Live-cattle prices were at $92 per hundredweight when the United States' discovered its single bovine spongiform encephalopathy case. Prices dropped 20 percent in less than three weeks. However, that market is showing signs of stabilizing, with prices now around $78 per hundredweight.
Some market analysts think live-cattle prices could recover to near pre-BSE levels in the next 60 to 90 days. The fact that the one infected dairy cow was traced back to Canada might even help the United States regain its BSE-free status.
But, the United States exports 10 percent of its beef production, and with more than 30 countries halting U.S. beef imports following the BSE discovery it's causing problems for processors.
Tyson Foods officials report that they have had to lay off 40 employees because of the effects of lost export markets. Cargill Meat Solutions has already released hundreds of workers as the result of the import ban, and Swift & Co. has excused 230 workers at five of its plants.
"We're hoping for a speedy resolution to the import ban," says Ed Nicholson, Tyson spokesperson. He indicated that the company is moving additional workers to other jobs, in an effort to limit the need for additional layoffs.
However, with the type of market shake up that issues like BSE causes, full recovery can be slow and tedious. It can take some time for the impact to trickle through all the participants int he the food chain.
"The small niche processors who produce unique products specifically for the export market are the ones who could be hurt the most," says John Maday, associate editor for Drovers Magazine.
Long term, some of those may not be able to recover.