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Here’s what’s happening with meat supply in Canada after huge slaughterhouses shut down

Since the onset of the pandemic, there have been shortages of toilet paperhand sanitizer and even hair dye as consumers stock up on such much-sought-after items for their indefinite periods of self-isolation.

Some experts have speculated that meat may be next on the list of things that are becoming increasingly hard to come by in supermarkets, especially in Canada, where most of our beef supply comes from just three factories — two of which are currently experiencing virus outbreaks among their staff.

The Cargill beef plant in High River, Alberta was shut down this week after being connected to more than 500 cases of COVID-19 in the local community.


One worker of the 2,000-or-so that are employed at the slaughterhouse has died, and more than 350 are confirmed to be ill so far. The facility produces a third of the country’s beef, 4,500 cows per day.

Less than two hours east in Brooks, Alberta, another meat processor, JBS Food Canada, has also had an outbreak, with 67 cases and counting. Though the company intends to remain open, it will of course have to cease operations if it becomes unsafe to do so or if staffing levels drop substantially due to more infections — which federal meat inspectors say is only a matter of time.

A number of slaughterhouses across the U.S. — including ones owned by Tyson Foods, National Beef Packaging and Smithfield Food — have also recently been forced to shutter due to outbreaks among their employees, causing meat-eaters to worry about low supply and/or higher prices.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that he doesn’t expect meat shelves in Canada to be any emptier, but beef prices may indeed rise due to the Cargill closure. He added in his press briefing on April 21 that the federal government is monitoring the situation.

Though some residents are concerned about the issue, others are pointing out that it is quite possible to simply go without beef for a while (or forever).


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