Fire halts production at Creekstone Farms Kansas beef plant

Sept 26 Thu Sep 26, 2013 4:18pm EDT

Sept 26 (Reuters) - Production at the Creekstone Farms Premium beef packing plant in Arkansas City, Kansas has been shutdown indefinitely after fire damaged part of the facility, said a city official on Thursday.

"There were no live cattle lost to the fire and it is unknown when the facility will reopen," said Arkansas City fire chief Robert Wolfe.

All plant and communications systems were down at the plant after a main product conveyor belt caught fire on Wednesday, Wolfe said. One fire fighter was injured.

Company officials were unavailable to comment.

University of Missouri livestock economist Ron Plain estimated the daily slaughter capacity of the Creekstone plant, which slaughters Black Angus cattle, at about 1,000 head per day. Comparatively, each of three of the country's top beef processors, Cargill Inc, Tyson Foods and JBS USA, have the capacity to slaughter roughly 30,000 head per day, he said.

Given its location, the Arkansas City, Kansas facility likely receives the bulk of the cattle from Kansas and Oklahoma, with a few possibly from Texas, said Plain.

"We've got plenty of surplus kill capacity, so if this plant goes offline for a while I'm sure the other packers will be able to handle the extra cattle," said Plain. "It will reduce competition a bit for them and so packer margins might improve slightly."

Consumers will not notice the difference in the price they pay for beef as a result of the plant shutdown, Plain said.