Equipment repairs temporarily sideline Kansas beef packing plant

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The National Beef packing plant in Liberal, Kansas, shut down operations on Thursday and Friday for mechanical repairs, company spokesman Keith Welty said in an email response to Reuters on Friday.

The facility is expected to reopen on Saturday, Nov. 16, he said.

National's Liberal plant, which has an estimated daily slaughter capacity of about 6,500 head, underwent a partial closure last week due to "operational issues," industry analysts and economists said.

"I don't think it's a big disruption from an industry-wide perspective given the tight cattle supplies. But, it certainly does remove some mid-week slaughter capacity," said Denver-based Livestock Information Center director Jim Robb.

Fewer cattle are available for packers to draw from after multi-year droughts in the United States hurt crops needed by livestock producers. Several years of high feed costs gradually reduced the U.S. cattle herd to its lowest level in 61 years.

In early August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service said National Beef had recalled 50,100 pounds of ground beef produced at its Liberal plant after routine monitoring had confirmed the presence of E.coli 0157:H7 in the meat there.

Around mid-June, USDA said that the Liberal, Kansas beef packing facility implemented a voluntary recall of about 23,000 lbs of raw ground beef after a positive test for E.coli 0157:H7.

There were no reports of illnesses linked with eating the product in either case.

"I haven't heard people talking about it, and I don't know if the two situations are related," said Robb.



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