Local farmers and ranchers are already impacted by the recall of beef products contaminated or potentially contaminated with E. coli bacteria from XL Foods in Brooks.
The Brooks plant, which has been closed because of the controversy, processes about one-third of the beef in Canada.
“It’s been dramatic on the cow and bull market — a lost 25 per cent of value,” said Greg Hayden, one of the owners of the Stettler Auction Mart.
Cows that were trading for 80 to 84 cents per pound before the recall are now selling for 60 to 65 cents per pound, Hayden said.
“I don’t know what percentage of the drop is caused by E. coli issues and what is due to seasonality (of the market).”
Traditionally, cow prices weaken during the fall sale run when numbers are greater.
Beef producers have responded largely by holding back cows and bulls from the auction block.
The yearling feeder market has been less affected, off about five to 10 per cent, according to Hayden.
“The early calf market started with gusto,” he said. “It’s not nearly as exciting as a month ago, but now it’s about the same market as last year’s good market.
“Feed prices are considerably higher this year — we are fortunate to have this good of a market.”
When the Independent spoke with Crowfoot MP Kevin Sorenson last week concerning the beef recall, he said he didn’t know when XL Foods would reopen.
“It will re-open when CFIA (Canada Food Inspection Agency) inspectors are confident it is safe,” Sorenson said.
The plant regularly has 46 inspectors — 23 per shift.
Sorenson said the CFIA is distanced from the government, so politicians don’t have a direct influence on inspections.
Funding has been increased to the agency, and “few are talking about that anymore,” he said.
“I am not afraid to eat beef processed there — even beef tested positive for E. coli, if it is cookedto well-done.”
A statement released by Health Canada said ground beef should be cooked thoroughly to an internal temperature of at least 71 C (160 F) to kill disease-causing bacteria.
Last Saturday, XL Foods temporarily laid off 2,000 of its 2,200 employees.
However, 800 of those laid-off were called into work Tuesday to work on the processing side to process carcasses already in storage at XL.
The slaughtering side remained closed as the Stettler Independent went to press Tuesday.