Cargill reduces beef output at Alberta plant as COVID-19 spreads

Cargill Ltd has reduced production at one of Canada’s biggest beef-packing plants after dozens of workers tested positive for coronavirus.
calendar icon 15 April 2020
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According to Reuters, Cargill and the union representing the workers announced that the High River plant in Alberta would temporarily idle its second production shift.

This recent slowdown adds to the nearly one dozen North American meat plants that have closed or temporarily cut production due to the ongoing pandemic.

The move at Cargill came after workers unsuccessfully asked the plant and two other meat-processing companies in Alberta to close for two weeks amid concerns about their safety, said Tom Hesse, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 401. Thirty-eight workers at the Cargill plant have tested positive for coronavirus, he said.

The plant is "built around efficiency," keeping workers in close quarters and making it impossible to safely operate it under current conditions, Hesse said in an interview.

The union said the plant, which produces patties for McDonald's Corp, is now slaughtering 1,500 head of cattle per day, down from around 4,500.

Cargill has taken steps to improve safety while staying in operation, such as testing employees' temperatures, social distancing and staggering breaks, Jon Nash, North America lead for Cargill's protein division, said in a statement.

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