Combined slaughter capacity of the seven plants amounts to an estimated 27,200 head.
Cattle prices have reached record highs and remain historically high because of tight supplies in the nation's feedlots.
Separately, Restaurant Business reports that a group of steakhouse executives met with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to ask for an end to the ban on beef imports from Canada. Beef prices have soared since the embargo was imposed after BSE, or Mad Cow Disease, was traced to a single head of cattle in Canada. The problem has been compounded by the reduction of herds in the U.S.
The delegation, including executives from Ruth's Chris, Outback, Sam & Harry's, the Palm, and several independent steakhouses, say that Veneman was receptive. "We spoke to them about opening the borders to bring cattle back into the US. From Canada," notes Bill Hyde, ceo of Ruth's Chris and chairman of the National Restaurant Association's Government Affairs & Public Policy Committee. "They said they would work with other agencies to make that happen, but not at a pace that would put public safety at risk. We assured them that in no way would we want to jeopardize public safety."
Hyde says recent increases in his chain's beef costs amount to 35-50%.
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