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Business and History - Canada Packers Limited

Canada Packers Limited

This page was reproduced with permission from the Canadian Manufactures Association. The Canadian Manufacturers Association, renamed Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, holds the Copyright for the text and images.

This information came from Industry '67 Centennial Perspective, published by The Canadian Manufacturers' Association in May 1967. The original document is accessible through Western Libraries Shared Catalogue.

Canadian Centennial Companies Crest

Canada Packers Limited traces its history to 1861 when William Davies opened his first meat processing operation at the old St. Lawrence Market in downtown Toronto. In 1874 he built a large new plant beside the Don River in Toronto and later installed in it the first moving rail hog processing operation in Canada.

Davies was in large part responsible for establishing the Canadian hog industry. Primarily through his efforts, too, the first Canadian Board of Agriculture was established, comprising producers, processors, and government officials, who studied how best the various segments could expand the Ontario livestock industry.

Driver fo the Harris Abattoir Co. 1918Another Canada Packers ancestor company dates from the establishment of an abattoir by William Harris in 1895. In 1901 it was named the Harris Abattoir Company Limited and organized to process cattle and sell fresh sides of beef. William Harris became President of the Toronto based undertaking, his son James Harris was Managing Director and J. S. McLean became Secretary-Treasurer.

The forerunners of Canada Packers enjoyed extensive expansion. At the outbreak of the first world war the Canadian meat packing industry and Canadian agriculture were in a position to play a big part in the allied cause and in feeding allied nations.

After the war the need for food in Europe more than offset the recession of demand and export shipments were maintained at a terrific pace until Autumn of 1920. At this time, however, the German mark, followed by other European currencies, ceased to have purchasing power. Packers were caught with large quantities of goods in transit and on consignment abroad with heavy inventories of meat, produce and byproducts at home. Many failed and others faced a bleak and uncertain future.

The Harris Abattoir Company Limited, which remained profitable during this difficult period, purchased Gunns Packing Company, established in 1880, and later a further consolidation took place, including the William Davies Company, Harris and Gunns and the Canadian Packing Company, which had been established around 1876.

The new organization was called Canada Packers Limited. Under the leadership of President J. S. McLean the company consolidated operations, expanded markets and sales and diversified products.

Fertilizer operations owned by the predecessors were combined, and products marketed under the "SHUR-GAIN" Brand Name. In 1933 what later became the Shur-Gain Division marketed "BIG 50", its first concentrate for animal feeding. Later, feed operations were established in all parts of Canada.

Expansions in the packing business led to the construction of the company's plant at St. Boniface, Manitoba in 1925. In 1936 the Edmonton plant was built and in the following year the Vancouver plant.

In the early 1930's the company canned fresh fruits and vegetables. These operations later became centred at Brantford and became known as York Farms, today a leading producer of canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, fruit and meat pies.

Canada Packers continued to diversify and expand into such fields as pharmaceutical chemicals, fatty acids, gelatin, animal health products, oils, leather, dairy products, poultry and all types of meat processing, as well as soaps and peanut butter.

Besides its Canadian operations, the company today owns a majority interest in a meat packing plant in Australia, feed plants in Danville, Illinois and Cartersville, Georgia and has export sales offices in London, England; Hamburg, Germany; New York and Los Angeles, as well as agents in most parts of the world.

The total sales of Canada Packers Limited for the fiscal year ending March 26, 1966, was $698,220,000. Today more than 12,000 people are employed in all ten provinces, and Canada Packers products are distributed from coast to coast and from the southern border to the most remote towns in the North West Territories.