by Brandon Mayer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A local poultry business is celebrating a significant milestone this year. Berube Poultry is a family-run business situated on a rural property between Mountain and South Mountain. The business has a rich history that began in 1971, when Richard Berube was a student at Kemptville College. He raised a few hundred chickens as a school project, and then was faced with the problem of what to do with them. He turned the problem into another project and learned how to clean and process the birds. Realizing the potential of his new knowledge and skill, Richard officially opened Berube Poultry in South Mountain in 1972, operating solely from word-of-mouth, as friends and acquaintances spread the word that he could process their birds into homegrown food.
By 1977, the operation was becoming too big for the town of South Mountain, as it was located within the town limits. Richard and his wife, Anne, needed a rural property to allow their business to continue to grow, and they chose their current location on McIntyre Road, nestled between the towns of Mountain and South Mountain. At this point, the business was still an informal operation. This changed in 1991, when government regulations were introduced that covered poultry processing standards.
Richard and Anne spent the time and money necessary to turn their informal operation into a licensed poultry processing business, which meant the purchasing of automated equipment. Richard’s daughter, Angela Wylie, has been an important part of the business since 1991, and, several years ago, she purchased it from her parents and is proud to keep the business in the family. She gave the Times a tour of the processing barn, which has a series of conveyor belts, an inspection station, and automated equipment to perform functions such as plucking the birds and removing internal organs. There is also a large refrigerator to keep the processed birds at a safe temperature. When operations are running, a government inspector is on site to ensure the quality and safety of each and every bird.
The conveyors and machines were quiet when the Times visited, and will be until May. Such is the case in the winter and early spring season every year, when operations at Berube Poultry wind down for a much-needed break. In talking with the Times, Angela said that she appreciates the time off, because she joked that she is accustomed to saying “See you in January!” to her children when seasonal operations begin each May. Once the season begins, Angela and her team work four days a week – consistent with the available days of the government inspector – and the end of their day doesn’t come until the work is done.
Being one of only two family-owned poultry processors in Eastern Ontario, Berube Poultry has customers coming out from far and wide. When asked how the COVID-19 pandemic affected their operations, Angela revealed that it actually helped the business, since people stuck at home wanted to try their hand at raising their own birds, but needed someone who could process them. The thrill of such self-sufficiency has remained for many people, even as the pandemic is winding down, and so business has been consistently good, even though the family has never done any advertising, and has only ever relied on word-of-mouth.
Over the years, aunts, uncles, and grandparents have helped turn the business into what it is today. Without the amazing staff in the past and present, this wouldn’t be possible. With Angela’s own children now helping out, it is clear that Berube Poultry is a true family operation which will stay that way for many years to come.