New management for XL Foods plant

Cattle graze in a field adjacent to XL Foods plant shown in Brooks, Alberta, about 200 km east of...

Cattle graze in a field adjacent to XL Foods plant shown in Brooks, Alberta, about 200 km east of Calgary. (JIM WELLS/QMI AGENCY)

Jenna McMurray, Dave Dormer, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:09 AM ET

CALGARY — The XL Foods plant at the centre of Canada's largest beef recall will soon have a new management team.

An agreement, announced late Wednesday, with a Canadian subsidiary of the processing company JBS USA, will see the company manage operations at the Lakeside Packers plant in Brooks, Alta.

"This action is another positive step to relicensing the XL Lakeside beef plant," said Brian Nilsson, co-CEO of XL. "We welcome the assistance of JBS and their resources."

No timeline has been set for when some 2,000 laid-off employees will return to work, said JBS spokesman Cameron Bruett.

"We're still determining exactly what this means in a number of different areas, workforce included," he said of the agreement. "Our intention, certainly, would be to get those employees back to work."

JBS also signed an option to buy the Brooks plant, plus XL facilities in Calgary and the U.S., which would likely be exercised within six months, said Bruett, adding the company intends to keep the Brooks plant operating.

The Brazil-based parent company, JBS S.A., is the world's largest meat-processing company with 301 facilities and 135,000 employees worldwide.

Laid-off employees at the Brooks plant are desperately hopeful for the restart of operations, said union boss Doug O'Halloran.

"We hope that will be Friday or Monday at the latest," he said. "(The workers) are going to have to make a decision in the next few days whether to get work elsewhere."

The CFIA will now review its observations of de-boning and cutting activities, E. coli controls, meat hygiene, sampling techniques and overall sanitation and analyze results from product testing done by both XL and the agency.

It will then prepare a report, including its recommendations on the next step for the plant, likely before next week.

Meanwhile, more producers are deciding to ship their cattle to the U.S. for slaughter.

Anne Dunford, an industry market analyst with Gateway Livestock, said weekly data for the week ending Oct. 6 showed 10,800 herds of Canadian cattle were sent south of the border, more than double the average of 5,000 per week in recent months.

It's a spike Dunford attributes to the XL plant closure.

"Is it extra cost? Absolutely. Freight is charged by the mile and also there's costs at the border in regard to USDA requirements and having all the proper paperwork in order," she said.


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