Expansion of former Wellington Poultry abattoir to bring more jobs, new product line

New 25,521-square-foot addition planned at former Wellington North abattoir acquired by Amir Quality Meats in 2022

WELLINGTON NORTH – The coming expansion of Wellington Poultry will bring with it more jobs and a new product line, the Aziz family has told the Advertiser.

Tony and Sherry Aziz are the key C-level positions behind Amir Quality Meats, which acquired Wellington Poultry last fall.

The CEO and CFO, respectively, said in a phone interview last week that major changes are coming to the former Wellington Poultry facility, now known as Amir Specialty Poultry.

The current 18,770-square-foot operation at its Wellington Road 109 property, west of Arthur, has reached capacity and is limited in its potential.

Around 16 poultry producers currently supply the facility with 10,000 birds each day, which are then slaughtered, processed and shipped out the door in bulk the following day.

Though plans for a new 25,521-square-foot addition would allow more product to be stored, it’s a new packaging line the family is most interested in.

Packaging services will allow the company to respond to specific customer demands and individually package their finished products.

In anticipation of the expansion — expectation is for a fourth-quarter groundbreaking this year — the Azizes are planning to launch a new brand of specialty chicken products under the Amir Specialty Poultry banner.

Specialty chicken products are made from silkies and yellow breeds, with the head and feet left on the finished product.

Amir Specialty Poultry, Sherry said, is already one of the largest producers of such products in Ontario, catering mainly to the Asian food market in the Greater Toronto Area.

The company also serves the Halal food market — describing “permissible” food prepared in accordance with Islamic law.

“We see a lot of opportunity to continue to grow the Ontario marketplace in terms of choices,” Sherry said.

With the expansion would also come a change in government oversight to the federal Canadian Food Inspection Agency, from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs regime.

The switch to the federal regulator comes with many changes, Tony said, but the most significant are being able to work hand-in-hand with their federally-regulated Brampton facility and being able to export Wellington products beyond Ontario.

“We want the ability to take the Ontario chicken from the Ontario farmers and go across [Canada] with it, and possibly outside of the country as well,” Tony said.

With those aspirations in mind, the Azizes set out to acquire their own slaughtering facility with quota attached from the Chicken Farmers of Ontario, which controls the production of poultry — leading to the purchase of the former Wellington Poultry operation.

“What we recognized is as we continued to service this growing marketplace, we would need to secure our own supply,” Tony said.

“That’s where we really started thinking about acquiring a slaughter facility … to help us control our own destiny to a certain extent.”

But there’s a limit to how much the Azizes say they’re willing to grow.

“We want to grow the business, but we don’t want to become too large,” Sherry said of the family-run operation.

Sherry’s father, Mohammed, began a poultry distribution business in Mississauga in the early 1990s, and in 2006, Sherry joined her father in the meat business, after 15 years in banking.

Offering value-added services — marination, custom recipes, custom packaging and the like — Sherry started Amir Quality Meats in 2010, initially opening in a 3,000-square-foot facility.

“Eventually large clients started to look at us and inquire and requested that we produce for them,” Sherry recalled.

Amir began supplementing other suppliers for one of the largest fast food restaurants in Canada, proving they could handle an increasing amount work with increasingly specific demands. Sherry and Tony declined to name any of their customers.

A second building expansion was quickly outgrown, and in 2018, the family opened up a 20,000-square-foot plant in Brampton, where the company is now headquartered.

Tony, who spent 21 years working in information technology before joining the business in 2017, credits the family’s agility, responsiveness and a focus on food safety and customer service for Amir’s organic growth in highly customized, niche markets.

Running the supply side of the business “is new to us,” he admitted.

“We’re learning … we’re getting to know all the farmers.”

The majority of producers’ contracts were transferred to Amir during the acquisition, according to Tony, who also said most staff stayed on with the new company.

“With our expansion we’re certainly going to be providing jobs,” Sherry added.

“We’re hoping that Amir Quality Meats will be very much a part of the community there.”

The company currently employs around 30 people at its Wellington North location, with plans to hire around 20 more.