The poultry sector represents a unique industry in Canada, made up of a range of commercial and non-commercial enterprises. Between chicken producers and egg producers, poultry ranges across a variety of different species. There are over 2,600 chicken producers, 1,100 egg farmers, and 543 turkey farmers in Canada.
The poultry industry in Canada is a major contributor to the Canadian economy, comprising over $6.5 billion to Canada’s GDP. This number represents 7.5% of total food processing revenues in the country. The industry also employs close to 22,000 employees across the country. One of the reasons for their widespread success is that poultry production and processing is one of agriculture’s highest mechanized sectors. The science of production productivity is well understood in Canadian poultry production.
Canadian producers export an impressive $281 million in chicken products to countries as diverse as the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Africa. The United States is the largest recipient of chickens and chicken products from Canada, but not by an excessive margin: the US represents 58% of total exported products, but this number includes unpopular poultry cuts that are then processed into some other form after delivery.
The production of these chickens and turkeys takes place in over fifty federally inspected plants, the majority of which are predominantly located in Ontario and Quebec: there are over thirty in these two provinces alone.
Major Industry Players
The largest poultry companies in Canada are Maple Leaf, Maple Lodge, Olymel, Lilydale, and Exceldor. Together they corner approximately 60% of Canada’s broiler market.
Canadian companies slaughter roughly twelve million chickens per week. The average slaughter plant produces roughly 450,000 chickens per week. Some of these larger poultry companies with bigger plants (such as the ones listed above) can slaughter up to 800,000. While these numbers might seem impressive, consider our American equivalents, where plants slaughter up to 160 million birds in a week!
Plant sizes in Canada are relatively small when compared to their American counterparts, which speaks to capacity concerns that currently influence the Canadian industry.
Consumption of Canadian chicken has almost doubled over the past twenty years. With consumption at 31.2 kilograms per capita in 2011, chicken dials in as Canadian’s favourite form of protein.
If you scrutinize any Canadian restaurant’s menu (or almost any menu in the world, in fact), you will notice more chicken dishes than any other meat.
Central Canada produces over half of Canada’s eggs. With the introduction of new process innovations, the rate at which hens lay eggs continues to increase. Improved chicken genetics also plays an important role. Together, these factors allow egg farmers to harvest more eggs with less.
Egg consumption has remained stable over the years. Canadian egg exports is a $52 million, primarily consisting of processed eggs. Like chicken, most of these exports travel to the United States, but Germany and Russia are also key recipients.
The 543 turkey farmers in the country produce 158 million kilograms of turkey every year. In 2011, Canada exported 21.4 million kilograms of turkey meat.
Turkey is a much more seasonal delicacy than chicken, and the 4.2 kilograms of turkey consumed per capita reflects this reality (especially when compared with the 31.2 kilograms of chicken consumed). 80% of turkey sales in Canada take place during holidays such as Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas.
As with chicken and eggs, better process innovations have assisted the turkey industry as well. Bigger birds mean more meat, which are sold either as whole birds, or increasingly as processed turkey products, in line with consumer demand.
All poultry producers in Canada are committed to quality products and services. Consider how the Chicken Farmers of Canada were the first national agricultural group to undertake a technical review from the On-Farm Food Safety Assurance Program, an internationally recognized organization for food safety standards. Egg Farmers of Canada demand a similar level of excellence, seen through their Start Clean-Stay Clean Program, which is another initiative that guarantees quality, freshness, and safety from their products. These programs help ensure that products are not only safe, but also delicious and nutritious for families to enjoy across the globe.