Tyson Foods, Cargill idle US beef plants due to snowstorm

Blizzard-like conditions left workers stranded
calendar icon 10 January 2024
clock icon 2 minute read

Tyson Foods and Cargill said on Tuesday they suspended operations at beef plants in Kansas due to a massive snowstorm, reducing US meat production, reported Reuters.

Blizzard-like conditions had left meatpacking workers stranded on highways on Monday while others spent the night at the slaughterhouses where they work, the companies and state officials said.

Disruptions at plants slashed beef production at a time prices remain high after US ranchers reduced their herds. Nationwide, meatpackers slaughtered an estimated 94,000 cattle on Tuesday, down 25% from a week earlier, the US Department of Agriculture said.

Cargill, a major producer of ground beef, said it idled a plant in Dodge City, Kansas, due to snow, cold and a loss of power. The plant will re-open once power returns and conditions are safe, which could come as early as Wednesday, the company said.

Cargill is "committed to minimizing any disruption" to customers, spokesman Chuck Miller said. He confirmed that "some employees got stuck on the road outside the plant" and said the company hired tow truck drivers to assist them.

About 50 employees out of 2,850 stayed at Cargill's plant due to road closures, while the majority "made it home," Miller said.

"Half of our plant has had power and heat for a majority of the winter storm, and everyone has had access to food, water and assistance," he said.

In the eastern half of the US, wintry weather knocked out power to over 418,000 homes and businesses in 12 states.

Tyson Foods said it cancelled both shifts at its sprawling beef plant in Holcomb, Kansas, after allowing some workers the option of "sheltering in place" there with a hot meal and drinks on Monday night. Employees were able to leave by Tuesday morning, the company said.

The winter storm left about 60 to 100 vehicles stuck on roads near Cargill's plant on Monday, and others stranded near Tyson's facility, said Steve Hale, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Transportation. The department advised Cargill on Monday that highways were being closed, he added.

"The roads are already treacherous and now we've got lots of vehicles that are all over the place, either stranded or waiting to get in or out of these plants," Hale said.

Outside of Tyson's plant, a highway resembled a parking lot with vehicles left overnight in the middle of the road and on the shoulder, said Trooper Anthony Calderon of the Kansas Highway Patrol.

"It looked like you were at the mall," he said.

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