Enhanced HACCP program helps meat processor grow nationally

Country Meat and Sausage is implementing a comprehensive food safety program in order to build its business with national grocery chains and expand production.

The Blumenort, Manitoba plant has been family owned and operated for almost 50 years. It currently has 27 employees and processes approximately 150 hogs per day to be sent to butchers and select deli shops across the province. It also owns a deli in Steinbach where they sell fresh meats and sandwiches.

To become a federally registered facility, the company must implement a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) food safety program. Being CFIA-registered allows companies to sell nationally and internationally.

A HACCP system is a proactive food safety program based on identifying and evaluating potential food safety hazards and ensuring control measures are in place.

"Implementing a HACCP program shows commitment to their expansion. They want to expand and are taking proactive steps to propel themselves into larger markets," said Charles Powell, a food safety specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. "Chain stores and bigger grocery stores usually require their suppliers to have a HACCP program."

Tracking practices and data

Food safety has always been a priority for the company, said Allana Wyness, who oversees HACCP at Country Meat and Sausage. What's important now is making sure the federal protocols are followed and documentation is complete.

"A lot of the employees have worked here for five to 10 years and some old habits are harder to break. They're committed to the program and understand the impact complying with the regulations will have to our business now and in the future," she said.

Expanding locally

The company is currently expanding its plant to allow it to process more local meat.

"We're looking at expanding our purchasing to include sows. A lot of the province's producers ship their sows to the United States, so it would save them transportation costs and gives us a bigger supply of locally produced meat," Wyness said.

Country Meat and Sausage is in the process of implementing a HACCP program with the assistance of Growing Forward 2's - Growing Assurance program.

"It doesn't matter which of the recognized food safety programs a business chooses, we fund it regardless," Powell said. "It's a case of getting them through the stages."

MAFRD offers its own HACCP program, Manitoba HACCP Advantage. This program has been designed to be user friendly and suitable for operations of all sizes to implement. The program provides materials and guidelines for both the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) prerequisite and HACCP.