On April 6, 1946, the offices of the Ontario Hog Producers’ Board opened in Toronto. Farmers looked forward from the Second World War’s scarcity to a collaborative model where elected members would represent their best interests. Charles McInnis was a driving force behind the Marketing Board’s formation, and served as president, alongside Norman McLeod, the board’s first chair.
At the time, close to 120,000 farms in Ontario reported having pigs, with an average of about 16 pigs per farm, and producers agreed to pay $0.02 per hog to support a central marketing organization.
Left; Charles McInnes, President (1941-61), Right; Norman McLeod, Board Chair (1945-53)
It wasn’t always easy. The 1950s saw the beginnings of central selling, first with United Livestock Sales, and later through the Ontario Hog Producers’ Cooperative, and with 28 marketing yards operating throughout the province. The decade also saw escalating tensions between producers, processors and transporters, who didn’t all agree on the central approach to selling hogs.
The 1960s began with a swell of optimism around plans for the Farmers Allied Meat Enterprises processing co-operative (FAME). However, the project ultimately wasn’t able to get off the ground. At the Ontario Hog Marketing Board, advances were being made in hog selling. A new teletype machine at head office listed lots of animals to be sold at assembly yards, and a new index grading system came into effect.
Efforts to promote pork to the public — and grow domestic sales — picked up steam in the 1970s, as the Ontario Hog Producers’ Marketing Board was renamed the Ontario Pork Producers’ Marketing Board. Ontario Pork opened two Toronto restaurants — The Pork Place on King Street West and the Pork Pickins fast food outlet. The popular Put Pork on Your Fork campaign was in full swing by the end of the decade.
The 1980s were a time of political turmoil, as trade disputes with the U.S. saw heavy countervailing duties imposed on fresh, frozen and chilled pork from Canada. Strong political advocacy on the provincial and national fronts helped see those duties eliminated in 1991. The focus at Ontario Pork turned to organizational review, beginning with the privatization of all Ontario Pork assembly yards.
Debates and studies related to organizational review lasted well into the next millennium, leading to the end of single-desk selling in 2010. Even though Ontario Pork still offers marketing services to those who wish to use it, its major focus is safeguarding producers’ interests on the universal side. Those years also saw significant change on the processing front, with Conestoga Meat Packers beginning operations near Breslau in 1982.
In 1994, 120 farms came together to create Progressive Pork Producers, a farmer-led cooperative that later purchased Conestoga Meats.
Swine research became a cornerstone of Ontario Pork’s mandate, with one project, particularly, garnering a great deal of attention in the early 2000s: Enviropig. Genetically engineered to reduce phosphate excretion, the pig developed at the University of Guelph showed great promise to address environmental concerns but ultimately could not overcome the public concerns around genetic modifications.
In 2014, Ontario Pork helped the industry navigate two major crises, with the collapse of Quality Meats in Toronto and export disruptions following the arrival of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) in Canada. Working with government, Ontario Pork secured funding to help restore consumer confidence and boost sales by creating a retail branding program.
Today, 75 years after the organization first opened its doors, a global pandemic, which brought supply chain disruptions, appears to be nearing its end. Support from our provincial government partners is strong, including creating new legislation to better protect farms targeted by those who would seek to end the industry.