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Preserving food has been an integral part of farming and fishing industries as well as activities within Island households. For producers, preserving food products takes on a greater importance in extending market life. Today, food processing is a vital component of Prince Edward Island’s agricultural sector, adding value to our agricultural exports and diversifying the economy by generating activity in production, processing, technology development, and research. Specialty foods are emerging as an especially popular product. Small local companies seeing great success in this sector include, among many others, the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company, Little Christos frozen pizza, Abegweit dried beans, Atlantic Isle Gourmet Pasta, Canadian Smoked Fish (1994) Ltd., Seaman’s Beverages, and Caledonia House coffee roasters.

The first fish cannery on Prince Edward Island may well have been an operation owned by John Cairns of Charlottetown, in 1857. Cairns prepared and hermetically sealed oysters, mackerel, and lobster in time for the Lenten season. By the mid-to-late 1800s, virtually every fishing community on the Island had its own cannery—in 1883, there were 200 canneries in the province.

Numerous seafood processing plants across the Island are active and successful in producing quality value-added fish and fish products that are sold in local and world markets. Products vary from fresh to fresh frozen, to frozen breaded, filleted, salted, and smoked. They include fish cakes, minced crab, canned clams, canned lobster, lobster paste, tomalley, seafood chowder, salted cod, herring roe, pickled herring, salted herring, hot or cold smoked salmon (Atlantic, chum, coho, king, and sockeye), smoked caviar (salmon), hot smoked rainbow trout, salted mackerel, smoked mackerel, and more.

Prince Edward Island’s producer-owned meat-packing plant, Garden Province Meats, was created to ensure a pork and beef market regionally and internationally. The plant uses state-of-the-art technology to meet the strict hygienic guidelines associated with international meat trade.

In the potato processing industry, the two largest companies are Cavendish Farms, which is a subsidiary of the Irving Corporation and McCain Foods. Cavendish Farms operates a newly expanded French-fry plant in the community of New Annan, located close to Kensington. SinceCavendish Farms 1991, McCain Foods has been operating a processing plant in Borden-Carleton, Prince Edward Island. AgraWest Foods, in Souris, is the world’s largest single-line processing plant for reducing raw potatoes to potato granules. The company began production in October 1998 and diverts more than 12 tonnes of potatoes that would otherwise end up in landfills or fed to livestock. Slemon Park, just outside Summerside, is the site of the Small Fry potato chip plant, a division of Humpty Dumpty chips.

Food and Technology CentreThe Prince Edward Island Food Technology Centre plays an important role in assisting the agri-food industry in developing value-added products. The FTC works with approximately 150 clients ranging from large multinational processors to smaller cottage industries. Among other services, the Centre provides product development for all types of foods and nutrient analysis for food exports to the United States in compliance with USFDA labelling regulations. A particular area of interest to both the FTC and its clients is greater product yield. As such, the Centre strives to develop products using seafood and agricultural by-products. When a salmon is filleted, for example, only 60 percent of the fish is used. The other 40 percent could be processed to produce a salmon mousse or paté.

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