2 Alberta meat plants affected by COVID-19 make up 70% of Canada’s beef processing capabilities

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The temporary closure of an Alberta meat processing facility due to a COVID-19 outbreak isn’t expected to result in beef shortages, but the reduction in capacity will mean that ranchers will bear the brunt as their costs rise and prices for their product fall.

Cargill Inc.’s High River, Alta., plant temporarily shuttered operations Monday after a worker died from the coronavirus and hundreds of other employees tested positive.

Meanwhile, a second plant — JBS plant in Brooks, Alta. — recorded 96 cases as of Wednesday. It has reduced operations, according to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, which represents the 60,000 beef farms and feedlots in the country.

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The CCA says it is trying to ensure the facility remains open, though a union representing federal meat inspectors says it’s a matter of time before it is forced to temporarily halt production.

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These two facilities make up 70 per cent of Canada’s beef processing capabilities, according to the CCA.

Occupational Health and Safety is conducting investigations looking into “potential exposure of workers” to the novel coronavirus at both the Cargill and JBS plants.

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