Alberta beefs

October 2, 2012

CALGARY, AB, Oct 2, 2012/ Troy Media/ – Save a good thought for Alberta’s cattle ranchers. If it isn’t a high Canadian dollar, soaring feed prices, or drought, it’s something else.

And over the last four weeks, that something else has been E. coli O157:H7. Since reaching a summer high of above $190 per hundred weight for Alberta steers in June, prices have tumbled. The most recent Friday weekly price hit $178.85 on Sept. 28. That’s down more than 4 per cent in only a few weeks, and down 7.2 per cent since June.

Some of this recent price decline has had to do with the current E. coli outbreak and the temporary closure of one of the province’s two large meat packing facilities. When the Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspended the plant’s licence on Sept. 27, it immediately shut the door to thousands of head of cattle per day.

In the cattle game, bad news travels fast. The closure has already created a bit of a glut for ranchers across the province.

One should not make too much of the price slide in recent weeks. After all, prices routinely rise and fall. Between June 8 and June 29, for example, steer prices in Alberta dipped more than 6 per cent – and there was no E. Coli or slaughterhouse closure to blame.

Still, the recent price decline is a cause of concern for the province’s ranchers. Even if it is only a few dollars per hundred weight, it can amount to more than $100 per steer. At this point, all the cattle farmers and communities behind the headlines can do is hope the E. coli situation is resolved – and quickly.

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