After a very difficult couple weeks at the Cargill beef processing facility at High River, Alta., due to an increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases and one death, the Minneapolis-based company has decided to idle the plant until the company and employees can adapt to operating during a pandemic.
In a statement to RealAgriculture, Jon Nash, Cargill Protein – North America lead on Monday, April 20, 2020, said:
“Effective today, we have begun the process to temporarily idle Cargill’s High River facility. Considering the community-wide impacts of the virus, we encourage all employees to get tested for the COVID-19 virus as now advised by Alberta Health Services as soon as possible.
This was a difficult decision for our team who are operating an essential service and are committed to delivering food for local families, access to markets for ranchers, products for our customers’ shelves and jobs for local employees.
We care deeply about our employees. They are everyday heroes of the food system and each person continues to be a valued member of our team. To prevent food waste, we will process approximately 3 million meals currently in our facility as quickly as possible. We greatly appreciate our employees who are working to complete this effort.
Alberta Health Services has approved and supports all the protocols we have put in place. We have taken proactive steps to focus on safety. We have encouraged employees not to come to work if they are sick, offering up to 80 hours of paid leave for COVID-related circumstances. We also implemented additional safety measures like temperature testing, enhanced cleaning and sanitizing, face coverings, screening between employee stations, prohibiting visitors, adopting social distancing practices where possible and offering staggered breaks and shift flexibility. We began implementing safety measures the first week of March.
While this location is temporarily idled and we adapt to operating during a pandemic, our work doesn’t stop. Cargill provides an essential service to Canada — producing food that nourishes people. We are working with farmers and ranchers, our customers and our employees to supply food in this time of crisis and keep markets moving.”
- Over 350 COVID-19 cases linked to High River beef plant
- See all of RealAgriculture’s COVID-19 coverage here
Last week the the Cargill facility’s plan was to cut down to one shift to increase the opportunity for sanitization within the facility. By Thursday the facility had been idled with hopes to re-open Monday. The union has been putting intense pressure on Cargill to close for two weeks to get the situation under control. Last Friday, Alberta Health Services confirmed that 358 cases of COVID-19 were linked to the High river facility. Cargill has not been alone in its struggles to operate during the pandemic as plants around North America face slow downs and complete idling.