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Natural Valley Farms in receivership: reports

Natural Valley Farms, one of several bids in the wake of BSE to boost beef slaughter capacity on the eastern Prairies, has gone into receivership, according to Saskatchewan media reports last week.

CBC Saskatchewan on Thursday quoted company director Henry Skjerven as saying investors lost control of the company after it defaulted on a loan with Farm Credit Canada.

Regina’s Leader-Post newspaper quoted receiver Clark Sullivan on Thursday as saying the company “has a very significant amount of debt relative to its assets.”

The company started life in 2005 as a producer-owned slaughter and beef processing plant and planned to process “natural” beef free of hormones and antibiotics. It operates a feedlot and slaughter plant at Neudorf, Sask., about 75 km southwest of Yorkton, and a processing plant at nearby Wolseley.

However, as Skjerven told CBC, cattle producers “cannot fund an operation that can compete in a market that’s controlled essentially by major feeders, major slaughter plants and organizations that essentially control all of the calf crop and cattle in the U.S. and Canada.”

The company later diversified into slaughtering and processing horses for specialty meat markets in Europe and Asia but soon drew fire from animal welfare activists. CBC News broadcast a report earlier this year that involved hidden-camera footage alleging mistreatment and inhumane slaughter of horses brought to the facility. The broadcaster quoted a company official as saying it follows all regulations and horses are euthanized humanely at its plant.

Receiver Sullivan told the Leader-Post that the plant will continue to be operated by a “third party” and its operations remain focused on horse slaughter and processing.

The newspaper quoted Sullivan as saying the receivers will consider proposals for either restructuring the company to keep it in operation or selling off its assets. Overall, the process to make that decision could take three or four months, he said.

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