Loblaw Beef Supply Disrupted by Flooding Near Cargill Plant

June 27 (Bloomberg) -- Loblaw Cos., Canada’s biggest grocer, said it was forced to seek alternative beef supplies after floods last week halted the cattle slaughter at a Cargill Inc. beef plant in Alberta.

The June 21 closure of the High River plant “has interrupted our beef supply, however we were able to secure product from alternative sources to minimize the impact,” Melinda Metcalfe, a spokeswoman for Brampton, Ontario-based Loblaw, said today in an e-mail.

The disruption hasn’t impacted the supply of beef cuts available to consumers, Metcalfe said in a telephone interview. Loblaw will continue to purchase from Cargill once processing resumes, she said.

Cargill’s High River facility, which typically processes 4,500 head of cattle a day, has been unable to slaughter after flooding in the area disrupted fresh-water supplies, Brigitte Burgoyne, a company spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview. The company increased production at its plant in Guelph, Ontario, to supply customers with products, Chantelle Donahue, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

The town of High River, the hardest hit in Alberta by recent flooding, received C$50 million ($47.7 million) in government aid to help pay for emergency response and recovery efforts, the province said in a statement. Alberta accounts for 40 percent of Canada’s cattle herd, provincial data show.

‘Shortage’

Some Alberta cattle producers who are unable to sell their animals to the High River plant will incur higher feed costs until slaughter resumes, according to Rich Smith, executive director of Alberta Beef Producers.

“As time goes on, the impact will get greater and greater,” Smith said in a telephone interview from Calgary. “It won’t take many more days until we see a shortage of specific cuts.”

Cargill is working with the Alberta government on a solution and “is optimistic water could be flowing to the plant next week,” according to a statement. The company secured portable water-filtration systems and the provincial government has provided the pump and piping to bring the system online, the province said today.

“The sooner we come to a solution, the sooner our employees can get back to work, start rebuilding our community, and get the beef industry moving in a positive direction once again,” Scott Entz, Cargill’s beef-plant general manager, said in a statement.

Cargill’s High River plant employs 2,000 people living in areas directly impacted by the flooding and is one of two major beef-processing facilities in Alberta, the province said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jen Skerritt in Winnipeg at jskerritt1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net