An offal decision

Terry Roberts
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Country Ribbon will decide soon on whether to process chicken byproducts

After two years of dumping much of its animal byproducts in a landfill, the owners of this province's only chicken producer and processing operation say they are close to making a decision on whether to build a plant that converts the offal into meal and fat for animal feed.

Country Ribbon CEO Ian Pittman said the company is at the planning and budgetary stage, and expects to decide on whether to build the 1,000-square-metre facility "as soon as possible."

After two years of dumping much of its animal byproducts in a landfill, the owners of this province's only chicken producer and processing operation say they are close to making a decision on whether to build a plant that converts the offal into meal and fat for animal feed.

Country Ribbon CEO Ian Pittman said the company is at the planning and budgetary stage, and expects to decide on whether to build the 1,000-square-metre facility "as soon as possible."

The plant will convert byproducts such as feathers, bones and innards into feed for livestock, including the province's mink industry, Pittman explained.

The company hopes to build the plant on three acres of Crown land off Incinerator Road, which is located off the Foxtrap Access Road.

A Canadian company called Rothsay once operated a conversion plant in the same area, and collected the offal from Country Ribbon. But the company pulled out of the province in 2008.

Country Ribbon has been looking for a long-term solution ever since.

It initially shipped the offal - excluding feathers - directly to fur farms in the region, but the sheer volume of the material caused environmental concerns, along with complaints about the stench from the farms.

Since last summer, the company has been dumping up to 25 tonnes of offal daily at the municipal waste disposal site in Sunnyside, Trinity Bay, a distance of roughly 150 kilometres.

Sunnyside Mayor Robert Snook said the arrangement is very important to the town of less than 500 residents.

"It's our sustainability," he said.

But the town's landfill is slated to close at the end of this year as part of the province's waste management strategy. The town is lobbying against the closure, arguing that it is the only site in eastern Newfoundland that accepts organic waste.

Pittman said a portion of the waste is being used to supply the fur industry, but he would much prefer to recycle 100 per cent of the offal.

"A conversion plant would be a better long-term economical and environmental solution," said Pittman.

The company has registered the project with the Department of Environment and Conservation, and public comments will be accepted until April 7. The department is expected to make a decision on the project by April 16.

If approved, the company would like to start construction in the summer, and have the plant in operation early in 2011.

The plant would process approximately 7,500 metric tonnes of offal per year, and the final product would be sold at the Country Ribbon feed mill on Topsail Road in Mount Pearl.

The company processes roughly 40,000 chickens each day at its processing plant in Pleasantville. It also operates a broiler farm near Cochrane Pond.

Some 325 people work for the company, and Pittman estimates that 10 full-time jobs would be created at the conversion plant.

According to the registration document, the company is applying for funding from the Agriculture and Agrifood Development Fund and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Asked whether the proposed plant might create a foul odour, Pittman replied: "We don't anticipate any problems." He said the plant would not be located next to a residential area.

"There are environmental regulations that regulate these types of operations, and we'll be in full compliance," Pittman said.

Country Ribbon is owned by Nova Scotia-based ACA Co-operative Ltd., and New Brunswick-based Co-op Atlantic. The companies took over from Integrated Poultry Ltd. (IPL), a consortium of chicken producers, in the late 1990s after IPL went bankrupt.

A spokesperson for Environment Minister Charlene Johnson said the department will not comment while the project is being assessed.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: IPL, Department of Environment and Conservation, Agriculture and Agrifood Development Fund Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency ACA Co Co-op Atlantic

Geographic location: Country Ribbon, Sunnyside, Incinerator Road Foxtrap Access Road Trinity Bay Eastern Newfoundland Topsail Road Mount Pearl Pleasantville Cochrane Pond

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