Poultry processing plant in Mill Bay looks to meet enormous demand

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Thomas Hyde wants to help fill the growing need for more poultry farms and poultry-processing facilities in south Vancouver Island.

Hyde completed the construction of Mill Bay Processors, a 1,280 sq. ft. state-of-the-art processing facility for turkeys and chickens, along the Trans-Canada Highway in Mill Bay in 2022 to help meet the demand and encourage more farmers to set up small-scale poultry farms in the area.

He said the demand for poultry has been growing on the south Island for some time, while small-scale poultry production has become stagnant over the last few years.

Hyde said that in 2019, when the Ministry of Agriculture and Food released a feasibility study on new poultry-processing facilities on Vancouver Island, more than eight million chickens were consumed in the south Island alone that year, while just about 153,000 were raised and processed here.

He said that, while fewer in total, the same disparity exists in the number of turkeys eaten on the south Island and the number grown and processed here.

“The south Island is in desperate need of a poultry-processing facility like the one we built,” Hyde said.

“The local industry has the potential to be 1,000 times larger than it currently is. The growth potential is enormous and we plan to grow this facility two to three times larger within its existing structure in the next two to three years, and have built the facility to achieve that expansion.”

Hyde was a carpenter and a worker in Alberta’s oil patch before he got into poultry processing.

He said he ran a duck farm in Port Alberni. The plant he was using to process the ducks shut down, and he began doing research on processing facilities on Vancouver Island the same year that the ministry’s feasibility study of the facilities was released.

“We were going to build this facility anyway, but the feasibility report convinced us to build it bigger once we saw the demand that’s there,” Hyde said.

“We’re also bringing in chicks that we will sell to local farmers for $2 each to cut out the middle man and maker it cheaper and easier for them to get into and expand poultry farming. Our first batch of 200 chicks arrives on Feb. 16 and one half of them are going to a farm in Shawnigan Lake. The more favourable we can make it for local farmers to grow poultry, the better it will be for the processing side.”

Hyde said that in his first year of operations, he dealt with approximately 100 customers from farms from Nanaimo to Metchosin.

“We’re constantly getting more calls from farms all over the area who want to take advantage of our reduced prices for chicks and our processing facility,” he said.

“We currently have just two people working here, but we expect that will go up to seven or eight in a couple of years as the local industry expands. We’re shooting for processing about 300 chickens and turkeys a day, three days a week, and we have cooler capacity for 700. This is the best designed processing plant of its size in the province and we have big plans for it.”

Hyde said he invested in equipment that would produce the very best and cleanest product at a commercial level, but in a small-scale setting.

“Even the smallest farmer will get the same treatment that you can get with a big processing plant, but in a small setting,” he said.

Source: Vancouver Island Free Daily