Alta. beef plant reduces shifts over COVID

The Cargill beef packing plant in High River, Alta., has announced a temporary shift reduction as it deals with issues surrounding COVID-19.

The plant, which has capacity to slaughter 4,500 animals per day, will go from two shifts to one, markedly reducing the number of animals it can process.

In an official statement on the situation, Cargill Protein North American Lead Jon Nash said the shift reduction would allow the plant to minimize the impact of the pandemic on employees.

“We’ve taken extra steps to focus on safety and remain operational, including temporary wage increases, bonuses and waiving co-pays for COVID-19 testing,” said Nash.

“We also implemented additional safety measures like temperature testing, enhanced cleaning and sanitizing, prohibiting visitors, adopting social distancing practices where possible and offering staggered breaks and shift flexibility. Our facility will be back to operating at full capacity as soon as is it is safe to do so.”

Nash further noted the plant provides an essential service and it is working with farmers and ranchers to continue supplying food and to keep markets moving.

The plant’s reduction in output is the latest affecting other slaughter plants in Canada and the United States.

Earlier this week the union representing the Cargill meat plant’s workers called on the company to stop operations because it said 38 workers had tested positive for COVID-19.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association last week discussed potential slaughter plant slowdowns or closures and has asked the federal government to assist in development of a set-aside program similar to one implemented in 2003 during the BSE crisis, in case it is needed.

Contact barb.glen@producer.com

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