“Happiness is makin’ bacon.”
That’s more than just a slogan at Holly Park Meat Packers near Cookstown.
The company, tucked away on the 9th Conc. just west of town, is celebrating a rather significant recognition for one of its products.
At a banquet held on Saturday, Feb. 21, Holly Park’s Phoenix End to End bacon captured a silver award at the Ontario Independent Meat Producers (OIMP) annual conference. More than 100 premium meat or poultry products were submitted for a chance to be crowned in one of 12 categories. The top three entries from each category were selected based on the judges’ combined scores.
They included ham, country style bacon, cold cuts, deli roasts, fresh sausage and home meal replacement. Food industry professionals and media evaluated the entries.
“The Ontario Finest Meat Competition is intended to promote the innovative, high quality products that Ontario’s meat processors have to offer,” said Laurie Nicol, executive director of the OIMP. “We hope this competition educates consumers and retailers on the quality and variety of Ontario meat and poultry products.”
The OIMP is a voluntary, non-profit organization representing 180 processors from across the province. The Ontario meat and poultry industry contributes more than $6.5 billion a year to the economy and represents 20 per cent of the food manufacturing industry.
Lilly Vacca, Holly Park’s bacon production manager, said, “This year, the competition was a little different. Homegrown Ontario was incorporated into competition. Any product submitted had to be homegrown. We’re really proud about that.”
Homegrown Ontario is a labelling system for veal, lamb, and pork that were raised, finished and processed in Ontario. The program was introduced in 2007.
Entries in the bacon category were judged on seven attributes:
• visual appeal
• consumer appeal
Winning the silver award “was great,” Vacca says. “It was very exciting and a huge sense of achievement.”
For team member Karen Dipoce, “I think it’s fantastic. I’ve been here seven years and it’s terrific to be recognized for your work.”
In a typical year, 140,000, 10 lb. boxes of Phoenix bacon are shipped from the plant.
And “That’s just side bacon,” Vacca says. “They mostly go to the food services industry, then to wholesalers, then to restaurants.”
In business for 30 years, Holly Park started out in a 2,000 square foot abattoir supplying mostly veal. Today, two operations, the one near Cookstown, the other in Caledon, process beef, veal, lamb and bacon. The Cookstown plant recently underwent a 28,000 square foot expansion and employs up to 60 staff. The company also processes halal, kosher, natural and organic products and offers custom processing.
Holly Park’s owner and founder, Tony Facciolo, is the OIMP president.
“Membership in Ontario Independent Meat Processors has grown recently,” Vacca adds.
“We have been registering in the product competition for many years and each year, we have improved our process with help from the comments on that evaluation.”