A fire broke out overnight at a Nebraska beef packing plant owned by JBS USA, interrupting production at the facility as workers stayed home from Monday shifts.
According to the Grand Island Fire Department, a structural fire burned in the rendering section of the facility late Sunday night into early Monday morning. The Facebook page for the plant said its two shifts of slaughter and fabrication would not report for work on Monday.
A spokesperson for JBS said "thankfully, there were no injuries and we appreciate the Grand Island fire department for their quick response and support.
The fire did not impact our primary production areas. We will not run the plant today, but we expect to resume operations tomorrow, pending ongoing assessment of the situation," the spokesperson noted Monday afternoon.
According to the company, the Grand Island facility employs more than 3,600 people across two shifts of production. A June press release noted a “significant expansion” at the facility that was on track to finish in “late summer.” That project included “the construction of a new harvest floor and enhanced animal welfare facilities” at the plant, which has an annual production capacity of about 1.4 million head of beef cattle. The investment totaled $130 million and also included improvements at another JBS facility in Omaha.
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The fire represents the second blaze at a major beef facility in three years. In 2019, a Tyson facility in Holcomb, Kan., caught fire. That event triggered a USDA investigation into market practices following the fire as producers expressed frustration with drops in live cattle prices as finished beef prices increased. That investigation was expanded to include similar practices during plant shutdowns fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, but USDA did not identify any concrete examples of pricing manipulation in a report on the investigation.
Those events also fueled a push to build smaller packing plants to keep events at one facility from taking such a sizable percentage of the nation’s processing capacity offline. USDA is currently evaluating comments on how to spend a $500 million fund to build new plants or expand existing processing infrastructure.
This story was updated at 4:00 p.m. to include an update from a JBS spokesperson.
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