According to Cargill spokesperson Daniel Sullivan, the company has been forced to operate a few plants at a lower slaughtering capacity as the new year begins.
“We are seeing case counts ebb and flow as communities work to manage the spread of the Covid-19, especially the Omicron variant,” Sullivan said.
Data from the USDA estimates that beef processors killed 112,000 cattle on January 7, down around 6% from a year earlier.
A Cargill beef plant in Dodge City, Kansas, was getting by with a “skeleton crew”, Lee Reichmuth, a Nebraska cattle feeder and board member for the United States Cattlemen’s Association, told Reuters.
Covid-19 cases as of January 3 had increased over the previous 14 days in 26 of the 30 counties where the nation’s biggest beef production plants are located, according to Steiner Consulting Group. Meanwhile, National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals Chair Paula Schelling-Soldner reports that USDA meatpacking inspectors are increasingly testing positive.
Last week, the USDA moved inspectors to an American Foods Group beef plant in Green Bay, Wisconsin, allowing cattle slaughtering to continue at the plant that was short-staffed due to infections, Schelling-Soldner said.