Tyson Foods fire in Kansas has wide-reaching effects

A fire at a beef packing plant in Kansas is having a major impact on an industry already working at full capacity.

There could be some market impacts with the loss of the Tyson Meats plant at Holcomb that handled 5,500-6,000 head per day.

“We have to figure out how can we harvest the 30,000 head of cattle that were being harvested at the Tyson plant. Can we pick up all that slack?” said Randy Blach, head of the marketing analysis firm Cattlefax.

Plants across the country are already running six days a week and some are on double shifts. The hunt will be on to find plants with some extra space and flexibility to process.

“This is a pretty significant disruption. We are going to move cattle all over the place to get them harvested,” he said at the Canadian beef industry conference held in Calgary Aug.13-16.

“This is not something anybody wanted to see happen when we are already in this tight scenario,” Blach said

The fire partly destroyed the plant Aug. 9 and Tyson announced it would be shut down indefinitely. It plans to rebuild and promised to pay its 1,200 workers while they are out of work. Tyson Foods operates six plants in Kansas, employing more than 5,600 people.

The loss of packing plant capacity stretches back to 2014 when the total kill was about 23 million per year compared to 30 million in 2000. With shrinking inventory, five packing plants were shuttered across the country and none reopened.

Since herd expansion there is not enough capacity to handle the huge numbers of cattle. Today plants are adding Saturday kills to keep up. About 97,000 head are slaughtered every day across the United States.

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