Residents, politicians 'disturbed' by new meat-processing plant in Toronto neighbourhood

Residents and politicians are pushing back against a new meat processing plant set to open in a Toronto neighbourhood Monday, saying they are concerned about the health and safety risks.

'Not fair' that community wasn't consulted, city councillor says

Cows in a truck await transport into a meat processing plant in Toronto's Stockyards neighbourhood on Friday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Residents and politicians are speaking out about the possible health and safety risks posed by a new meat processing plant set to open on Monday in a west-end Toronto neighbourhood.

TruHarvest Meats, at 70 Glen Scarlett Rd., is set to open March 1 in Toronto's Stockyards District. The space, located near Weston Road and St. Clair Avenue, was previously occupied by Ryding-Regency Meat Packers before the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) cancelled their operating licence in 2019.

David Beveridge said he and other residents living near the site believe the reopening of the new slaughterhouse will make the area "unsafe." 

"The big problem in the neighbourhood is right smack in the middle of all of this is a couple of slaughterhouses," Beveridge said. 

The new facility also has additions that will make it one of the largest meat processing plants in Ontario.

According to federal records, there were numerous food recalls related to E.coli in various products coming out of the former plant. During the investigation, it was noted that the company was non-compliant and provided false or misleading information to investigators.

CBC Toronto reached out repeatedly for comment from both TruHarvest and Ryding Regency on Friday, but has received no response.

TruHarvest Meats will process beef and veal in the former Ryding Regency facility, which was shut down over food safety violations in 2019. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Beveridge moved his family to the area just four years ago. He said he was drawn to the neighbourhood by its affordable housing at the time. He bought a house during the winter and quickly discovered with warmer weather, also came an "unreasonable" smell. 

"The smell of blood, the smell of the cattle being driven through the neighbourhood," he said.

WATCH | Residents are concerned about a meat processing plant set to open Monday in their west-end neighbourhood

Residents are concerned as a new meat packing plant expects to open in the Stockyards on March 1

2 months ago
Some residents in the Stockyards neighbourhood are concerned about the new meat processing plant expected to open in their neighbourhood. Jessica Ng spoke to residents of the area. 2:04

"It's not a farm smell, it is a slaughterhouse smell."

While the foul smell is a common complaint amongst residents, Beveridge said the real concern is the safety risk the new plant imposes on many families in the neighbourhood.

Beveridge is worried about the effect the plant on his two kids: a four-year-old and an 18-month-old.

"They have been cited in the past and they tell us they have filters on the smoke stacks coming out of it, but I don't know what's coming out of that and how far it's drifting," he said.

"It's becoming unsafe, the way it is right now."

Beveridge said tractor trailers turning onto residential streets and parking on sidewalks pose a risk for families with young children in the area.

David Beveridge, who has a four-year-old and an 18-month-old, moved into Toronto's Stockyards neighbourhood four years ago and says the new slaughterhouse poses a safety risk to the community. (Submitted by David Beveridge)

Coun. Frances Nunziata, who represents Ward 5, York South-Weston, said she is also concerned by TruHarvest taking over the plant.

"This is a privately-owned facility on private land and my office has not been involved in any conversations about the use of this site as is currently permitted," Nunziata said in a statement dated Feb. 19.

Nunziata said it is unfair that residents were not consulted.

"With the federal government and provincial government, they can issue licences and there's no consultation, which is unfortunate because I don't think that's fair. But that's what's happened," Nunziata told CBC Toronto on Friday.

The land has been in the process of being rezoned for years, she said, but its use must be discontinued in order to proceed.

Faisal Hassan, NDP MPP for York South-Weston, echoed those concerns, saying residents are "disturbed" after learning the news.

"Our office has been inundated with emails and calls objecting to this facility," Hassan said Thursday at Queen's Park.

He questioned why residents were not consulted before the company took over operations at the facility.

According to federal records, there were numerous food recalls related to E.coli in various products coming out of Ryding Regency Meat Packers, the company that formerly operated out of the facility. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

"The previous slaughterhouse was closed and had its licence revoked due to many health and environmental violations. An environmental compliance approval was granted to the former owners despite nearly 100 complaints and public consultations in 2018," he said.

"How did this new facility get approved and why was the community not consulted?" 

Animal rights activists, who are calling for the the plant to be shut down, plan to hold a a vigil outside the plant Monday morning and a demonstration outside CFIA offices following that.

"During this time of global uncertainty, it's more important than ever that elected officials consider the best interests of the population, taking the necessary steps to reduce the impact of this global health emergency and prevent future illness," said Jenny McQueen, organizer with Animal Save Movement, in a statement Thursday.

With files from Jessica Ng