Beef plants nearly back to full capacity after COVID-19, but backlog of cattle

Beef plants nearly back to full capacity after COVID-19, but backlog of cattle

CALGARY — Canada’s main beef-packing plants are returning to full capacity after COVID-19 outbreaks, but the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association isn’t expecting a backlog of cattle to go away soon.

The outbreaks caused prolonged closures and slowdowns at beef-processing plants across the country.

Among the hardest hit were the Cargill plant in High River, Alta., which shut down for two weeks before reopening at reduced capacity. The JBS Canada plant in Brooks, Alta., operated with just a single shift each day for a full month.

The two plants together normally process about 70 per cent of Canada’s beef.

“Our High River facility is currently operating at 95 per cent capacity and we expect to be back to our typical volumes next week,” Cargill spokesman Daniel Sullivan said in an email.

The plant processes up to 4,500 cattle per day.

The Brooks plant is now back to pre-COVID numbers of about 4,200 animals per day.

“We are carefully monitoring our risk mitigation measures on a daily basis, and will continue to make decisions based on the best available data and advice from both our team members and public health officials,” said Cameron Bruett, the head of Corporate Affairs for JBS USA.

Both plants suffered widespread outbreaks of COVID-19 and implemented new safety measures, including temperature testing of all workers, providing face masks and installing partitions on production lines.

Dennis Laycraft, executive vice-president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, said after months of struggle a return to normal is welcome.

However, he said the backlog of cattle at feedlots and ranches still sits at between 120,000 and 130,000 head and it’s going to take a while to reduce that surplus.

“At least we’re not backing up any more animals and secondly we’re going to start to work into those numbers going ahead,” he said.

“I think we’re hearing from everyone that this isn’t going to get done in a week. This is going to take months.”

While cattle prices have been lower because of the backlog, Laycraft said he hopes to see the system return to pre-COVID normal sometime this fall.

He said there are typically fewer animals going to slaughter in the summer, which means the plants will be able to make up for lost time.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2020.

Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Agriculture

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

57 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alberta on Friday

Central zone remains at three active cases

Three people arrested after failed escape ends in farmer’s field

Cole Joseph Obdam facing numerous charges for incident with police

Red Deer remains at two active COVID-19 cases

Alberta confirms 94 new cases over past two days

Some Central Albertans calling for mask wearing to become mandatory

A family physician from Didsbury supports the Masks4Canada movement

Sylvan Lake pastor retiring after 43 years of service

Pastor Bill Spangler has been at Sylvan Lake Seventh-Day Adventist Church for six years

PODCAST: Black Lives Matter in central Alberta Part 2

More insight into the Black Lives Matter movement of central Alberta

Protesters return to St. Louis area where couple drew guns

Protesters return to St. Louis area where couple drew guns

Heavy rain floods southern Japan, leaving over dozen missing

Heavy rain floods southern Japan, leaving over dozen missing

At Rushmore, Trump says protesters seek to ‘defame’ heroes

At Rushmore, Trump says protesters seek to ‘defame’ heroes

First Nations coalition rejects recommendation to lift Sen. Beyak’s suspension

First Nations coalition rejects recommendation to lift Sen. Beyak’s suspension

Canada restricts dealings with Hong Kong over new security law

Canada restricts dealings with Hong Kong over new security law

Man accused of ramming gate at Rideau Hall with truck faces multiple charges

Man accused of ramming gate at Rideau Hall with truck faces multiple charges

Hosting regular season MLB in Toronto “totally different ball game”

Hosting regular season MLB in Toronto “totally different ball game”

Siakam says he feels safe in Florida, despite explosion of COVID-19 cases

Siakam says he feels safe in Florida, despite explosion of COVID-19 cases

Most Read