based packing facility could be commercially viable, which would introduce more competition for animals, reduce trucking distances, increase employment and provide animal-welfare benefits.

“This would be good news for the province and its beef industry,” Deobald said. “Along with the provincial government’s proposal to expand irrigation, a packing plant has terrific potential for growing our livestock feeding sector.”

SSGA is working with government and industry stakeholders to identify prime locations for a new plant and to develop ideas on optimal processing efficiencies and to present this information to potential investors.