Pests force temporary shutdown of JBS Pennsylvania beef plant

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Unspecified pests have prompted JBS USA to halt production temporarily at a Pennsylvania beef processing plant that accounts for about 2 percent of U.S. daily cattle slaughter.

JBS, one of the largest beef producers in the United States, will take steps to control the pests and conduct repairs at the plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania, according to the company. The plant should reopen on Nov. 14, Al Almanza, global head of food safety and quality assurance, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The decision to temporarily halt production was based on sightings of pests around the perimeter of the facility,” Almanza said. He did not specify what kind of pests were seen at the plant, adding that beef produced there was not affected.

JBS did not respond to requests for comment on the pests, plant capacity or whether animals would head to other company-owned facilities.

The Souderton plant processes roughly 1,200 cows along with 1,200 steers and heifers per day, said John Nalivka, president of Oregon-based industry research firm Sterling Marketing Inc. That accounts for about 2 percent of the total U.S. daily cattle slaughter capacity of 138,000 head, he said.

Those animals are likely being diverted to other JBS plants nearby to avoid production disruptions, Nalivka said.

“While it always seems like a big deal when they take a plant offline for a while, the industry has enough capacity and flexibility to adjust – proof that we aren’t up against the wall with capacity,” Nalivka said.

Additional reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis