Canada PM worries about food supplies after meat plant outbreaks

Ottawa (AFP) –


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday he was following with "interest and concern" the challenges facing Canada's meat industry after coronavirus outbreaks at two major packing plants.

More than 1,300 COVID-19 cases, including one death, have been linked to Alberta's Cargill and JBS processing plants, which supply 70 percent of the nation's meat.

The resulting closure of the Cargill plant, which supplies McDonald's in Canada, forced the fast-food giant for the first time to source its beef abroad.

"We understand how important it is to ensure the supply of foods to Canadians right across the country," Trudeau told a daily briefing.

"And we're watching with interest and concern some of the issues facing meat producers and the supply chain across the agricultural industry," he said.

Asked whether he would force workers to stay on the job at these facilities as President Donald Trump did in the United States, the prime minister said it was crucial for food supply chains to "keep functioning."

"But," he added, "we also need to make sure that the people who work in those supply chains, and will continue to need to work in difficult circumstances over the coming weeks and months as we continue to battle COVID-19, are kept safe."

On Tuesday, McDonald's Canada announced that "due to unprecedented COVID-19 impacts on the Canadian beef supply chain" it would temporarily import beef, upending its "long-standing commitment to serve 100 percent Canadian beef."

It cited the "current processing capacity limitations" of Canadian suppliers, including the closure of Cargill's High River, Alberta processing facility.

McDonald's also temporarily removed its Angus beef burgers from Canadian menus.