Cold Country Pork Inc.
In Winnipeg, Manitoba, Cold Country Pork Inc. is one of the largest independently owned pork processors in the province. With 20 employees and a 16,000-square-foot provincially-certified processing facility, the company receives Manitoba-raised pork, and breaks the fresh sides down into a variety of wholesale cuts for retailers, restaurants, wholesalers and small mom-and-pop shops.
“Our quality is the one thing that really stands out about Cold Country,” says Bruce Instance, general manager. “Because we source from local slaughterhouses, we can offer fresh product daily, good quality that our customers can feel comfortable and confident about, going into their stores or restaurants, and serving their customers with.”
Added flexibility and service
In the competitive Winnipeg meat processing market there are many big-name competitors, but Instance says Cold Country shines in its local focus and flexibility in customer service. “The big companies will always be a presence, but we can offer more specialized custom cuts, because we have a little more flexibility within the operation,” he says. “We can cut something one way for one customer and another way for someone else – it’s this flexibility, backed by high-quality that really stands out. Also, we’re just nice people to work with and that goes a long way.”
Cold Country has made itself known for consistently fresh, high quality Manitoba pork since 2002. Mike Haslbeck, now president and sole owner of Cold Country, started the business with three partners. “In the last eight years, Mike has been a very hands-on owner operator,” says Instance.
“I joined the company in August 2014,” continues Instance. After finishing meat-cutting school, Instance took a position with Safeway in Calgary to run the corporation’s independent meat wholesale division. “I’ve been in corporate retail-wholesale for nearly 25 years,” he says. “It’s nice to get back to the independently-owned model because there’s more flexibility and more ways to better serve customer’s needs.”
Instance says the same practices and procedures he learned in the corporate world help guide business today at Cold Country. “All of it can be applied at the local level and this has helped us drum up some new business outside of Winnipeg with more rural customers,” he says. “We offer direct delivery and are able to cater more to smaller customers than our corporate competitors.”
The freshest, safest product possible
Cold Country specializes in bringing in fresh pork – and occasionally a small portion of beef and poultry – from local farms and processing for retail, wholesale and restaurant customers. “The animals are raised, slaughtered and inspected in the province,” says Instance. “We get the full side of pork and we break it down into wholesale cuts – loins, shoulders, legs – pork belly is also a really popular item lately. A lot of this goes to customers who make smoked bacon. We provide the fresh product and local companies do the smoking and packing for bacon.”
While Cold Country’s facility is not federally certified, Instance says the 16,000-square-foot operation is 100 percent provincially certified and Manitoba health inspectors are on premise on any given day. “They come in to ensure our sanitation and practices are up to standards and we have to comply with these regulations, just as a federal plant would,” he explains. “Canada has one of the leading food safety programs in the world; everything is tested for disease and bacteria. But we do not have the federal certification, even though we meet all of the standards, because it’s so expensive to obtain. There are few federally-certified plants in the province because of this.”
Growing beyond Winnipeg
Instance says Cold Country’s focus for the future is to grow business outside of its home base in Winnipeg. “We’re really honing in on rural customers to stand out from the large-scale processors and emphasizing the fact that we support local producers and businesses,” he says. “In the past, we’ve stayed within the city limits, but now we’re working with more rural customers.”
By venturing outside of the city, into more remote regions in Manitoba, Instance says Cold Country has seen a steady increase in business. “It’s so competitive in Winnipeg that moving into these areas that have been left behind by the big boys is helping us find a niche and a footing for growth,” he explains. “I don’t see us venturing out of the Manitoba market, but there’s certainly room for more customers in other parts of the province.”
Instance says the pork market remains strong, even in lean economic times. “The demand for pork actually increases in a down economy because consumers turn to pork when beef is too expensive,” he says.
With a strong market and plenty of potential for building business beyond Winnipeg, Cold Country Pork Inc. is poised for further growth in processing fresh, Manitoba-raised pork.