It’s a small but highly productive food processing facility in Rankin Inlet, and has employed a number of locals for decades. Kivalliq receives char and caribou, stores it, processes it by way of smoking, drying, and cooking, then ships it to every community in the territory and beyond.
With more and more people shopping at grocery stores, the efforts of Kivalliq Arctic Foods ensures that people can still access their traditional foods. Though it’s exported fairly widely, the company takes its direction from what the people of Nunavut want, rather than the rest of Canada.
The company has been around, in various forms, since the 1970’s; they offer about twenty different products derived from char and caribou, and recently added muskox, including smoked muskox ribs (which we want to try so badly).
Currently, with four freezers built into the building, they process about 8000 pounds of food in 10 months, stopping for several days between processing char and caribou to scrub down the entire plant.
Todd, the plant’s manager, told us about some of the challenges of operating in the north, and so far from the Canadian Food Services Inspection Agency (CFIA). He gets audited every couple of months, meaning he’s constantly buried under paperwork. Also, there's CFIA stipulations that end of just being amusing; for example, they're required by law to have a certain number of mouse traps, though no mice exist in Rankin Inlet. Instead, they have lemmings, which have yet to be written into the CFIA’s national policy.
Also, because it’s so costly and time-consuming to send machinery away for repairs, they’re forced to fix everything themselves. Sometimes that involves some intense (and hilarious) jerry-rigging, but Todd says they always make do.
Finally, their supply depends very much on community members. When hunting and fishing is slow for the locals, it’s slow for Kivalliq. Judging by the piles of char we saw, however, it looked like last winter was plenty busy for them.
For more information on Kivalliq products, you can visit their Facebook page.