March 24, 2008 / 4:47 PM / 12 years ago

Fire destroys Cargill beef plant in Arkansas

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A Cargill Meat Solutions beef processing plant in Booneville, Arkansas, was destroyed by a fire that broke out Sunday afternoon and was still smoldering on Monday morning, a Cargill spokesman said.

No injuries were reported, but parts of Booneville were temporarily evacuated on Sunday amid concerns about leaking ammonia gas and heavy smoke.

“There was some welding work going on in one of the production areas of the plant and a fire broke out and got out of control. Everybody got out safely, but it did cause some disruptions in the city of Booneville,” said Mark Klein, a spokesman for Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc.

The plant, which produced frozen ground beef patties and portion control steaks for the food service industry, employed about 800 workers mostly on two production shifts, Klein said.

There were no cattle slaughter operations at the plant, he said.

According to the company’s Web site, the 150,000 square foot Booneville plant could process 500,000 lbs of beef a day.

It remained too early to say whether the plant could be or would be rebuilt as Cargill officials have not yet been able to assess the damages, Klein said.

Cargill Meat Solutions is a unit of privately held agriculture giant Cargill Inc.

Reporting by Karl Plume; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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