About Us

Maple Leaf Foods is Canada’s leading consumer packaged meats company, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario. We make high-quality, great tasting, nutritious and innovative food products under leading brands including Maple Leaf®, Maple Leaf Prime®, Maple Leaf Natural Selections®, Schneiders®, Schneiders Country Naturals® and Mina™. Our Company employs approximately 11,500 people in its operations across Canada and exports to more than 20 global markets including the U.S. and Asia.

Animal Wellness

As Canada’s largest meat company, we are responsible to lead in advancing humane animal care and alleviating stress or suffering. Every employee involved in the raising, transport and processing of hogs and poultry must adhere to our detailed animal care policies and procedures. All of our employees who handle animals receive training when they begin employment and on an annual basis. We have zero tolerance for abuse to animals. Disciplinary action includes suspension or termination of employment.


Read our integrated Sustainability Reporting Website for more about our animal wellness program.


Have questions? Please Contact Us for more information about environmental sustainability at Maple Leaf.

Maple Leaf’s Commitment to Open Housing for Sows

Maple Leaf was the first company in Canada to commit to converting to loose housing from gestation crates for sows (pregnant pigs).

We worked closely with the University of Manitoba and other industry participants to assess current loose housing methods and define adaptations needed to support Canadian hog production. Our work has identified a loose housing system currently operational on a smaller scale in Canada that will reduce some of the required demolition and re-construction to our existing sow barns.

Last year, we converted two barns with 1,250 sows to open housing. Two barns with 6,000 sow spaces in total will be converted in 2014. Our plan is to convert all of our Maple Leaf owned barns to open housing by 2017. As always, the well-being of our animals will remain a top priority throughout construction.

Learn more about open housing on our  Sustainability Reporting Website(opens a new window)  and view an infographic from the Centre for Food Integrity that explains housing conversion.

Animal Wellness in our Operations

Maple Leaf is deeply committed to the safe and humane treatment of animals within our care.

Every person involved in the raising and processing of animals and poultry, from the farms we operate to transportation and processing, is required to understand and strictly adhere to our animal welfare policies at all times. We have zero tolerance for any form of animal abuse.

Oversight and continuous improvement of our animal care practices is the responsibility of executive leaders within our hog production, poultry and pork businesses, as well as an Animal Care Committee comprised of leaders representing the businesses, food quality and safety, government and industry relations and communications.

Education and training is the foundation for the humane treatment of animals. Experts continuously review and audit our animal handling practices. Our employees certified by the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO) conduct weekly audits of our hog and poultry facilities, and our meat processing facilities are monitored by dedicated on-site inspectors from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (“CFIA”).

Maple Leaf Foods produces approximately 30% of the pork that we process, with the balance largely coming from contractual producers. In our poultry operations, Maple Leaf operates four hatcheries and sources our supply of chicken and turkey from independent producers. Our hog and poultry operations operate under the Canadian Animal Welfare Codes of Practices, American Meat Institute (“AMI”) animal welfare guidelines, the Canadian Quality Assurance program, the Canadian Hatching Egg Producer CHEQ™ Program and the Chicken Farmers of Ontario Transportation and Safe Handling Program.

Our suppliers must be certified to the same standards that we set for our own operations.

The transportation of all animals must adhere to CFIA and AMI standards. All drivers transporting animals to our processing plants must be certified in Trucker Quality Assurance (“TQA”) or have Canadian Livestock Transport (“CLT”) Certification or equivalent.

TQA or CLT certification is verified on every load. Industry standards of animal care are continuing to evolve through science, technologies and public opinion, resulting in tightening regulations. These enhancements, however, come at a cost that both the industry and consumers must bear. Maple Leaf takes a leading role in advocating for best practices and bringing industry partners together to move forward.

Hog Production

Our hog production business is operated by Maple Leaf Agri-Farms (“MLAF”), which is based in Manitoba. MLAF produces approximately 30% of the hogs we process and operates more than 120 owned and contracted growing sites in Manitoba.

Pigs are raised in three stages and locations:

Sow Barns

Adult female hogs (sows) are housed in sow barns, which support breeding, gestation and farrowing (the birthing process for pigs). After the piglets are born they stay with their mother until weaning at approximately three weeks of age.

After the pigs are weaned they are moved to a nursery barn. Maple Leaf was the first company in Canada to commit to transition sows under our management from conventional sow stalls, which restrict movement, to a loose housing system. We completed our first conversion of 1,250 sows to open housing in 2013. This year, we are converting two barns with 6,000 open housing spaces in total. We plan to convert all of our Maple Leaf Agri-Farms barns by 2017.

Nursery barns

Piglets live in nursery barns until they have reached a weight of approximately 28 kilograms (approximately 10 weeks of age).

They are housed in pens that accommodate between 20 and 60 animals, depending on the size of the pen, which allows them room to grow and exercise. All pens have their own water supply, and piglets are fed a specially formulated feed that meets their unique nutritional requirements. We strictly use controlled atmospheric euthanasia for piglets.

Pigs are relocated to our finishing barns where they reach optimal weight, which takes an average of 18 weeks. The pens are larger, to support growth and allow for freedom of movement and exercise. As in the nursery, the pigs are fed a specially formulated feed that meets their changing nutritional requirements.

When the pigs reach a weight of about 125 kilograms they are transported to our processing plant in Brandon, Manitoba.

At the processing plant

Receiving at the plant is a critical point in the animal handling system. Animal handling procedures for each facility address:

  • Presence of the receiver to observe unloading and health of animals
  • Action to be taken if any inhumane treatment of animals is observed
  • Process for handling injured animals
  • When to alert the CFIA veterinarian/inspector
  • Process for identifying and addressing any deficiencies which contribute to animal welfare problems

Upon arrival at the plant, hogs are allowed to rest in their designated pens within the barn. Pens and alleyways have nonslip floors and are washed daily. Ventilation, heating and cooling procedures are in place to maintain a comfortable environment and drinking water is always available in each pen.

Animals held for more than 24 hours are placed on an approved feeding program. Upon slaughter, hogs are rendered immediately unconscious through an approved electrical stunning process. Animals are individually inspected to ensure they are unconscious before they are euthanized and processed.

Maple Leaf contracted Dr. Temple Grandin, a renowned animal welfare expert, to provide input into barn design and animal movement and handling protocols to reduce stress on the hogs at our Brandon pork facility. This included the proper use of light, avoidance of reflecting surfaces, reducing shadows and curtailing noise. In 2012, Dr. Grandin visited Maple Leaf’s Brandon facility and supported our animal care practices and procedures.

Maple Leaf has two full-time veterinarians on staff dedicated to our hog operations.

Poultry operations

Maple Leaf operates four hatcheries and five processing plants. We source chicken and turkey from third-party growers to meet our processing requirements, all of which must meet our animal welfare policies.

On-farm and hatcheries

Hatcheries follow the on-farm animal care Canadian Codes of Practice for animal welfare and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) requirements to protect food safety and animal welfare.

We also have standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place to protect animal welfare and govern operating practices, and third party producers must adhere to our Animal Welfare, Handling and Transportation Policy. All hatchery operators must be HACCP certified.

In our hatcheries, Maple Leaf maintains conditions that optimize hatchability and minimize early mortality. We monitor and control environmental conditions and sanitation from the hatching process through delivery to assure the protection of newly hatched birds.

Environment-sensitive rooms have temperature and humidity controls that ensure the target temperature and/or humidity range for each area is maintained.

Our hatcheries also have regular monitoring systems to alert employees if critical systems fail (heat, electricity, fan failure). Our birds are not caged, and lighting is managed to maintain a healthy growth rate. All birds are vaccinated to prevent disease and maintain good health. We recognize the need for caution and balance in antibiotic use for poultry and we have eliminated the use of antibiotics in our chicken hatcheries.

Transportation

Maple Leaf contracts specialty agricultural catching and transportation companies that provide humane handling and transportation of poultry. This includes reducing the number of birds transported per truck in warmer seasons and scheduling truck departures during cooler times in the day, monitoring load sizes for the comfort of birds, and minimizing wait times on trucks through just-in- time delivery synchronized with processing requirements.

At the processing plants

Maple Leaf trains employees to ensure the Canadian Codes of Practice for animal welfare and company requirements are strictly followed. All new employees receive training that includes animal welfare practices and requirements and follow-up training at least annually. Poultry is rendered unconscious by electrical stunning before it is slaughtered to prevent pain or suffering. The effectiveness of this stunning is regularly inspected. All poultry is visually inspected to ensure that they are humanely euthanized before further processing.

Our Quality Assurance Team, including our staff and contracted veterinarians, follow Standard Operating Procedures that include training, auditing, follow-up, and corrective actions throughout our processes. Maple Leaf has a fulltime veterinarian on staff dedicated to poultry operations. In addition, Maple Leaf contracts as necessary for further veterinary services.