11/15/2012 07:25 EST | Updated 01/15/2013 05:12 EST

XL Foods Beef Starts To Enter Marketplace

The plant at the centre of an extensive beef recall has resumed shipping products for the first time since an E. coli outbreak forced its closure in September.

The union representing workers at the XL Foods Inc. plant in Brooks, Alta., says the shipments include a full range of products, including ground beef and steaks.

The beef has been packaged under the banner of JBS, which took over management of the Brooks plant from XL Foods last month.

Doug O'Halloran of the United Food and Commercial Workers union says employees at the plant are upbeat about the shipments and hopeful about the plant's future.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says once beef at the plant has tested negative for E. coli, it is allowed to enter the marketplace in Canada.

The agency says it will soon ask U.S. officials for permission to export beef from the plant to the U.S.

Market quickly changing

A leading researcher says Alberta cattle producers need to keep adapting to survive.

Andrea Brocklebank, of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, said research shows the demand for beef is increasing.

“It's one of the driving proteins, and we see promise moving forward in terms of increased consumption of beef across the world as incomes rise in different populations.”

At least 63 per cent of Canadian beef products are sold domestically, said Brocklebank. The cattleman spokesperson told producers at a forum in Calgary on Wednesday that the market is becoming increasingly complex.

She said producers have to adapt to volatile markets, changing technology and pressure to become more productive.

“It's not just about selling your cattle and not paying attention to that market. It's about managing your risk, identifying your opportunities and being fairly strategic in that,” said Brocklebank.

Producer Brock Harrington said high commodity prices are driving up feed costs and the high Canadian dollar is driving down competitiveness.

“I think there's a funny picture now of a cowboy with his iPhone, with an app that's watching the cattle futures market all day and, sure, he's a cowboy, but he needs to be on top of the futures market to know where his products are going to be priced.”

And when things like E. coli hit the media, Brian Rogers said producers have to become marketing experts.

“We have to talk to consumers and make sure they know that what we're doing is safe and making them aware of our management practices, be it using hormones or animal safety,” Rogers said.

An 18th case of E. coli was linked Wednesday to the recall.

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