Cargill meat plant at epicentre of COVID-19 outbreak
One of Canada’s largest slaughterhouses is halting operations after hundreds of people connected to the facility were infected with the novel coronavirus and one died from COVID-19, marking the first major shutdown in the country’s food supply chain.
Cargill Ltd. on Monday told the Globe & Mail it is temporarily closing its meat-processing plant in High River, Alta. The facility churns out roughly 40 per cent of Western Canada’s processed beef and is a key part of the province’s agriculture industry. Alberta has linked 484 cases of COVID-19 to this plant and dozens more at a competing facility.
The president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture said the closing of the facility is “devastating” for the country’s food system, which is already under strain amid the pandemic. “(The supply chain) normally runs tickety-boo and no one has to think about it,” Mary Robinson said. “These systems are so efficient and so well-run, and as soon as we start mucking around, we’re going to have problems.”
The High River plant is one of several slaughterhouses in North America to close or slow its assembly lines because employees, who work elbow to elbow, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Also hit by the pandemic is JBS Canada, one of the largest beef companies in the country. So far, 67 people linked to JBS’s operations in Brooks, Alta., have contracted COVID-19, according to the province. JBS did not return a message seeking comment.