Cargill’s High River, Alta., beef harvest facility has slowed to one shift beginning this week, according to RealAgriculture.com, a leading Canadian national agriculture publication and radio show.
RealAgriculture reported several sources confirmed the High River operation will slow to one shift, reducing daily cattle harvest to roughly 1,500 per day. The plant regularly slaughters 4,000 to 4,500 per day with two shifts.
In a statement from Jon Nash, Cargill Protein – North America Lead, said, “As we continue to prioritize the health and safety of Cargill employees, we have decided to temporarily reduce shifts at our High River protein plant. This will allow us to minimize the impact of COVID-19 and continue to follow health department guidelines. This was a difficult decision for our team, but our values are guiding our actions.
“We want our employees and the community to know we care. 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. 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 said in the statement.
The CBC reported the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Union local 401 was demanding a two-week closure due to health risks to workers after dozens of positive cases at the plant.
In the U.S., Cargill operates four beef harvest facilities with daily capacity of approximately 19,700 head. On Monday at least one employee at Cargill’s Dodge City, Kan., plant had tested positive for COVID-19, which the company confirmed but would not specify how many due to privacy laws.
Cargill Media Relations Director Daniel Sullivan told KWCH TV, Wichita, Kan., that “the employee is receiving appropriate medical care.”
Sullivan said Cargill will enforce mandatory 14-day quarantines for any employees potentially exposed to COVID-19.
“Our priority is limiting the spread of the virus where we can, and we are working with local health officials to ensure appropriate prevention, testing, cleaning and quarantine protocols are followed.”
On April 8, 2020, Cargill Protein closed its Hazelton, PA, plant saying it will reopen “as soon as it is safe to do so.”
The Hazelton plant is in Luzerne County in northeastern Pennsylvania, and Cargill employs 900 workers producing meat products for retail food customers. Those products include ground beef, steaks, roasts and pork products.
RealAgriculture.com also reports Harmony Beef, Balzac, Alta., was closed for three days due to COVID-19, and an Olymel pork facility in Quebec is scheduled to open April 14, 2020, after being closed for more than two weeks.
Canada’s RealAg Radio can be heard at 4:30 PM EST on Rural Radio, channel 147 on SiriusXM.