Cattle feeders “alarmed” over slaughter capacity loss

The National Cattle Feeders’ Association, a Canadian feedlot owners’ group, yesterday went public with its concerns over recent closures and cutbacks at several meat packing plants and the consequent drop in Canadian beef slaughter capacity.

Citing recent shutdowns such as at the Ranchers Beef packing plant in Alberta and the Zenon Billette abattoir in Quebec, plus cutbacks in slaughter at Cargill-owned Better Beef in Ontario, the group said it’s concerned about losing any more capacity. “Investors came forward, built facilities that offered alternatives to Canadian cattle producers and now they are closing their doors,” said NCFA chairman Rick Paskal, an Alberta feedlot operator, in a release.

The affected plants struggled to build markets at a time when margins were slim, he said, noting the “significant capital and human resources” required to survive. Further, “policies that industry and government put forward may have also contributed to (the plants’) demise,” the NCFA said.

Paskal noted that one shuttered Alberta plant couldn’t source enough age-verified cattle on a year-round basis to meet offshore market demand. “This is one reason that the NCFA board supports mandatory age verification in Canada,” he said.

The group said it would meet with government officials to examine options for the beef industry.

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