BURLINGTON, Ont. — Chicken Farmers of Ontario (CFO) announced the first recipient of the Ontario Chicken Innovation Award. Co-applicants Grand River Foods and Maple Lodge Farms are collaborating to produce frozen, smoked-chicken products using a proprietary process that is the first-of-its-kind in North America.
“Congratulations to Grand River Foods and Maple Lodge Farms on being the inaugural recipients,” says R. Douglas Cunningham, chair of the independent advisory committee that oversees CFO’s Ontario Chicken Innovation and Growth Program who was responsible for assessing applicants.
Created in 2018 by CFO, the program is the first-of-its-kind in the chicken industry. It is open to primary processors, further processors, retailers, foodservice and restaurant companies involved in the processing, marketing and sale of chicken products. Companies that are not primary processors must include a primary processor as part of their application. Innovations must use chicken grown and fully processed in Ontario.
In assessing applicants, the committee considered four factors: historic sales, projected future sales, the quality of the idea and economic value. An additional supply of live birds is directed to the successful applicant’s primary processor to enable the innovation.
“This new inline-cooking approach allows chicken to be infused with a blend of smoke from untreated hardwoods through the cooking process and quickly frozen to lock in the flavours,” says Don Kilimnik, director of Co-Packing Sales and Special Projects, Grand River Foods. “We’re thrilled to be able to further grow this product line with the additional supply of chicken.”
With the first year of the Ontario Chicken Innovation and Growth Program complete, the independent advisory committee is reviewing the program and will open the next round of applications in the coming months.
“We look forward to continuing to accelerate innovation in our industry and encourage all those involved in the processing, marketing and sale of chicken to consider applying,” says Ed Benjamins, chair of Chicken Farmers of Ontario.