What a Country Ribbon work stoppage could mean for Mary Brown's

Mary Brown's says it is looking at alternative, out-of-province suppliers in case Country Ribbon can no longer meet the restaurant's demands.

Fast food chain buys 14,000 chickens a week from Country Ribbon for 38 N.L. locations

Darrell Durdle, lead regional training director at Mary Brown's, says the company is looking at out-of-province suppliers as a back up. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

Big Marys are safe, but if Country Ribbon stops production, Mary Brown's will need a new supplier for its meals and feasts.

"We currently have 38 stores in Newfoundland and Labrador and we purchase annually approximately 1.1 million kilograms of chicken from Country Ribbon every year," Darrell Durdle, lead regional training director with Mary Brown's, told CBC's Here & Now.

"We're looking at somewhere around 14,000 chickens each week — that's whole, fresh birds from Country Ribbon in Newfoundland and Labrador."

Mary Brown's relies on chicken from Country Ribbon for its meals and feasts. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

Those chickens from Country Ribbon are used for Mary Browns' menu options involving breasts, legs and wings. A different supplier is used for the company's boneless products.

Contingency plans

On Tuesday, CBC News obtained information that Country Ribbon has decided not to incubate eggs until after a strike vote. The earliest one could be held is Saturday, but a vote isn't currently scheduled. 

According to a memo from CEO Ian Blenkharn, the company has not placed new chicks in its barn since Oct. 5.

We believe there will be minimal interruption to chicken supply for N.L. consumers.- Ian Blenkharn, Country Ribbon

"In advance of a possible work stoppage, we have been making contingency plans for both our customer supply and for the farming and processing operations," Blenkharn said in a statement Wednesday.

"We believe there will be minimal interruption to chicken supply for N.L. consumers as we have alternatives in place for most of our customers."

The Country Ribbon chicken-processing facility is located in Pleasantville, in the east end of St. John's. (CBC)

Durdle said Mary Brown's found out about the Country Ribbon situation on Monday and has since been looking at suppliers outside the province.

"We're going to do everything that we can to make sure that our guests get a product that they're used to, which is fresh, made from scratch … So getting that supply right now is our number 1 priority, and we've made great headway in the last 24 hours and I think we'll be good and our franchisees and corporate stores will be pleased with the outcome," Durdle said.

"Right now we don't anticipate any major concerns, and we're working hard to deal with this in the short term."

Frozen, non-Newfoundland chicken an option

Mary Brown's franchisee Peter Bugden told CBC Radio's On the Go he is in a bad position because using fresh chicken is so important to the company mandate.

One Mary Browns franchisee says he doesn't want to use frozen chicken from the mainland, but might have to. (Todd O'Brien/CBC)

"Country Ribbon is the only chicken producer in Newfoundland and we are on an island. So to get it here from the mainland will take a while. And when we're dealing with fresh chicken, it puts [us] in a bit of a tight position," he said.

Though he doesn't like the idea, Bugden said if it came down to it, they would have to consider looking at getting frozen chicken from outside the province.

"I really don't see much other solution to it," he said.


  • A previous version of this story said a strike vote had been scheduled for Saturday, but no date has been set.
    Oct 19, 2017 1:05 PM NT

With files from Here and Now