MANITOBA'S largest poultry producer is no turkey.
Granny's Poultry Farmers Co-op knows an opportunity when one presents itself.
That's why earlier this year, it announced a $200,000 contribution to Red River College's Paterson GlobalFoods Institute and its hospitality and culinary arts program only one month after the renovated Union Bank Tower facility opened.
It's the largest investment of its type Granny's has ever made.
Now, the Winnipeg-based operation is rolling out a multi-phase product-development project with the culinary arts department at RRC. It will see the local poultry producer establish a deep relationship with the culinary arts school, whose new facilities are already attracting attention from all over the world.
Craig Evans, the CEO of Granny's, said, "This is a one-of-a-kind facility in North America. For us to be on the ground floor is fantastic. We are a smaller player, owned by producers. We believe this is the right thing to be doing."
In the first applied research project at RRC's Paterson GlobalFoods Institute, students and staff will test various cooking techniques on four new prepared Granny's chicken and turkey products that feature enhanced nutritional profiles and proprietary feed regimens.
That will involve preparing the product in a commercial environment using a variety of cooking techniques, then evaluating them against controls for yield, flavour, moisture, texture and cost-effectiveness.
Jason Wortzman, Granny's director of marketing and product development who has an office in a former bank vault behind the kitchen of RRC's urban upscale eatery, Jane's Restaurant, said, "This is huge for us. I was meeting with a distributor this morning talking about Granny's Finest Chicken and how we're doing all this applied research to back it up."
That product -- which is raised with a special diet of flax alfalfa and ginseng -- will be available at Miller's Meats starting Nov. 8. The RRC's culinary arts people will document results of various institutional cooking techniques.
Other Granny's prepared chicken and turkey products will be tested for institutional use with various types of ovens and handling procedures.
Stan Chung, vice-president academic and research at RRC, said it is these kinds of industry interactions for which the college is becoming known.
"For us, this is not about business, this is about the students," he said. "Students want experiences that are relevant so they can be job-ready. Our students learn on the front line of what industry expectations are."
He said having the opportunity to understand what a top flight organization such as Granny's is doing when it comes to flavour profile, the nutritional value of omega-3 fatty acids and special feed for their poultry is valuable experience.
The expectation is the department's annual intake of 140 students will increase and will come from all over the world.
"We have partnerships being signed with European universities and colleges who want to come here," he said. "You would be surprised, but people in France want to come to Winnipeg to learn about cooking."