Sick employee disrupts slaughter at Harmony Beef

Part of Calgary beef plant shut down after employee who had been off work tested positive for COVID-19

Harmony Beef, a beef processing plant north of Calgary, had to shut part of its operation down March 26 after an employee fell sick.

“Alberta Health Services informed us Thursday that an employee who had not been at work for days had a positive test for COVID-19,” company spokesperson Crosbie Cotton said March 27.

The individual had been off sick for several days, and as per Harmony Beef’s policy, all eleven workers in his department were sent home to quarantine themselves for 14 days, although none had symptoms.

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“We are not harvesting new cattle today,” said Cotton. “We hope to be up and running by Monday, or as quickly as possible. Until then, we will continue to process the cattle we have chilling.”

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency was informed about the positive test by health officials, and is working with provincial health authorities and the company to restore the plant to normal working capacity. CFIA employees have been asked to conduct a self-assessment daily for potential symptoms of the virus.

The CFIA did not provide slaughter inspection services on March 27 while health risk assessments were conducted and the plant initiated follow-up activities. Cotton said other areas of the plant were operational and processing was still occurring.

“We’re hoping it’s a very short rest on the harvest side,” he said. “On the fabrication side, it’s full steam ahead.”

Harmony Beef has about 500 staff and slaughters about 750 cattle every day.

“Alberta Health Services told us that the protocols we have been using to sanitize the plant constantly are exceptional,” said Cotton. “Every employee is tested on their way into work at the entrance every day for any symptoms. If they had symptoms, they would be sent home.”

About the author

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Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, she has also published two collections of poetry and a biography about a Sikh civil rights activist. Her freelance work has appeared in numerous publications across Canada.

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