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Meat producer Cargill to close Milwaukee beef plant due to cattle shortage; 600 to lose jobs

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Cargill plans to close a Milwaukee beef-processing plant which employs about 600 people on Friday due to a shortage of cattle.

A Midwest drought in 2011 and 2012 hurt cattle levels, said Cargill spokesman Mike Martin. Now, many herders are breeding the cattle they have and not selling them. U.S. beef cattle herd is at its lowest level since 1951, Cargill said.

The Milwaukee plant slaughters live cattle and packages beef products. The meat producer bought the plant, which can process as much as 1,400 animals a day, in 2001.

Employees were told about the closure on Wednesday after an 18-month review of cattle supply. A separate plant at the site, which produces ground beef and employs about 200 people, will remain open.

Cargill said the 600 people losing their jobs can apply for work at other facilities in the region. It will hold a job fair next week. The employees affected will receive 60 days of pay after the plant closes, Martin said.

Privately-held Cargill is based in Minneapolis and has about 143,000 employees around the world.

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