The May closing of the U.S./Canada border to Canadian beef exports due a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) appears to have hit Swift the hardest.
Both Excel and Tyson own major packing plants in Canada. They've benefited because the border has been open to boxed beef exports for months now.
However, Swift, which doesn't have a Canadian packing interest, has traditionally relied on Canadian live cattle to process in their U.S. plants. The continued border closure to live cattle exports from Canada hasn't made Swift happy.
Swift spokesman Jim Herlihy was quoted in the
recently as saying, "The live animals that are now being stopped at the border are being imported into the U.S. -- in boxes -- and eaten by American consumers. And Canadian processing plants are working overtime to process the cattle available to those plants. We've reached the point now where it costs us more to produce a product than we get for it, especially when compared to the low price of beef coming in from Canada."
Herlihy also said that while Swift's competitors are earning windfall profits of up to $7 million/day/plant in Canada, "we're losing more money with each additional animal we process."
While everything is always a matter of perspective, there's little doubt about the irony in allowing product to be processed in Canada and then shipped across the border, but not allowing the same animals to be shipped to U.S.-based plants for processing.
The comment period of the proposal to reopen the Canadian border ends Jan. 5. It's not expected to be finalized until early spring.