A backlog of some 100,000 B.C. cattle is slowly thinning out now that Canada’s food-safety watchdog has returned the operating licence for XL Foods, the head of the B.C. Cattleman’s Association said Tuesday.
“This puts some normalcy back into things,” said Kevin Boone, the association’s general manager.
He said the price per pound on cattle dropped as a glut of cattle bound for Alberta grew when the plant in Brooks, Alta., closed almost four weeks ago in the wake of a tainted beef scare.
The price started to correct itself when it was announced last week that JBS USA, an American subsidiary of a Brazilian-owned enterprise, would take over the plant, said Boone.
The current price for a 600-pound steer is $1.40 to $1.45 a pound, he said.
Vic Piva, owner of Lloyd Creek Ranches in Pinantan, has a herd of about 300 cattle. He lost about 10 cents a pound per steer, an amount that’s quickly added up, he said.
“Figure an animal that weighs 700 pounds; you’re losing $70 right off the bat,” said Piva. “That’s quite a hit if you’ve got a couple of hundred head.”
All told, Piva believes he’s out about $20,000, he said.
He sends his cattle to feed lots, which then fatten the animals up to 1,300 or 1,400 pounds and sends them to operations like XL Foods. If those lots aren’t moving cattle, then neither is he, said Piva.
Boone said a plant at Cargill in High River, Alta., started an extra day shift after XL Foods closed down, which took some of the pressure off. Cattle were also redirected to facilities in the United States.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said last week that samples from meat processed as part of the inspection at XL Foods had come back free of E. coli.
It wasn’t immediately clear how long it would take for the plant to get back up to full speed, but union officials say employees are being summoned for training and suggest production could resume on Monday.
The XL Foods plant has been closed since Sept. 27, the epicentre of an extensive beef recall fuelled by E. coli contamination that has rocked the industry as well as the agency, which is overseen by the federal government.