Maple Leaf Foods says it has completed a $182 million expansion at its prepared meats plant in Winnipeg, Man., creating a “Bacon Centre of Excellence.”

The 73,000 square-foot addition to the facility on Lagimodiere Boulevard will significantly increase the company’s capacity for making pre-cooked, microwaveable bacon.

“We are very excited to see this project come to life,” says Michael H. McCain, president and CEO, in a news release issued Tuesday.

Maple Leaf sources raw material for making bacon in Winnipeg from its pork processing plant in Brandon. Until now, further processing has involved co-manufacturers in the U.S.

In addition to reducing freight and production costs, the expansion is expected to create 350 new jobs, according to the company and the Manitoba government.

The province has signed an agreement with Maple Leaf to contribute $1.9 million in provincial funding over the next two years for skills training for the new employees.

“Maple Leaf Foods is a global leader in food and protein processing, and this investment builds on our protein strategy, which focuses on sustainability and innovation,” says Manitoba Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler, in a release from the province. “Their expansion will advance our protein value chain and create significant spin-offs that will strengthen the entire industry – all the way from the farm gate to the consumer’s plate.”

With the expansion, Maple Leaf says it will employ more than 1,900 people at the Winnipeg plant, which will serve as the company’s primary pre-cooked bacon production facility.

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