A subsidiary of a Brazilian-based company that calls itself the largest animal protein processor in the world is taking over management of XL Foods, the Alberta-based plant at the heart of the recent beef recall.
JBS USA says effective immediately, it will become the manager of XL's Lakeside plant in Brooks, Alberta.
The company says the agreement gives them an opportunity to enter the Canadian market and assist the management at XL Foods.
“We saw this as a wonderful opportunity to expand our North American operation and provide great Canadian beef not only in Canada, but around the world,” said Cameron Bruett, head of corporate communications at JBS USA.
Bill Rupp, president and chief operating officer of JBS USA, says the company knows full well the commitment it takes to manage world-class operations that "produce safe and nutritious products."
Exclusive option to buy
The agreement also provides JBS an exclusive option to buy the Canadian and U.S. operations of XL Foods.
"This action is another positive step to relicensing the XL Lakeside beef plant in Brooks, Alta. We welcome the assistance of JBS and their resources," said Brian Nilsson, co-CEO of XL Foods.
XL will continue to manage its other Canadian and U.S. operations during the option period.
Doug O'Halloran, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, has yet to see the details of the deal, but believes the move is a positive step for the company.
"I've been calling since this began for new ownership or new management, and I think the Nilsson brothers were out of their league, so I don't see this as a bad thing."
"It couldn't get much worse than it is, and if this new company is prepared to do some of the things that we've been looking for … I think we'll have a great working relationship, and I understand in the U.S. we have a good working relationship,” O'Halloran said.
'Light at the end of the tunnel'
Martin Shields, the mayor of Brooks, was also pleased with the outcome.
“I feel this is the light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve had three weeks of roller-coasters, to temporary shutdown to layoffs …. there is going to be a positive event happening here,”
Shields is also hopeful the announcement will help to keep workers from leaving the community.
Jason Hale, the Wildrose Party MLA for the Strathmore-Brooks riding, says the main objective was always to get the plant open, regardless of who owned it.
“JBS has said it will take on all of the existing employees that are there, so that’s great news for those families,” Hale said.
Hale says JBS should be in the Brooks meat-packing plant by Friday, and he hopes that within three weeks, it will be receiving cattle.
XL Foods has been idle since Sept. 27 over E. coli contamination.
With files from CBC News