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Stronach proposes 10,000-sq-ft beef processing facility in Prince Edward County

– Adena Farms photo

SEPT 4 – Update: the municipality noted this afternoon that the proposal on the agenda was updated to be for a 10,000 square foot beef processing facility, not a 10,000 acre beef operation. Incorrect information appeared on an earlier agenda.

SEPT 3 – The municipality’s agricultural advisory committee is expected to hear a proposal Wednesday night from 86-year-old billionaire Frank Stronach.

The global auto-parts giant notes in his letter to Planner Paul Walsh, he is looking forward to visiting the County as he has done a few times over the years.

Frank Stronach

“My son Andrew has accumulated a few thousand acres of farmland in your lovely county and he really enjoys living there,” said Stronach in his letter.

Stonach is the founder of Magna International, one of the largest suppliers of automotive systems and technologies. He explains he started as a one-man operation in a small, rented garage in the 1950s and built a global company of 175,000 employees with annual revenues of $50 billion and factories in 30 countries around the world.

“However, I have also always been a farmer,” said Stronach, noting his horse farms north of Toronto, in Kentucky and Florida, since the 1960s.

“I decided to get into agricultural business and made a commitment to produce healthy, all-natural foods without chemicals,” he continues in his letter. “Since then, I have accumulated approximately 100,000 acres in the Ocala area of Florida, which is a little north of Orlando.”

With a princple to avoid pain and stress on animals, Stronach notes engaging leading animal rights activist Mary Temple Grandin “and incorporating her system into one of the most advanced cattle processing plants in North America, at Florida… All our cattle are raised with no antibiotics, no hormones, no GMO, no chemicals and graze freely on open pastures.”

Stronach seeks to build a similar, but smaller state-of-the-art processing facility in the County.

Stronach properties (see partial map with correction below)

“I propose working together with local farmers in a mutually-beneficial arrangement where farmers would grow organic cattle for us. Naturally we cannot have purely grass-fed cattle, but because hay is dried grass, they would be grass and hay fed,” said Stronach. “We would also have a second line of cattle that are grass and hay fed, and then finished with organic grain.”

He states he envisions to make a commitment to pay five to 10 per cent more per pound than the market price for conventionally-raised cattle.

“We are currently in the planning process and will open our first organic supermarket and restaurant some time toward the end of this year,” he states. “Any of the farmers who participate in our operation would get another payment of approximately five per cent related to the net meat sales, but we would fine-tune that arrangement over time.”

He would also like to see a system to assis local farmers to purchase organic grain more economically.

“I would like to explore with you whether or not the County and your local farmers would be supportive of building a world-class meat processing plant,” he states. “I realize we would also require provincial permits, but I would only go to a place where I know I am welcome and where local farmers would see a benefit to having access to a processing plant.”

Stronach’s deputation is to be heard Wednesday, Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. during the agricultural advisory committee meeting at Shire Hall.

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  1. Chris Keen says:

    Just because someone comes up with a scheme that might provide ten jobs is no reason for it not to be examined thoroughly by Council before it is approved.

  2. SS says:

    I think the comments about facts and evidence for making decisions are excellent.

    To that end, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations provides a helpful document called “Standard design for small-scale modular slaughterhouses”.

    A Google search of this will show the document which seems to provide lots of details that some questioners at the Sep 4 meeting were perhaps seeking.

    The FAO document seems to have been developed for the South Pacific, so maybe in the County some of the considerations would be different.

  3. Jim says:

    Here we go again.we don’t want turbines.We don’t want PORT picton.Now we dont want a beef and packaging operation.I am sick and tired of all these don’t wants.Everybody is complaining about no work for the young people of the county and this would be great

  4. Eugenia Venchiarutti says:

    The Stronach family can contribute immensely to Prince Edward County by donating the lands they own. The properties that fall within the boundaries outlined by the South Shore Joint Initiative plan submitted to the Federal government could go to the Hastings Prince Edward Land Trust or the Nature Conservancy of Canada.The preservation and enjoyment of this area for present and future generations should be the Stronach legacy.

  5. Fred says:

    Decisions should be based upon fact, zoning and permtted uses, not based on the name Stronach compared to any familiar County farmer name. An abboitor is a permitted use or it is not. That’s how the system is supposed to work.

  6. SS says:

    Frank’s pitch seems to be to get young people back on the farm, get farmers more money, and support more humane ways of dealing with animals at an Abbatoir.

    None of these goals requires that the operation be located in the South Shore of PEC.

    Frank did not get where he was just because he is lucky, as he says repeatedly in the meeting. He got where he is by exploiting opportunities. The costs of those opportunities are often borne by the people who are impacted.

    Near the 1:22:30 mark of the meeting, he is saying that his end goal is hundreds of supermarkets. This does not seem like the right fit for anywhere else except a proper industrial park where truck traffic and industrial activity is expected and the infrastructure needed is properly established.

  7. SS says:

    I just got to the 48:30 mark, and Cheryl Anderson makes some great comments — her belief that an abbatoir is an industry — and I completely agree. She makes some great points.

  8. SS says:

    The recording of yesterday’s meeting is at:

    https://princeedwardcounty.civicweb.net/document/181575?splitscreen=true&media=true

    There are many words spoken by Frank regarding the importance of animal welfare and also farmers receiving a good price for their efforts.

    At the 28:00 minute mark, Question: Is an Abattoir permitted in RU zoning? The answer was provided a few minutes later as “Yes”.

    At about the 31 minute mark, Frank says he wants to serve the Toronto market and Ottawa and want to serve Montreal also.

    So, clearly, this is meant to be a major operation.

    At about 33 minute mark, a question was asked: Formal business plan? Market research? Stats to back up?

    Frank’s answers to that are vague, but it is logical to say that the answer is yes … he does have those things. But he is not disclosing those plans.

    Starting around the 39 minute mark, he talks about easing into the process by having the County declare this is feasible.

    Nowhere in the discussion thus far, have I heard any consideration of what the impact would be of large trucks and vehicles traveling between Hilltop Rd and:

    a) The farmers
    b) Meat distributors
    c) Stores

    As far as I can tell, this would need to take place on Royal Rd, Brewers Rd, Highway 10 (through Milford and Cherry Valley), although other routes would include Dainard Rd and Lighthall Rd.

    Apart from the environmental impact on the land from construction and operation of the facility itself, surely the impact on roads and existing residents and wineries would be significant.

    We are relatively new to the County, and planning to build a bungalow in South Marysburgh. We are very skeptical of big business’ altruism. But we are escaping an area where trucks and heavy traffic is constant. The last thing we want is to see a rather pristine and pastoral environment turned into a factory area.

  9. doug says:

    The Council should take a road trip to see and smell the huge killing plant at Brooks Alberta .The plant could be built west of Wellington then people could buy some beef ,get some local wine ,visit the rural outpost Drake Hotel and stay in one of the 600 airbnbs in Wellington.

  10. SS says:

    Looking at the proposed location, trucks coming and going to and from such a location would have to travel on some roads that are pretty quiet now, and predominantly rural residential / winery / pasture type areas.

    I only saw this article today, or I would have asked this question at the meeting yesterday.

    What are others’ thoughts on this aspect?

  11. Sam says:

    As a South Marysburgh/Southbay resident with a small waterfront farm, and as a economist addicted to due diligence, I would like to urge a bit of caution here. In less than 48 hours there has been misinformation and some extreme speculation. As well, the article’s images wrongly identify two Southbay shoreline properties as owned by Stronach. Stronach’s These are mistakes by Stronach’s agents in the county, and are causing headaches for those landowners, as they fend questions from concerned friends.

    Frank and family have purchased somewhere between 1,000 acres and 2,000 acres in the County. There are several much larger owned-acreage farms in the County, even larger operations if one includes leased lands. For range fed cattle it takes 10-12 acres of decent pasture to sustain one animal. Here, since soil quality varies widely, it will likely take more acers per animal. Additional land is needed to produce hay/fodder for winter. This suggests, with current land holdings, a maximum one or two hundred cattle per year. The Stronach Florida Adena Farms, with 100,000 acres, has an abattoir designed to process that many cattle per day. In the absence of further information, we are looking at a low volume small footprint abattoir (roughly 100ft by 100ft), possibly with some custom processing for others.

    Before running off madly in all directions it would serve the County well if we took an evidence based multistakeholder approach to understanding what is being proposed, formulating the right questions, and either nudged the design toward a good project, or discovering if there are major unaddressed issues.

    These are the things we couldn’t do with the flawed Green Energy Act and the Wind Turbine mess. We can do them here. Let’s get it right.

  12. Fred says:

    If it meets zoning and permitted uses it shouldn’t mattter how much money the applicant has.

  13. Angela says:

    Not so crazy. The county is being raped by outside interests. Already outsiders own a large chunk of it and they came solely to make money, not because they love the place so much. Stronach’s proposal needs close scrutiny and concern for the environment should be first and foremost. Hopefully council will do its job and consider this from all angles.

  14. Michael says:

    Perhaps the moderator can clarify something that I think has been miscommunicated.
    I believe that the original reference to “10,000” was the number of acres that Stronach owns in the County, not the square footage of a processing facility. Clearly, to process cattle from 10,000 acres a facility must be immense rather than 100′ x 100′ as previously stated by someone.

  15. The Reaper says:

    Someone with lots of money will probably get the o.k. Wonder who will benefit from this. I think we know the answer. Why not let local farmers expand!!!!!!!

  16. Dave says:

    In the 1970s the Ontario government was concerned about what was happening to the environment due to deforestation and they made a movie about it which is partially based on what has happened in PEC. It is called “The changing Resource”. The government was trying to get people to reforest the land.

    http://www.antognini.com/video01.mp4

  17. robert sandfield says:

    Most of this land is scrubby, not suitable for row crops. Maybe wouldn’t even support large trees due to drought proneness and complete lack of soil depth. There are similar areas in Greenbush that flat out can’t grow maples and oaks, too dry and they fall over due to shallow rock. Many areas that have re-grown are largely small cedars and similar. Runoff will not be an issue, this is grazing land, not a feedlot. The cattle will crap as the walk around searching for grass, not all in one spot. 10,000 acres of this land will produce far less cattle than you think it might. Most summers you would need to supplement with a lot of hay/silage from elsewhere. A lot of these comments are laughable from a farm perspective. And a 100×100 abattoir? That is a very long way from an industrial sized facility. Rotting blood? Get real, the reason we have next to no community abattoirs is the incredibly tight inspection and regulation of them, if you have worked in/with one you know that inspection drives you around the bend, endlessly cleaning already clean to satisfy vague directives. Everything will go to a rendering plant, far, far away from your backyard. Stronach is billionaire that won’t be doing this as a charity, and he might have questionable motives, but most of these comments are more appropriate to a huge feedlot on concrete, and a 500’x500′ abattoir processing 1000 cattle per day. Crazy stuff here.

  18. Dave says:

    We should first reflect upon what has happened to this county in the last 200 years. 200 years ago we had huge old growth forests and then every single stick was cut down. Then the land was farmed until the soil turned into unproductive land. Then in the last 50 years the land was abandoned and ugly scrub brush has grown up. If we want to help the environment and promote tourism we can’t let this whole tract of land be denuded by grazing. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some large forests here?

  19. Dave says:

    Overgrazing is terribly destructive to the environment that is why I suggested that 50% be re-forested.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/04/global-food-producers-climate-crisis

    also see this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDgDWbQtlKI

  20. Sam says:

    An abattoir about 100ft x 100ft rather than a cattle ranch using 4% of the County? That is another kettle (tea cup?) of fish (beef?) to contemplate. (-:

  21. kb says:

    Let’s get to the core of this. Google him to find out his political backing, and his company’s turmoil as it relates to family feuding. He is a politician first, and a businessman second. His business ventures are risky and have suffered huge losses. Do we really want to welcome this drama and risk? I can’t help but think about numerous other farming areas in the province that make more sense to run a large scale operation, instead of here.

  22. kevin says:

    Too big. Why not approach another municipality with more to gain, and less to lose. This smells funny. Something doesn’t seem right here.

  23. SueB says:

    Has he tried to do this in other places? What happened?

  24. kb says:

    With all of his wealth and assets, one has to wonder, “Why here? Why now” ?

  25. Cheryl Anderson says:

    As I understand the information provided, Mr. Stronach wants to use some of the land he and his son own in Prince Edward County to build a 10,000 square foot abattoir at 191 Hilltop Rd. between Brewers and Duetta Rd. In addition he will use the two waterfront pieces of land across from the proposed abattoir site and another piece of land on South Bay to provide water access for his abattoir.
    My concern is that Mr. Stronach has described this endeavour as agriculture. In fact I believe that an abattoir is an industry. Not only that, it is an industry that brings with it heavy truck traffic, noxious smells, loud noises and massive amounts of biological waste. The meat packing and preservation industry has high demands for water and waste management.
    Looking at the Draft Schedule B in the draft updated official plan we can see that 191 Hilltop Rd is within a proposed Natural Core Area. It includes a provincially significant wetland and areas of hardwood forest. Hilltop Rd is currently the northern boundary of the Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird and Biodiversity Area. The importance of that area to migrating birds and bats and as the home of 23 species at risk including the iconic Blanding’s Turtle has been recognized by two Environmental Review Tribunals. To expect that that important habitat stops at the arbitrary boundary of a man made road is fool hardy. The South Shore of Prince Edward County is not a place for industrial development of any kind.
    The County’s Build a New Life web site speaks of the County as a place of rural calmness. If this new industry is allowed to be developed on Hilltop Rd. not only will it cause destruction to an important natural habitat but any rural calmness that exists now will be extinguished.
    I urge the committee to forward the Stronach proposal to Council with a recommendation that the development of this new industry in the County’s South Shore be denied.
    Cheryl Anderson

  26. Sam says:

    Having come from a farming background, and with a small farm in South Marysburgh, in my opinion this is a complex proposal from the get-go. Depending on how it actually rolled out, the resulting scale and the location of any abattoir, it could be good or bad for the County, and good or bad for the environment. Of course, if one is a vegan it might look bad no matter what.

    The scale of the operation need not imply 10,000 acres under single ownership, depending on how pasturing and feed production are handled. Methane capture is only relevant to feed lot (winter?) situations. In addition to the issues around humane/ethical animal slaughter, there are issues of odor-containment for abattoirs, there are multiple issues.

    If this gets County endorsement of some sort, I for one would propose two things. First, given the large scale of the proposal, I would suggest a County/Community multistakeholder committee to monitor and work with those implementing the cattle operation. That would keep communications and information open and transparent.

    Second, I would suggest a County delegation traveling to Ocala Florida, one that has negotiated to view the Stronach operation west of there, and meet with community stakeholders to get a view of how things have gone there. I would assume that such a delegation would have to be self-financed, unless someone smarter than I knows where the money is hidden.

  27. Fred says:

    It would mean employment opportunities.

  28. Karen Rathwell says:

    This sounds like a good business plan although I’m not in support of land banking in the first place. My biggest concern is rain run-off into the lake. There must be a wide buffer zone put into place with lots of natural vegetation to absorb cattle waste so it doesn’t add to the contamination already in the lake. We need to take back our lakes from entitled pollutors. Our lakes must be protected at all costs.

  29. sheila stene says:

    The book “Cows Save the Planet.. and other improbable ways of restoring soil to heal the earth” by Judith Schwartz makes for interesting reading on the value of intensive but properly handled grazing as an important way of improving soil and storing CO2.
    It seems that the proposal to work with other local farmers and have a local more humane slaughter facility makes a lot of sense. Of course the details are really important and the shallowness of local soils, and consideration of water issues at every stage of the plan are very important .
    I shall follow this with interest and a positive mind set.

  30. Kevin Avery says:

    I don’t know if I am too far away from the county but I would love to participate in the raising of this type of cattle!!!

  31. Tony Dubois says:

    Looks like some of this property already belongs to others that may not want to sell.

  32. gerry says:

    why should he have to re – forest i bet a lot is already covered with scrub cedar . Agree with robert’s comment about manure and crops . Wonder what original intent was when land was purchased ?

  33. Michael says:

    I’m all for better agriculture in the County but while grazing cattle on “marginal” lands mght be a responsible use, the construction and operation of a processing facility of this size and magnitude in this sensitive part of the county seems totally irresponsible. Remember, we’re talking about a facility that would process the beef yield from 10,000 acres of land. The water consumption and effluent handling alone would be epic as would be the atrocious smell of rotting blood and offal year round. I’ve lived within 10km of a processing facility before and even that distance wasn’t sufficient to attenuate the smell.

  34. rosalind adams says:

    re Dave’s comment Stronach should commit to reforesting half the land. I don’t think that’s how he rolls. below is part of an article on his Florida beef operation from Beef magazine, October 2013:

    “Pineland to pasture
    Florida’s mild climate, together with its 50+ in. of annual rainfall, offers nearly year-round grazing – more so than in any other state except Hawaii.

    One of the biggest challenges in launching Adena Meats’ grass-fed beef venture is developing most of its nearly 70,000 acres of pineland holdings into productive pasture. It costs $1,000/acre to convert pineland to pasture, says Mark Roberts, ranch manager. That represents another $60 million in development expense on top of the venture’s $148 million land acquisition cost.

    Rick Moyer, Adena Springs’ cattle manager, declined to share his cost-per-pound of gain target. “We are still building and moving stuff around and planting where ever we can,” he says. “So we don’t really know where our cost of gain is at this point.” Moyer is targeting a conservative stocking rate of 4 acres/cow-calf unit.

    Converting the ranch’s stands of loblolly and slash pine to pasture is a 2-3-year process. If the land has standing pine, the timber is harvested and left idle for six months. Then field debris is chopped and left for another 6-12 months before being chopped again. Next, the stumps are pushed up with bulldozers and left to dry for two months before being raked up and burned.

    Once cleared, work crew disk the field twice and plow down 1.5 tons of lime/acre, and then disk in a second 1.5-ton lime application; level the field with a land plane and the field is ready for planting. New pastures should reach full production two years after planting.”

  35. shawn says:

    Perhaps council could mandate some of the practices of Bryan Gilvesy grass fed beef farmer st Catherines

    https://www.yuranch.com

    ★ 2016 Clean 50 Award 2016
    ★ 2016 Artisan Supplier of the Year, Ontario Hostelry Institute
    ★ 2016 Beef Farmers of Ontario, The Environmental Stewardship Award
    ★ 2015 Bank of Montreal, Farm Family Award
    ★ 2014 Environmental Award, Tillsonburg Chamber of Commerce
    ★ 2013 Premier’s Leadership Award for Agricultural Innovation
    ★ 2013 Canadian Farmer-Rancher Pollinator Award
    ★ 2012 Environment Minister’s Award For Environmental Excellence
    ★ 2009 International Texas Longhorn Breeder of the Year
    ★ 2008 Canadian Agri-Food Award of Excellence for Stewardship

  36. Paul Cole says:

    It will be interesting to see how County Council responds to this considering Prince Edward County is a farming community…

  37. LM says:

    Perhaps running the plant or running the farms using at least a percentage of power produced from cattle emissions – methane and manure – should be a condition of support for this project.

  38. shawn says:

    The information here i INCORRECT. They do NOT own the property you have highlighted on the map here. 2265 County Rd 13 is our property and i would like this corrected or the map taken down please until your research is corrected.

  39. Dennis Fox says:

    It appears that the 10,000 acres is spread across the southern portion of the County. Do we know where the different aspects of this beef operation will be located – and does the municipality have the ability to control this?

    Was any of this land (in the recent past) planned for wind turbines? Not knowing what the future may bring, I would hope that Council will ensure the strongest wording in the zoning apply to prevent any other uses. As an earlier writer suggests, we need to look at this proposal carefully. PEC – the methane capital of the region – whoopee!

  40. robert sandfield says:

    Anything he does is profit motivated and that is fine…. It would be good for the land, marginal land like most of this is, is greatly improved by grazing. Nothing better for the land than turning grass and water into manure and urine. The reason some of the corn/bean/wheat land in PEC looks so sick is that it has not seen a manure spreader in 50 years. When PEC was mixed farming of dairy/beef/sheep and some field crops like peas, tomatoes and sweet corn for processing, the land was far more healthy. Most of the farms listed would be classed as marginal for use other than grazing, especially by provincial standards. Prince Edward is not a true cash crop county other than a few of the deeper soil areas. His stocking rates would by definition have to be extremely low, the land can’t support high rates, so the manure load will be very small as well.

  41. Mike Rodgers says:

    Better than cutting up farms to be sold as building lots. But some of this land only supports red cedars.

  42. Marc says:

    This sounds like a great project for the County. I hope people who support farming will raise their voices in it’s support.

  43. Marc Keelan-Bishop says:

    Do farms generally require permission to start up?

  44. Dave says:

    Have a look at this documentary about overgrazing and what it does to the environment:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nak-UUZnvPI

  45. Dave says:

    A condition should be that he re-forest 50% of the land.

  46. Dave says:

    Probably a tax avoidance strategy since farmland gets passed down to the kids with no taxes.

  47. Administrator says:

    Thanks. 10,000

  48. ChrisW says:

    So is it 100,000 acres or 10,000 acres?

  49. Chris Keen says:

    I agree with kb and would add an additional consideration – roads. While this is a vastly different use of the properties than was the original intention when they were acquired, it will not be some idyllic operation like that shown in the picture. This is industrial farming – not “farming” race horses. This needs transparency, careful consideration and debate.

  50. kb says:

    While I want to support this, I am concerned about the proximity to the Lake and designated conservation lands which are environmentally protected. This requires much public input and municipal debate and planning. I encourage everyone to look closely at this before making a decision. This is not just mom and pop’s farm – this is mega farming whether cattle are organically grass fed or not. The results are the same insofar as impact on the landscape and the community. I want to promote this but I just have so many questions. I hope the county takes it’s time without rushing to a decision.

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