Canadian Manufacturing

One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Workers at the slaughterhouse have been without a contract since July 2020 and have been on strike for more than three weeks, with salaries and working conditions key sticking points.

June 18, 2021  The Canadian Press

The head of an association representing Quebec chicken producers says it is unacceptable that one million chickens have been euthanized during an extended labour dispute at a slaughterhouse near Quebec City.

The Exceldor co-operative closed its slaughterhouse in St-Anselme, Que., south of the provincial capital, on May 23 due to a strike, leaving few options for chicken producers.

Pierre-Luc Leblanc, president of Les Eleveurs de Volailles du Quebec — the province’s association of chicken producers — said he’s never received as many calls and messages from members as in the past few weeks, unsure of how to handle the situation.

“People are telling me they are offended, mad and sad,” he said. “It’s not an easy situation because there’s not a lot of solutions for us.”

Advertisement

Leblanc’s association represents more than 700 producers, mostly family-run businesses, who operate within strict guidelines.

“There are rules for producers: when you transport the chickens, you are allowed to have only one per cent rate mortality. If you go beyond that, you can get a fine for animal cruelty,” Leblanc said. “But right now, we are allowing that many chickens to be killed.”

Both the union and the company have confirmed the one million discarded chickens would have provided up to four million meals.

The union said the strike has forced Quebec producers to send euthanized chickens either to waste sites or to a rendering plant, where they can be transformed into products not for human consumption.

Exceldor spokesman Jordan Ouellet said the company tried to send as many chickens as possible to other slaughterhouses in Quebec or Ontario.

“The problem is that at one point, after 35 days, when chickens reach a certain weight, they are ready to be transformed,” Ouellet said. “But beyond that, they continue to grow and infrastructures are not made for those sizes.”

Workers at the slaughterhouse have been without a contract since July 2020 and have been on strike for more than three weeks, with salaries and working conditions key sticking points.

“We have to give the conciliation process a chance,” said Roxane Larouche, spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers union. “Of course, we are sensitive to food waste, there is no one who wants that. But it is the employer’s responsibility.”