GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Citing troubles due to the discovery of mad cow disease in Washington state, Swift & Co. said Friday that it would suspend its second shift next week at two meatpacking plants.
A total of 2,100 employees will be affected at the plants in Grand Island and Greeley, Colo., said Jim Herlihy, a spokesman for Swift, the nation's third-largest beef and pork processor.
Herlihy said the suspension would begin Monday, and employees would return to work Feb. 23. Herlihy said the company was trying to save costs while limiting the effects on workers.
Calls to the union that represents employees at the Grand Island plant were not immediately returned.
The beef industry is the largest industry in Nebraska and more cattle are slaughtered here than in any other state.
Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is known to eat holes in the brains of cattle. People who eat contaminated beef products can develop a brain-wasting illness, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
A Holstein from Washington state that was slaughtered Dec. 9 was diagnosed with mad cow.
At Fremont Beef, another Nebraska meatpacker, 49 people were laid off in December because it lost its Japanese market for its beef tongue, liver and intestines, officials said.