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Meat Shortage Fears Disappear as Smithfield Announces Closure of California Slaughterhouse

A couple years ago, Smithfield Foods told us there’d be a meat shortage if they shut down their slaughterhouse in Sioux Falls for a couple-three weeks to prevent the spread of coronavirus. But no fears of a meat shortage are stopping Smithfield from permanently closing its Farmer John meatpacking plant in Vernon, California, and reduce its herd in Utah:

Smithfield Foods, Inc. today announced that it will cease all harvest and processing operations in Vernon, California in early 2023 and, at the same time, align its hog production system by reducing its sow herd in its Western region. The company will decrease its sow herd in Utah and is exploring strategic options to exit its farms in Arizona and California. Smithfield harvests only company-owned hogs in Vernon. Smithfield will service customers in California with its Farmer John brand and other brands and products from existing facilities in the Midwest.

Smithfield is taking these steps due to the escalating cost of doing business in California [Smithfield Foods, press release, 2022.06.10].

Smithfield acquired Farmer John, which made Dodger Dogs seven miles Dodger Stadium, in 2017. Evidently Smithfield doesn’t need the Vernon plant’s production capacity or its 1,500 workers (less than half the workforce at Smithfield’s Sioux Falls slaughterhouse) to meet America’s nutritional needs… or maybe now with their profit margins booming, Smithfield figures it can lower production, cut more costs, and ratchet those profits even higher.

23 Comments

  1. P. Aitch 2022-06-10 14:47

    The cost of doing business in California should not be considered in its entirety as the state is made-up of at least nine distinct economic regions with differing labor, energy, state and local taxes, and office rental costs, which collectively result in the 8th largest economy in the world.

  2. P. Aitch 2022-06-10 15:55

    Also, the “cost of business is too high” is a tired excuse heavily polluting hog killers use when the truth is incriminating.
    – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement today of alleged Clean Air Act violations at the Farmer John slaughterhouse and meat-packing facility in Vernon.
    Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp. and Clougherty Packing will pay $237,537 in civil penalties to resolve the allegations, according to the EPA. In addition, both entities made safety improvements to the facility to ensure the protection of their employees and the public. – 05-17-2022

    https://www.whittierdailynews.com/2022/05/17/smithfields-slaughterhouse-in-vernon-fined-237537/amp/

  3. O 2022-06-10 16:15

    Actions like these, where profit is put above national interests, SHOULD force a reexamination of the LLC/Cooperation protections the government grants (and the taxpayers pay for).

  4. mike from iowa 2022-06-10 17:52

    I was of the belief that packers were no longer allowed to grow their own and compete with potential customers.

  5. larry kurtz 2022-06-11 07:23

    In red states like South Dakota freedom equals the right to pollute.

    Recall Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling or MCOOL was repealed during the second Obama term to shield American commodities from scrutiny because every ag product, meats both wild and domestic not grown organically in the United States is contaminated with atrazine, neonicotinoids, glyphosate, dicamba, DDT, mercury, lead, cadmium, PFAS, E. coli, Imazalil plus other toxins and pathogens.

  6. Sam@2 2022-06-11 10:03

    We will see more companies leave Blue States. You can not compete with lower costs from outside the country and states that offer more common sense regulation. Example a semi tractor that is not T4 is not allowed to travel in CA.

    Liberalism results in increase cost that hurt the people The Who can least afford a cost of living increase. (Low Income.)

    Record Inflation, record gas prices (Highest in CA) California is also a top state people are leaving.

    I applaud Smithfield for their move.

  7. P. Aitch 2022-06-11 10:08

    Me, too Sam@2.
    Let’s concentrate our pollution in places that welcome it and leave the rest of America to pursue the beautiful and the clean.

  8. mike from iowa 2022-06-11 10:18

    Liberals intend to leave a world that is at least inhabitable for humans, magats not withstanding. Libs didn’t create these problems, but, are usually taxed with fixing them and that means dragging the entire magat party along as dead weight to ptogress.

  9. jerry 2022-06-11 12:21

    California has a higher GDP than the UK or France and is cleaner…While South Dakota barely has a higher GDP than Denny Sanford. I think California is doing things the right way in a left way.

  10. Ken West 2022-06-11 12:48

    Lazy article. Not one mention that Smithfield is totally Chinese owned. Why would they care. Idiot authors try to make this a blue vs red state. Lazy writers. Blog is garbage

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-11 17:22

    Lazy, Ken? No, not really. Chinese ownership in this case seems to be irrelevant to the point discussed. Smithfield was owned by the Chinese in 2020 when US-based CEO Ken Sullivan claimed there was a meat shortage as the company’s justification for not closing the Sioux Falls packing plant and continuing to subject its employees to preventable risk of coronavirus For the sake of a steady flow of wiener profits. Smithfield is still owned by the Chinese now, and their professed concern about the meat shortage has apparently disappeared. Ownership is irrelevant. Far from lazy, this blog actually shows the effort I made to think about their well-known Chinese ownership, think about whether that issue was relevant to the post, and then actually edit out that mention based on my editorial decision. So rather than unthinkingly spewing out every fact that we already know about Smithfield, I chose to focus on the relevant details to produce a concise and thus superior blog post.

    And Ken, how many concise, informative blog posts have you written this year?

  12. P. Aitch 2022-06-11 20:17

    You don’t need to challenge Ken West, Mr. H. He’s hurting and needs an outlet before he takes up aggression in other ways, ‘ya know. I enjoyed reading his four statements and one question. He DID refer to us as “authors” and not that other “a” word.

  13. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-06-11 20:27

    Gor blimey, wot meat shortages? I’ve a can o’ 2012 mutton kidneys in me pantry, an’ a can o’ Spam from 2017 the same, lads.
    OK, all bad dialects and satire aside, what’s with the fascination with meat? I’m by no means a vegetarian or vegan; just a poor person. I have complained about the silly-assed price of trashy hotdogs people insist on taking to tail-gate parties in Nebraska and Iowa, but that says more about their “intellect” than mine.
    Once I quit feeding five male in-law leeches living in my house, I was relieved to quit buying and cooking meat. I occasionally get five-pound frozen packages of chicken hindquarters from Senior Commodities, but I cook and feed them to my cats. I can live on noodles boiled in the chickenstock, tossed with commodities cheez, but the cats I “inherited” from dead friends need meat.
    Do more with less. We all can, and these discussions about meat availabilty would fade away.
    Well, sh*t, I sound like a WWII rationing booklet.

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-12 09:01

    P, I felt obliged to lay a marker down against Ken’s lazy drive-by dismissal of facts he found unpleasant. If he wants to come back and grind his xenophobe/Sinophobe axe in a thoughtful conversation, I welcome him. But I want to make clear for anyone else scrolling through the comments that his one-off attack doesn’t hold water and that the journalistic standards of this blog far exceed Ken’s lazy reading and riposte.

    I’ll even spot Ken a tenable position: maybe Smithfield’s Chinese owners are out to destroy America. Maybe in spring 2020, the Chinese gained the greatest advantage by fighting to keep their packing plant open and help coronavirus spread more quickly in America. Now in summer 2022, as we have safe and effective vaccines to beat back the coronavirus threat, the Chinese are shifting their attack on America to dismantling our meat-processing capacity to undermine our food security (although, given China’s own growing demand for meat, shutting down their American facilities seems counter-productive). That position is based entirely on speculation, but thanks to my concise, fact-based post on the documented hypocrisy of Smithfield’s position on plant closings and meat shortages, I have opened the door for Ken and other interested parties to conduct that speculation here in the comment section.

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-12 09:06

    Bonnie, I largely agree with your cooking inclination. Meat is more of a hassle than other foods. Costs more, takes longer to prepare, harder to clean up, harder to keep from spoiling, and complicates composting.

    But I still enjoy the occasional hot dog.

  16. larry kurtz 2022-06-12 11:03

    @Sam Kephart: if companies are fleeing blue states explain Jim Neiman’s choice to buy sawmills in Colorado and Oregon theN close one in South Dakota.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-12 13:26

    Thanks for linking to that article, Donald. The very smart and definitely not lazy author of that article spoke with four pork producers and a spokesman for Big Pig and didn’t hear any of the visceral outrage toward China that Ken blurts in his drive-by gripe. Those pork producers in 2013 all sounded pretty eager for Chinese ownership of Smithfield to open China’s market to their product.

  18. O 2022-06-12 19:58

    Sam@2, what exactly is “common sense regulation?” When I hear that term, it is most often from the Right and is code for allow companies (or more precisely their shareholders) to profit by any means. Given the vast resources from the government/tax payers that companies enjoy, it seems “common sense” to me for them to have social responsibility for how they make profit. Labor/wages, environment/pollution, competition/monopoly issues all come into play for what I would call “common sense.” States that allow exploitation of labor, or natural, or market resources — forcing the government to step in and financially back fill those corporate policies is NOT “common sense.”

    The Red State migration has a limit: workers will grow tired to the exploitation that becomes more and more magnified until we will see a worker revolt.

    Conservatism results in decrease costs that hurt people. People ARE the costs being reduced.

  19. Donald Pay 2022-06-12 21:57

    O, You are absolutely right. Companies that don’t want to be regulated to make their processes safe for workers and consumers should be ushered out of business pronto. The reason why a Chinese outfit wanted to buy Smithfield in the first place was to import safe food, and learn how to operate a meatpacking operation that could produce safe food in their country. That meant regulation, which they have been ratcheting up. In fact, they have reduced their imports of US meat products because of lax regulation, especially during the Covid outbreak. China had much stricter regulation that assured workers did not come down with covid. That not only was to assure safe food, but to assure supply lines were maintained. The lax regulation really hurt US exports.

    My daughter related a story about the lack of such regulation in China leading to considerable problems with food contamination when she first started working there. That’s something China figured out they had to change through stronger regulation. Prior to the Beijing Olympics they had to import a considerable amount of food (particularly organic products) because there were concerns about food safety. among the athletes. So, with regulation and learning how the US and EU regulates, they have made strides in improving food safety.

  20. All Mammal 2022-06-13 01:59

    Sam-Ken@Algebra sure seem suspect. Ian Fury, is that you?

  21. mike from iowa 2022-06-13 08:24

    What ever became of OSHA? Remember the magat brouhaha over Dems passing repetitive motion injuries legislation?

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