After five years of planning, construction has now started on the Les Abattoir les Viandes du Pontiac. Set on five acres on the outskirts of Shawville, the slaughterhouse is the brainchild of Quyon entrepreneur Alain Lauzon and three partners, Sofian Elktrousie, Ibrama Diagne and promoter Gilles Langlois.
“We are aiming to be open by end of October,” said Lauzon last week, as he watched forms being set for more concrete to be poured.
“We have 10 students taking the abbatoir course set up by Heritage College on Front Street in Campbell’s Bay. There is a butchers’ shop that we’ve rented and renovated. All the equipment - the ribbon saw, the ground meat machine, the cutting tables - was moved there last Sunday. The employees are training on the actual equipment they will use at the slaughterhouse as well as studying in class. We have the chiller, a place to cut and pack and the meat [they are training with] will go to the community, to the food bank.”
Two experienced butchers have also been hired.
Lauzon’s next goal is to create a customer base for the slaughterhouse.
“We’re talking to a lot of farmers and I am trying to find a way to reach them,” he said. “We will make a meeting [to explain] how it will work and how much we will charge. There will be a few open days for the farmers, to allow people to see how it works, the processing, the stables, the killing line.”
The slaughterhouse is being built to comply with federal standards. It is rated C1, meaning a vet and an inspector must always be on site during operation.
“As C1, we are allowed to sell anywhere in Quebec,” Lauzon explained. “Farmers can get animals killed, cut, stamped and be able to sell the meat themselves because it’s certified. We will not [plan] that far [at first], but we want to sell into Ontario. We are building to the highest standard. Everything is designed for safe animal handling, even the angle and the texture on the floor. The animals will never be standing outside. The inspector and vet have a walkway above the animals to study them.”
At this point, the slaughterhouse will only handle animals like cattle, sheep and goats. It will not process poultry and, in order to comply with Halal requirements, no pigs.
“Halal is our initial niche,” Lauzon said. “We will be certified for both halal [where animals are killed with an Imam present] and traditional methods. This is only a niche [but will] bring us a certain amount of customers, as there is nothing like this in the Outaouais. There is a demand [because] there is nothing like this around here; even in Thurso and Beauman, there is no halal.”
The slaughterhouse will also be able to accept dead animals brought in by hunters. “We are already rigged up to take a carcass that’s been [field] dressed. Now they have to go to Saint-André-Avellin or Thurso and often they are all booked up.”
A delivery service to butcher shops and a small commercial store at the site is also planned as a part of the enterprise. But Lauzon stresses that he does not wish this to be seen as creating competition for the stores that already sell meat in the area.
“We will have a little place to sell, a little outlet, but our aim is not to kill [the business] already in Shawville. We are not here for that,” he said. “We want to support this town, not to compete. There is a lot of space. My focus is mainly to cut, wrap and ship but we will serve the customers who want to buy [something specific] like whole lamb for a méchoui or a wedding, those kinds of orders.”
Every part of the animals being processed at the plant is to be sold, including bones, fat, skin and blood.
“(Meat rendering company) Sanimax will pick up all the bones and fat. The skin has another customer for the leather. Everything is used, nothing will be wasted,” Lauzon stated.
Lauzon credits MNA André Fortin for his direction and support over the five years of development. “Support from André Fortin sent me to the right place,” he said. “I kind of lost two years before I started to talk to politicians. André, he was my biggest side guy. ‘Go there, do that, this is what you have to do’… André and the Municipality of Shawville were behind me the whole way.”
Lauzon hopes the slaughterhouse will become a strong industry for the area; not only providing employment but eventually becoming a recognized name for excellence.
“Once the business industry was the wood, but the wood is almost out and Smurfit is out so agriculture is now part of the biggest economy,” he said. “The slaughterhouse, like the UPA says, is ‘part of the recipe’. We can show them what we are made of. Instead of buying Angus beef from the west, come on, we have good beef here! We want a name, like Charlevoix, and when they say our name, the price will go up straight away. We have good farmers here: I want to work with them and I want to be in the community of Shawville and help as much as I can.”
Creating a slaughterhouse should become an incentive for both new and established farmers in the region to focus on producing quality meat animals.
“People could be attracted to come and open a sheep farm because there is a slaughterhouse, because they can control their own market,” Lauzon said. “The Pontiac can raise a good product and make a name for ourselves. We will get the wheel going; right now, we are just waiting to put the oil on the chain.”
For more information on Abattoir les viandes du Pontiac or to inquire about having animals slaughtered, contact Alain Lauzon at email@example.com