By Peggy Iceton
Raw-Bitz is an up and coming new meat processing plant that will be making its home here in Valleyview.
The company Raw-Bitz was incorporated in May 2011 and is a new and innovative business to process certain meats such as rabbits, goats, sheep, llama and alpaca.
Marion Popkin and Ann Jorgensen embarked upon a dream one year ago, to change the public’s opinion about rabbits and to fulfill the demand for rabbit meat. Mainly rabbits aren’t just for pets anymore, but are a healthy and delicious alternative to the beef and pork which are a staple to the majority of people in the world today.
The launching of their website www.albertarabbit.com and an article in a popular western paper, was just the beginning for the two entrepreneurs. Marion said, “When the article came out we had over 1000 emails in the first week alone.” Popkin continued on to say, “It wasn’t just the overwhelming response from the emails, but we received over 900 phone calls as well.”
Ann Jorgensen was pleased but surprised at some of the calls they fielded. Jorgensen said, “We were getting calls from all over the world, from India to Japan asking us to supply their needs for this delicious meat.” Ann stated that, “India was trying to place orders with us for large containers full of rabbit meat.” As a country that considers the cow to be a sacred animal, India does not consume a lot of beef, so other types of meat are in high demand. This will be a large order to place once the women are able to receive federal licensing for worldwide distribution, which they are hoping to see come to fruition within two years.
With the land already purchased and provincial licenses in place, Jorgensen and Popkin have begun the ground breaking ceremony to build their plant.
With a little divine intervention the ladies happened to find a qualified, licensed butcher from Switzerland who had already immigrated to Canada a few years ago. Marion said, ” He brings a superior amount of knowledge and skill to this production of meat.”
When the plant is finished being built, Raw-Bitz is looking at the starting production of rabbits to be 500 per day. “We are looking at equipment from Italy, so we can process over 2000 animals per day to meet the high expectations of our future customers from around the world,” Popkin said. “There is no reason though for people to begin to amassing rabbits at this time. It will be a long and arduous process.”
When Raw-Bitz is up to full production it will have 20 employees and numerous trucks for shipments. The ladies already have several rabbit producers within Alberta where the demand for this type of processing facility is in high demand. There is no known rabbit processing facility of its kind in Alberta.
Jorgenson and Popkin have won the 2012 Tec Venture prize Screeners’ Award of Merit. This award is presented to individuals who have a dedicated business plan that shows excellent promise. This award is a first for the Peace Country, a first for agriculture and a first for any livestock industry. Out of the 946 entries received, they were the only primary industry represented.
Town Manager Gary Peterson had this to say about the new rabbit processing plant Raw-Bitz, “The development application went through without any problems.” Peterson continued on saying, “I have seen the building plans, and everything is going according to schedule.”
With any notice of decision there are three council members and three people from the public who oversee all the decisions being made. Fourteen days after the notice of decision has been published and there hasn’t been any issues raised then the decision is finalized and the request is granted.
Kudos to Ann and Marion for bringing this type of industry to Valleyview Alberta, and the Peace Country area.