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Fire temporarily shutters Cargill meat packing plant in Kansas

By P.J. Huffstutter

(Reuters) - Cargill Inc's beef packing plant near Dodge City, Kansas, is expected to be closed until next week as damage is assessed from a minor fire that broke out Monday evening, a company official told Reuters.

Capt. Mark Elder with the Dodge City Fire Department told local media that the fire started around 9:00 p.m. Monday evening in the kill floor area. Fire crews spent several hours putting it out, Elder told KAKE News.

The plant was evacuated, according to fire department officials. The cause of the fire is still not known, and there were no injuries, according to the company.

Cargill's beef plant, which had been scheduled to be shuttered on Tuesday and Wednesday for the Christmas holidays, is expected to remain closed for the rest of the week as damage is assessed and fire inspectors investigate what started the blaze.

The plant, which is located just outside Dodge City, employs more than 2,700 people, according to the company's website. One industry analyst estimated that the plant has the capacity to process roughly 5,000 head of cattle per day.

David Hales, author of the Hales Cattle Letter in Amarillo, Texas, cautioned that some squeeze may be felt on the local cash cattle market.

"Supplies may be tight enough that it doesn't make cattle prices go down, but maybe it prohibits them from going up," Hales said.

(Additional reporting by Theopolis Waters in Chicago; editing by Jim Marshall)

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