National Beef Fire Damage Assessed

After Fire, National Beef's Facility in Kansas Suspends Production Until Monday

Jennifer Carrico
By  Jennifer Carrico , Senior Livestock Editor
The National Beef processing plant in Liberal, Kansas, was closed Thursday after a minor fire in the loading dock area. (Screenshot from KSN-TV YouTube video)

Editor's Note: This story was updated Friday afternoon after the USDA Cattle On Feed Report was released.


REDFIELD, Iowa (DTN) -- A minor fire on March 20 at the National Beef processing plant in Liberal, Kansas, led to the suspension of production until Monday, according to the company.

The plant, which can process 6,000 head per day, is one of the largest beef processing plants in the country. JBS, Cargill, National Beef and Tyson all have plants that have a 5,000- to 6,000-head daily capacity. National Beef is owned by Marfig, a Brazilian multinational company.

"The announcement from National Beef that its plant will remain down until Monday, March 25, shouldn't have any colossal effects on the market, given that feedlots' showlists are extremely current," said DTN's Livestock Market Analyst ShayLe Stewart.

"If the fire had happened during a time when showlists were backed up, market participants would be raising an eyebrow at the loss of throughput, but at this time, showlists are extremely current and the plant's delay shouldn't negatively affect the market," Stewart added.

Live cattle contracts did, however, trade lower throughout Thursday's trade after the announcement of the packing plant fire brought back memories of a 2019 fire at the Tyson processing plant at Holcomb, Kansas.

On Friday morning, before the Cattle on Feed report was released Friday afternoon, trade continued lower but for several reasons.

"The live cattle complex is continuing to trade lower as the market juggles numerous factors ahead of the weekend," Stewart said. "Thankfully, the market continues to find tremendous support from its fundamentals as cash cattle have traded $2 to $4 higher this week. Trade's bearish regard for the market largely stems from the fact that the monthly Cattle on Feed report will be released on Friday afternoon, and it's expected to showcase greater placements than a year ago," she explained Friday morning.

When the report was released Friday afternoon, her expectations were confirmed.

"Placements in feedlots during February totaled 1.89 million head, 10% above 2023. Placements were the highest for February since the series began in 1996. Net placements were 1.83 million head," Stewart stated. (See more details and analysis on the USDA Cattle on Feed Report at…).


According to a statement from National Beef, a truck parked in the loading dock at the National Beef facility in Liberal caught fire at 9:50 p.m. on March 20 and spread to other trailers and a portion of the loading.

National Beef said the facility was operating at the time and was evacuated for the safety of employees and others on-site. Emergency services extinguished the fire before midnight with no injuries reported.

Production was suspended so authorities could determine the cause, assess the damage and prepare for restarting production.

National Beef said it was grateful for the quick response and support of the Liberal Fire Department, Liberal Police Department, Seward County EMS and Liberal/Seward County Emergency Communication Center.


Memories of the Aug. 9, 2019, fire at a Tyson Fresh Meats processing plant in Holcomb, Kansas -- which caused an extensive shutdown and a drop in market prices -- caused some fear across the beef industry upon hearing of this week's fire.

However, Steward noted the National Beef fire was minor in comparison.

Prices fell after the Holcomb plant fire and this led to an investigation by the Department of Justice and extensive discussions of cattle market transparency among organizations and government officials.

Jennifer Carrico can be reached at

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Jennifer Carrico