The reduction of U.S. beef exports has impacted meatpackers more than beef producers, so far. Meatpacking plants throughout the country have had to cut jobs because some of the "secondary" meats they produce, such as beef tongue and intestines, no longer have a market. According to reports, Excel Corp. laid off 700 workers at five plants in Texas, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska for this reason. Swift & Co. cut 140 jobs in Colorado, Nebraska, Texas and Idaho. And Tyson Foods Inc. has laid off about 40 workers at its smaller slaughterhouses in Iowa, Nebraska and Idaho. Job losses in this segment could grow if export markets remain closed.
The impact of the BSE discovery has diminished significantly the past two weeks. Fed cattle traded this week at $85 to $87, just a few dollars back of the $91 per hundredweight price fed cattle saw Dec. 22. Futures prices have also rebounded, with a couple of days of limit up prices for the near-term months. A lot of producers believe the situation could have been a lot worse. And many found opportunities to make some money on the market's volatility by lifting some hedges and placing them back on at more favorable prices. Risky? Certainly. But, owning cattle is, also. — Greg Henderson, Drovers editor