Approximately 300 Swift & Co meatpacking workers will lose their jobs because the Japanese ban on beef imports has driven down price margins and forced an industry downturn, the company said.

 “This is a challenging, low-margin industry in the midst of the most challenging conditions of its life,” Sean McHugh, a Swift spokesman, told US reporters. “The prices of cattle are extremely high and they’re also high in relation to the value of the boxed beef.

Swift, the world’s second-largest processor of beef and pork with yearly sales of US$10bn, plans to shutdown one of its two packing shifts at the Greeley plant.

Additionally, Swift’s meatpacking plant in Nebraska has been prohibited from shipping beef to Japan, the US Department of Agriculture revealed today (17 February). The plant selected cattle suppliers without the approval of its corporate headquarters, a violation of export rules that turned up in a routine audit this week, the USDA said.