Hog Industry

Intensive hog production is found mainly in central and east-central areas of Saskatchewan. The hog industry attempted to establish barns in many communities with mixed results. Read the stories of many of these community struggles on the Stop the Hogs website.

Hog production in Saskatchewan is dominated by Big Sky Farms Inc. (47,000 sows), a commercial crown corporation with over 80% provincial government ownership and several Hutterite colonies. In April 2008 Saskatchewan’s second largest hog producer, Stomp Pork Farm Ltd. (27,000 sows) filed for bankruptcy protection.

According to Statistics Canada, in 1976 there were 12,246 farms raising pigs in Saskatchewan. By 2006 there were only 930 –92% of hog farms disappeared in twenty years. In 2006 less than 5% of the farms were raising over 80% of the pigs in the province, while production has gone from just under 500,000 to almost 1.4-million hogs per year. In 1976, 85% of the pigs were raised on farms with 2,600 or fewer animals. By 2006 over 90% were raised on farms with over 2,600 pigs.

The intensive hog industry in Saskatchewan went through a phase of expansion in the late 1990s when the provincial government actively encouraged a shift from family farm based production sold through the farmer-controlled single desk seller, SPI, to an industrial model with large-scale confined feeding operations sold through direct contracts with packing plants. (See Living in a Sea of Cheap Grain The corporate conversion of Saskatchewan's hog industry) Massive expansion in Saskatchewan and other provinces led to a price crash which forced most of the independent producers with 200 or fewer sows out of business.

Following the industrialization and ILO expansion phase there were a series of bankruptcies and business failures. The Wheat Pool's hog division, Heartland Pork Management, went bankrupt and sold its seven pork barns and feed mill operation to Stomp Pork Farms in May 2004 due to "disappointing operating results and industry risks." Pure Lean, a company that used a dry-composting system of manure management also went out of business in 2004. Quadra and Community Pork Ventures, which used a business plan based on local investors, amalgamated in 2000 and then went bankrupt in 2004. The provincial government funded Big Sky Farms Inc. purchase of Community Pork Ventures in 2005. Elite, Maple Leaf Foods Inc. attempted to build an ILO in southeastern Saskatchewan but was met with strong community opposition. In late 2006 Maple Leaf Foods announced it was going to shrink its hog production by ending production contacts with farmers and focus only on the hog production facilities it owned outright.

Most of the expansion was funded by local people who invested their savings in the barns as commercial lenders saw it as a bad risk. This was the business model for the Wheat Pool's pork division, Quadra, Community Pork Ventures and Pure Lean. The local investors lost all of their money when these businesses went bankrupt. The companies that bought the facilities were able to obtain the assets at a fraction of their actual cost.

When hog barns were set up in communities proponents claimed job creation as one of the benefits. However high turnover rates due to working conditions and wages at the barns resulted in hog production companies recruiting labour from countries like China, Ukraine and the Phillipines.

Hand in hand with the shift in hog production has been a shift in hog processing. In 2006 the Moose Jaw plant, formerly operating as WorldWide Pork, then as Moose Jaw Pork Packers, went bankrupt. It closed in spite of government and worker attempts to keep the plant open. Mitchell's, the Maple Leaf Plant in Saskatoon, closed June 1, 2007. The majority of hogs raised in Saskatchewan are now shipped to Maple Leaf's plant in Brandon, MB or the Olymel plant in Red Deer.