Reuters — Cargill said its beef processing plant in Schuyler, Neb. was closed early Thursday due to a fire and an ammonia leak.
The causes of the fire and ammonia leak are unknown at this time. Damage to the plant was still being assessed, but no injuries were reported, said Cargill spokesman Michael Martin.
Both production shifts were canceled on Thursday and it is unknown whether the plant will operate on Saturday to make up for lost production, Martin said.
“The fire department had an extremely difficult time with water nozzles freezing in the cold temperatures,” said Paul Kruse, Colfax County sheriff. Three neighboring fire departments from Clarkson, Howells and Columbus were called into assist in battling the fire, he said.
The fire was located in the crawlspace between the ceiling and roof of the plant. Damage occurred to a heating and cooling unit on the roof as well as some insulation.
Early assessments showed no damage to meat products, but that was still being determined, Martin said.
As of 10:15 a.m. CT, the fire department remained on the scene with thermal imaging equipment tracking down hot spots in the building, Kruse said.
Cargill will work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to determine when the plant can resume production, which could be as early as Friday, Martin said.
The plant processes about 5,000 head of cattle per day, has 2,100 employees, and it located about 90 miles west of Omaha, Martin said.
— Meredith Davis reports on livestock commodity markets for Reuters from Chicago.