Cargill announces plans to close Milwaukee beef plant

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, July 30, 2014 - Citing tight cattle supplies, Cargill today announced that it will close its Milwaukee, Wis., beef slaughter facility, which employs approximately 600 people, effective at the close of business on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. 

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“Closing our Milwaukee beef plant is taking place only after we conducted an 18-month-long analysis of the region's cattle supply and examined all other possible options,” said John Keating, president of Cargill Beef, based in Wichita, Kansas. “It is unfortunate that we must close any beef plant because of the impact to good people, their families and the community. The harsh reality is that the U.S. beef cattle herd is at its lowest level since 1951, with any significant herd expansion being years away.”   

The ground beef plant at the site will remain open to meet customer needs, employing approximately 200 people, noted Cargill in a press release.

On Friday, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that all cattle and calves in the U.S. as of July 1, 2014, totaled 95 million head, 3 percent below the 97.8 million on July 1, 2012. That is the lowest July inventory since the July series began in 1973.

Beef cows, at 29.7 million, were down 2.5% from 2012, and beef replacement heifers, at 4.1 million, were down 2.4%. The feeder cattle supply outside feedlots was down over 3% from 2012. The 2014 calf crop is expected to be 33.6 million head, down 1% from 2013 and down 2% from 2012.

Cargill said its six other U.S. beef harvest plants, which are located in California, Texas, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska and Pennsylvania, are unaffected by this plant closing.

Cargill purchased the beef harvest plant in 2001 and it has a processing capacity of 1,300 to 1,400 animals daily.  For the more than 600 people impacted at the plant, Cargill will be offering opportunities to fill positions at other company locations in the region. Those who relocate to positions at other Cargill facilities will receive assistance.  For displaced employees, Cargill will provide support including a job fair in Milwaukee the week of August 4.

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