Smithfield Foods to shutter California meat-packing plant

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VERNON (Calif.) Meat-packing giant Smithfield Foods announced Friday that it will close its California plant next year due to the rising cost of doing business in California.

The Farmer John meat packing plant in Vernon, a suburb south of Los Angeles will close in February. Its 1 ,800 employees will receive severance and job support, along with bonuses, Jim Monroe, vice-president of corporate affairs.

Some workers who earn an average of $21 an hour will also have the opportunity to relocate to other facilities that are owned by Smithfield Foods Inc .

The Vernon plant processes pigs and packages bacon. Smithfield will move some operations to other Midwest facilities, but Smithfield is reducing its Utah sow herd due to the overall reduction of processing capacity. The company said it is looking at ways to exit its Arizona and California farms.

Monroe stated that operating costs in California are higher than elsewhere in the country. This includes taxes and the cost of water, electricity, and natural gas.

” California’s utility costs are 3 1/2 times more per head than in other areas where they do the same work,” he stated.

The shutdown will not reduce or increase product supply. Farmer John Products will continue to be sold in California, Monroe stated.

” There will be no impact on our customers,” Monroe said.

The Vernon plant has been repeatedly protested by animal rights activists for its treatment of hogs. It also was hard-hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, with some 300 employees exposed to infections in 2020. Many were admitted to hospital.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health fined Smithfield Foods about $60,000 for safety violations that exposed workers to infection.

Smithfield Foods was founded in Smithfield, Virginia, in 1936 and according to its website provides more than 40,000 jobs in the United States. It was acquired 2013 in Hong Kong by the WH Group.

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