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U.S. Beef Slaughter Numbers Plunge After Blizzard Forces Kansas Plant Closures

Jan. 11, 2024
USDA report shows nationwide beef slaughter dropped to approximately 94,000 head on Tuesday, some 25% less than one week prior, but is recovering today.

As another significant winter storm has begun to bear down on the Great Plains and Midwest, the impact of the shutdown of major beef slaughter plants in western Kansas earlier this week due to Monday’s blizzard-like conditions is becoming more clear. According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s National Daily Cattle & Beef Summary, Tuesday, Jan. 9, cattle slaughter dropped to an estimated 94,000 head, down 25% from one week earlier, when plants processed some 126,000 cattle.

On Wednesday, Jan. 10, cattle slaughter had rebounded to approximately 113,000 head, but still about 12% off the week prior. On Thursday, Jan. 11, cattle slaughter was about 6,000 head short of last week’s number.

The impact was initially reported by some news outlets, but the Wednesday and Thursday numbers were not published in those reports. The winter storm hit its peak during Monday’s afternoon shift change, leaving roads in and out of the plants covered in snow. Some workers who attempted to leave were forced to abandon their vehicles and walk back to the facilities, where many spent the night.

Cargill told news outlets that it closed Dodge City due to the snow, cold and loss of power to the plant, and once power returned to the facility, the company expected to reopen the plant for business. A company spokesman said some 50 employees out of 2,850 were stuck at the plant, and that half the plant has had power and heat for the majority of the storm. He also said there has been access to food, water and assistance.

Tyson reported that it allowed some employees the option of sheltering at the facility, with a hot meal and drinks on Monday night. All employees who were stranded there had left by Tuesday morning, the company said.

About the Author

Andy Hanacek | Senior Editor

Andy Hanacek has covered meat, poultry, bakery and snack foods as a B2B editor for nearly 20 years, and has toured hundreds of processing plants and food companies, sharing stories of innovation and technological advancement throughout the food supply chain. In 2018, he won a Folio:Eddie Award for his unique "From the Editor's Desk" video blogs, and he has brought home additional awards from Folio and ASBPE over the years. In addition, Hanacek led the Meat Industry Hall of Fame for several years and was vice president of communications for We R Food Safety, a food safety software and consulting company.