Maple Lodge Farms expects spike in sales due to meat recall

A Maple Lodge Farms truck enters the company’s Brampton chicken processing plant. TORONTO STAR/ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE

Chicken processer and manufacturer Maple Lodge Farms Inc. expects there will be a small bump in sales due to the massive XL Foods beef recall, said corporate affairs manager Carol Frazer-Gardin.

She said the industry saw a similar shift to other proteins during the outbreak in Mad Cow disease in 2003.

“There was some trending reports back then showing the shift to poultry,” Frazer-Gardin said from the company’s headquarters in Brampton on Winston Churchill Boulevard. “I think that’s kind of our expectation in terms of what will happen with the recall.”

However, Frazin-Gardin acknowledged the Thanksgiving season would make it hard to distinguish which sales are due to the XL Foods recall. “I think it will be over the longer term in terms of [seeing] the actual effects,” she said.

Professor of Food Economics John Cranfield of the University of Guelph agreed the spike in turkey sales, and other meat proteins, would make it would be difficult to determine exactly what the impact of the XL Foods recall would be. “You need a lot of evidence and a lot of data to do that kind of thing,” he said. “It becomes very tough to actually draw conclusions like that in these types of circumstances.”

Maple Lodge Farms senior marketing manager Luana Guglielmi said there has been a trend observed in the industry of shifts in sales. “Whenever there has been any kind of recall in protein, consumers automatically shift to a complete alternate,” she said, but stressed right now it’s still a hypothesis.

“Can I say I can substantiate with any of my sales numbers? I can’t right now,” said Guglielmi, “It’s just too soon. But it is typically what happens, it is a trend you see.”

Cranfield doesn’t think other food processing companies or meat processing companies like Maple Lodge Farms are going to be affected beyond the very short-term. “There’s a very quick reaction by consumers, but that over time their consumption patterns return to close to what they were before or the near vicinity,” he said.

Guglielmi also wanted to make it clear that the company deals exclusively with chickens. “We don’t do any beef in our facilities at all,” she said.

And while Gugliemi said she does think many customers will be buying turkeys for their holiday dinners this weekend, she said this is typically a busier time for the company and many consumers are loyal to chicken for its cost benefits.

“Not everyone can afford a big turkey,” she said. “And a whole chicken is a nice alternate just for family who are budget-conscious and still want that white-poultry feel to the dinner table.”

While one of Maple Lodge Farm’s Zabiha Halal beef burgers was involved in a recall in March earlier this year, Guglielmi said that was produced by a third-party and they were the ones who were charged.

The company’s Brampton location includes administrative offices, primary processing plant and a slaughterhouse, while their Mississauga location does further processing. Established in 1955, Maple Lodge Farms employs 2,200 people across Canada, 1,600 in Brampton, including two other plants in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

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