South Canterbury and North Otago farmers now have a brand new $7 million venison processing facility in their midst. Silver Fern Farms (SFF) officially opened its venison plant at its SFF Pareora site at the end of February.
Deer from over 300 SFF suppliers are now being received into specialist deer yards, designed with the technical help of Deer Industry NZ quality assurance manager John Tacon.
He says it was a pleasure to be involved with a group of people throughout the design stages who understood deer and understood the requirements for handling and lairage. Where they didn’t, they were prepared to listen, so when it came time to discuss changes and or make alterations everyone understood why and how.
“Silver Fern Farms now has world-class facilities catering for the health and safety of the workers, who have the ability to move deer throughout the yards from above, and yards that provide a welfare friendly environment for the deer at all times whilst in lairage.”
The decision to build a new venison plant more central to its livestock supply in the region was made in May last year, SFF chief executive Dean Hamilton explained at the plant opening.
“It followed the closure of our site in Christchurch’s Islington, which was on a leased site undergoing redevelopment into a business park,” he said.
The new facility adds to beef and sheepmeat processing at the site, making it the first three-species plant for the company, which brings improved employment prospects and longer seasons for its 840 staff.
A key area of strategic focus is on ensuring the company has the best chain of care in the world, said Hamilton.
“Here at Pareora, to achieve that, we are looking to invest in our plant network to create modern efficiencies – higher yields, improved quality and lower costs.”
The venison development is a significant milestone for SFF Pareora, which was first built in 1903 by the Canterbury Meat Company as a sheepmeat processing plant and had beef processing added in the 1960s. The revamp has included expanding the cold storage facilities at the site to allow for better regional consolidation and less use of external cold storage facilities.
SFF produced a video during the construction phase, featuring one of its venison suppliers Orari Gorge Station (see below).
Over $200 million worth of red meat is processed annually at Pareora – 94 percent of that for export. Over 1,400 containers of natural grass-fed beef and sheepmeat left the plant for offshore markets in 2014-2015. From this point on, there will also be venison on board.
This article first appeared in Deer Industry News magazine (April/May 2017) and is reproduced here with permission. Check out the magazine for more in-depth deer industry specific news.