CHICAGO, July 13 (Reuters) - Smithfield Foods, the world's
largest pork processor, has stopped slaughtering pigs in the
United States' so-called ham capital, where the company was
founded 85 years ago.
The end of slaughtering in Smithfield, Virginia, is the
latest reconfiguration for the company's namesake plant and
follows a months-long internal review of its East Coast
operations, Smithfield Foods said in a statement.
The company, owned by Hong Kong-listed WH Group,
is shifting slaughtering to some of its 47 other U.S. facilities
and spending $5 million to upgrade the Virginia plant to produce
more packaged bacon, ham and other pork products, said Keira
Lombardo, chief administrative officer.
Smithfield, Virginia, is a tourist destination based on its
history as Smithfield Foods' hometown and boasts a museum
featuring the world's oldest ham.
The company retooled the plant in 2019 to ship hog carcasses
to China, the world's top pork consumer, and again last year to
supply more pork to U.S. customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. meat companies came under scrutiny during the pandemic
as plant workers got sick and died, and slaughterhouse shutdowns
highlighted supply-chain vulnerabilities.
Smithfield's facility has the capacity to kill about 10,000
hogs a day but has been slaughtering roughly 7,000 to 7,500 hogs
daily, said Steve Meyer, economist for consultancy Partners for
Production Agriculture. He said there are fewer hogs along the
eastern seaboard after farms closed.
"Taking that plant out probably doesn't have much of an
impact," Meyer said. "It leaves us snug as a country as far as
hog supply verses capacity this fall."
One East Coast hog supplier, Maxwell Foods, said last year
it would close and filed a breach of contract lawsuit against
Smithfield Foods, which named a new chief executive on
Friday, will reassign some of the Virginia plant's 1,900
employees within the facility and a small number will have
positions available at other locations, according to the
(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and