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Cargill Inc. said July 30 it is closing a Wisconsin beef plant that employs 600 workers, the latest example of how tight cattle supplies are making the U.S meat business tough.
The closure comes after years of drought in major cattle-raising regions of the U.S have forced ranchers to cull their herds, resulting in the smallest national cattle herd in more than six decades.
Cargill, one of the largest U.S beef processors, said it would close the beef slaughter facility in Milwaukee, effective August 1. The plant, which it purchased in 2001, has the capacity to process 1,300 to 1,400 animals daily. A separate ground-beef plant that shares the site and employs roughly 200 people will remain open.
Cargill said it made the decision after an 18-month analysis of the region's cattle supply. "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," said John Keating, president of the company's Cargill Beef division, which is based in Wichita, Kansas.
Cargill, which currently operates six other cattle slaughter plants, also closed one in Plainview, Texas, last year, citing the cattle shortage. National Beef Packing Co., another major producer, announced in January it would close a California processing plant that employed 1,300 workers, also because of shortages.