Chicken plant in southeast Calgary makes changes to appease neighbours

A long-time resident of the southeast Calgary community of Ramsay is coming to the defense of the Lilydale chicken processing plant, saying it is making changes to reduce odour and noise.

The chickens came first, so learn to get along, says long-time Ramsay resident

Long-time Ramsay resident Fred Wain comes to the defence of the notorious Lilydale chicken processing farm in Calgary. He says his neighbours should be the ones to dampen their complaints. (Falice Chin/CBC)

In the 70 years Fred Wain has lived behind the Lilydale chicken processing plant in the inner-city neighbourhood of Ramsay, he's seen close to a dozen ammonia leaks and chickens running around with their heads cut off.


"Well they got away from the machines," Wain recalled. "I've seen that around."

But nothing, he says, beats the constant "bellyaching" of his neighbours — the "new Ramsay people" he calls them, who moved in many years after the plant first opened in the middle of the last century.

"I thought it was ridiculous," said Wain, a retired Canadian Pacific Railway worker.

The Lilydale plant is currently implementing a number of changes to appease nearby residents.

Those include building a sound barrier and spraying the property with an industrial deodorizer.

Fred Wain's house (far right) sits directly behind the chicken processing farm. His family has been in the area since before the First World War. (Falice Chin/CBC)

The initiatives are meant to reduce noise and odour, but Wain says his neighbours are the ones who should dampen their complaints.

"They come in and [the plant] was sitting there. They went and bought their houses and they didn't investigate properly," he said.

The chickens came first

Wain's family roots in the southeast neighbourhood date back to before the First World War.

He says his great-aunt was one of the first students to enrol in the historic Ramsay School on Spiller Road.

The area was called Grandview back then.

"The community found out there was another community in Alberta registered as Grandview and so they couldn't register, so they went for Ramsay," Wain said.

When the idea for building a chicken processor came along, Wain said the factory's owners turned to the community to ask for permission.

"Pinecrest Poultry it was called — they went to the community and had meetings and the people down there said, 'Oh yeah, it's not any problem.'" 

"They went and voted for having this [chicken plant] built here. They were all OK with it. There was quite a few people working at Pinecrest."

Lilydale took over in 1969. Now it's owned by Sofina Foods.

Through the years of changes, Wain says one pattern was constant: the Calgary Fire Department would show up now and then for the odd industrial leak.

But it's no big deal, according to the long-time resident. After all, the chicken came first.

But many of Wain's neighbours disagree.

Ramsay residents aim to restore 'harmony' 

"When it was first built, that facility was substantially smaller than it is today," says John Holt, volunteer president of the Ramsay Community Association.

"It's really outgrown what should be in a residential neighbourhood."

In 2011, a group of Ramsay residents launched a lawsuit against Lilydale over noise and odour.

The poultry operation was also fined $180,000 for a 2009 ammonia leak. Holt says the residents' legal action has been settled.

As a result, Sofina Foods has promised to check in regularly with the neighbourhood.

"I'm just happy we've reached this stage," says Holt.

"Historically we've been very frustrated with the lack of communication."

Holt says despite the many decades of "bellyaching," the Ramsay Community Association has reached a sort of peace pact with Lilydale.

He adds the chicken plant's long-term future is still up in the air, but not because of neighbour complaints.

"I think Lilydale's time is limited in Ramsay because of the Southeast LRT Green Line. So realistically, the factory would be moved."