High River beef plant back offline

Undamaged by the floods that swamped its community, one of Canada’s largest beef packing plants is now back offline until water service is restored.

Cargill, which employs about 2,000 people at its slaughter and processing plant just north of flood-battered High River, Alta., had resumed production briefly this week to process beef carcasses remaining in the plant’s coolers from last week’s slaughter.

However, fresh water — “a key requirement for beef production” — is still unavailable at High River. Cargill said Wednesday it used water it had stored at the site, plus water hauled in by truck, to process the carcasses.

Crews are still working to restore fresh water at High River — first to the community, then to the plant, Cargill said in a release Wednesday, and it’s not yet known when “sufficient water to process cattle” will be available.

Thus, “no further beef production will take place until fresh water supplies are restored to the plant.”

With parts of town still underwater, High River remains largely empty under evacuation order. Police now maintain a security perimeter and patrol the community on ATVs, RCMP said in a separate release Wednesday.

The Cargill plant’s cafeteria was open last week and over the weekend as floodwaters rose, to serve food to emergency workers and others, plant general manager Scott Entz said in the company’s release.

“We did whatever we could to help those in need, including providing fresh meat, refrigerated trailers for storage, collecting clothing, providing shelter and assisting utilities companies and government agencies in their relief efforts,” he said.

“Our initial priority was focused on the safety and welfare of our employees and their families, and now we are focused on restoring our ability to produce meat as quickly as practical, which will also get our employees back to work serving and supporting our customers.”

A prolonged closure at the Cargill facility, which has capacity to process up to 4,500 cattle per day, may weigh on demand for Canadian cattle.

Alberta’s other major beef packing plant — the JBS facility at Brooks, about 170 km east of High River — is operating as usual, company spokesman Cameron Bruett told the Reuters news service on Monday. The Brooks plant has capacity to process about 4,000 head per day. — AGCanada.com Network

Related story:
Cargill’s High River beef plant resuming operations, June 24, 2013

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