New managers at XL Foods plant promise big changes

The head of JBS says things will be different when the XL Foods meat processing plant in Brooks, Alta., at the centre of a massive beef recall connected to E. coli contamination reopens on Monday.

JBS also donates $20,000 to Brooks food bank in southern Alberta

The new managers from JBS talk about the future of XL Foods. 2:31

The head of JBS says things will be different when the XL Foods meat processing plant in Brooks, Alta., reopens on Monday. It's been at the centre of a massive beef recall connected to E. coli contamination.

The company expects consumer-ready beef to be leaving the plant by the end of the day.

JBS management held a news conference in Brooks Thursday and CEO Bill Rupp laid out 10 things he believes in as a leader.

Industry experts weigh in on what the new managers at the XL Foods plant means to beef producers on CBC Calgary TV News at 5, 5:30 and 6 p.m. MT. 

He said the No. 1 issue right now is food safety, and JBS feels the responsibility lies with the company and not the government.

Rupp is also promising that the line speed at the plant will initially be slower.

"We're going to do a lot of on-the-job training of exactly how we believe those jobs need to be performed," said Rupp.

The union representing workers had complained the line speed was part of the problem behind food safety issues.

'Don't have to be a jerk' to highlight problems

JBS says current managers at the Brooks plant will be back Monday when it reopens, but JBS staff will be on-site to oversee the beef processing.

"Nobody oughta have to work for a jerk," said Rupp. "And I sit here as a reformed jerk, and I know I have jerk tendencies. It really sends a message through the organization. I mean if somebody's doing something wrong or not performing to where it needs to be you don't have to be a jerk to have that conversation."

The company says it believes its safety measures will help restore Canadian confidence in the meat processing industry.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency plans to keep up enhanced oversight and increased testing protocols at the plant when it reopens.

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has repeatedly expressed confidence in the CFIA since the problems arose. But today he said CFIA inspectors should have been tougher when it came to dealing with XL Foods.

"I think CFIA would have been a lot harder-nosed on getting the material from XL rather than being nice, and going the format with the letter and so on. You stand banging at the door until you got it. But [we were] not seeing any illness spikes to drive us to the point of decertifying," Ritz said about the reason why the plant wasn't shut down until Sept. 27, almost two weeks after the first recall alert.

Ritz said now that it's known that 16 people fell ill from eating meat from the XL plant, the government wants to re-double its efforts so federal health and food safety agencies have the capacity to analyze these types of incidents quicker and get tainted products off grocery shelves faster.

He made the comments in House of Commons agriculture committee hearings into the new Safe Food for Canadians Act Thursday morning.

No firm date for possible sale of plant

The Brooks plant employs about 2,200 people. JBS says there is no firm date for buying XL Foods,  as the company's first priority is to get the Brooks plant up and running first.

JBS USA, whose Brazilian parent company claims it is the world's largest animal protein processor, will run the XL plant for 60 days and has an exclusive option to buy the Canadian and U.S. operations of XL Foods.

XL will continue to manage its other Canadian and U.S. operations during the option period.

The company also announced it will be giving $20,000 to the Brooks food bank, which saw a spike in traffic after roughly 2,000 XL workers were temporarily laid off on Oct. 13.