Canada cattle prices recover after tainted beef plant reopened

Tue Dec 4, 2012 1:26pm EST
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* Fed cattle prices hit C$118/cwt last week

* Plant unable to ship beef to U.S., Mexico

By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Western Canadian prices for slaughter-ready cattle have recovered to hit the year's high, after bottoming out this autumn when the discovery of tainted meat forced the temporary shutdown of the XL Foods beef-packing plant.

Canadian government authorities allowed the XL plant at Brooks, Alberta to reopen in late October. It was closed for about a month because it produced beef contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

At least 18 people have been sickened in Canada and the recall of beef products spread across Canada and most U.S. states.

The plant is one of the two biggest in Western Canada - alongside Cargill Ltd's High River, Alberta plant - and slaughters about 40 percent of all Canadian cattle. Its closure forced ranchers and feedlots to feed their animals longer and caused prices for slaughter-ready cattle to plummet.

But last week, prices of fed cattle reached about C$118 per hundredweight, the year's high price and just off the previous year's top, said Brian Perillat, senior analyst at CanFax, a Canadian cattle analysis firm.

"Things have improved quite a lot, especially on the fed cattle side," Perillat said, adding that prices in November are typically among the year's highest. "It's very encouraging to see how rapidly prices have recovered."   Continued...