Where Is Smithfield Bacon Processed? What You Need To Know

Are you a fan of Smithfield bacon? Have you ever wondered where it comes from and how it’s processed?

With recent claims circulating on social media about the company’s practices, it’s important to know the facts.

Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processing company, has been in the news lately for various reasons, including allegations that hogs are raised in the U.S. and sent to China for processing before being shipped back to the U.S.

But what is the truth behind these claims?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at where Smithfield bacon is processed and what steps the company is taking to ensure its products are safe and of high quality.

Where Is Smithfield Bacon Processed?

Smithfield Foods, the company behind Smithfield bacon, is based in Smithfield, Virginia, and has facilities in several countries around the world, including the United States, Mexico, Poland, Romania, Germany, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom.

According to the company’s website, Smithfield Foods owns over 500 farms in the U.S. and contracts with another 2,000 independent farms around the country to raise its pigs. The company also has several meat-processing plants in the U.S., including its 973,000-square-foot facility in Tar Heel, North Carolina.

In recent news, Smithfield Foods announced that it will no longer slaughter animals or process pet food at its facility in Smithfield, Virginia. The company will instead be spending $5 million to reconfigure the plant to produce packaged meat like bacon, ham, and other pork products.

This decision comes after a companywide internal review that lasted several months. The review determined that the “harvest volume in Smithfield would be shifted to other existing U.S. facilities,” according to Chief Administrative Officer Keira Lombardo.

The History Of Smithfield Foods

Smithfield Foods has a long and interesting history that dates back to 1936, when Joseph W. Luter Sr. and his son, Joseph W. Luter Jr., opened the Smithfield Packing Company in Smithfield, Virginia. The company started as a small packing plant that specialized in hams, and it quickly grew to become one of the largest pork producers in the world.

In the early 1980s, Smithfield Foods began to differentiate itself from its competitors by managing its supply of hogs from conception to processing. By the end of 1998, the company was the number one pork producer in the United States and was expanding internationally.

Over the years, Smithfield Foods has acquired around 40 companies in its industry, including Gwaltney of Smithfield, Patrick Cudahy, Schluderberg-Kurdle, Eckrich, Farmland Foods of Kansas, John Morell, and Premium Standard Farms. The company is known to raise some 15 million pigs and processes some 27 million that results in the production of over 6 billion pounds of pork every year.

In 2013, Smithfield Foods sold itself to the Shuanghui Group (now known as WH Group), a Chinese multinational conglomerate, in a deal that cost a staggering 7.1 billion USD. The acquisition made WH Group one of the largest overseas owners of American farmland.

Smithfield Foods has faced criticism over its highly industrialized pig production methods, which involve confining thousands of pigs in large barns known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Despite this criticism, the company has continued to grow and expand its operations around the world.

Today, Smithfield Foods is focused on producing high-quality, affordable pork products that are enjoyed by millions of people around the world. The company remains committed to sustainability and has developed an industry-leading sustainability program focused on the environment, animal care, employees, food safety, communities, and value creation.

Smithfield’s Bacon Processing Facilities

Smithfield Foods has several bacon processing facilities in the United States, including the Cudahy plant in Wisconsin and the Martin City plant in Missouri. The Cudahy plant produces dry sausage and bacon, while the Martin City plant produces spiral and smoked hams.

Unfortunately, both of these facilities have recently been forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Martin City plant, which employs over 400 people, receives raw materials from the company’s Sioux Falls, South Dakota facility. However, this facility is closed indefinitely after more than 200 employees became infected with the virus. Without these raw materials, the Martin City plant cannot continue to operate.

Similarly, the Cudahy plant has also shuttered for two weeks due to a small number of employees testing positive for COVID-19. Both plants are located in close proximity to urban areas where community spread of the virus has been prevalent.

Despite these recent closures, Smithfield Foods remains committed to maintaining its operations and normal work schedules as part of the critical infrastructure sectors identified by the government. The company is also taking measures to protect its employees from the virus in the workplace, including following strict CDC guidance and providing personal protective equipment.

In addition to these two facilities, Smithfield Foods has other meat-processing plants throughout the United States that produce bacon and other pork products. These include its Tar Heel facility in North Carolina, which is one of the largest pork processing plants in the world.

Allegations Of Sending Hogs To China

There have been false claims circulating on social media since 2014 that Smithfield Foods, which is owned by a publicly traded company based in Hong Kong, sends hogs to China for processing before sending them back to the U.S. for sale. However, Smithfield Foods has made it clear that this is not true. The company does not import any products from China to the U.S. and all of its U.S. products are made in one of its nearly 50 facilities across America.

These false claims resurfaced recently after the closure of a Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in South Dakota due to hundreds of employees testing positive for coronavirus. While this closure has caused concerns about the meat supply in the U.S., Smithfield Foods has assured consumers that its products are still being produced in compliance with the strict standards and regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other federal and state authorities.

It is important for consumers to know that Smithfield Foods sources its pigs from North Carolina farms and others in surrounding states to make the hams, ribs, pork chops, loins, butts, sausages, and bacon that we all enjoy. The excess pork, and parts of the pig that are not consumed, are exported throughout the world. North Carolina is proud to have a robust pork industry that supports more than 44,000 jobs and contributes more than $10 billion to the state’s economy each year. Consumers can be confident in buying pork at the grocery store knowing that it is likely raised and processed in our state.

Smithfield’s Response To Allegations

Smithfield Foods has been facing allegations from the Humane Society of the United States for misrepresenting how it treats mother pigs in its pork supply chain. The company has been accused of using gestation crates for the female pigs, which are barely larger than the pig’s body, and their use is incredibly harmful to the welfare of these intelligent, sensitive animals.

In response to these allegations, attorneys for Smithfield told the federal judge that the company is implementing the new federal guidelines for meat plants as quickly as it can at its Milan, MO pork processing plant, which is the subject of the lawsuit. The company claims that none of its employees at Milan have yet tested positive for COVID-19 nor has anyone in Sullivan County, MO.

Smithfield Foods has also argued that in some company statements, it had described its continued confinement of mother pigs in crates, and therefore it did not mislead consumers. However, the District of Columbia Superior Court denied Smithfield’s motion in full and ruled that Smithfield’s various statements about eliminating the use of such crates could mislead a reasonable consumer to believe that it no longer uses gestation crates during the breeding process which it admittedly still does.

Despite these allegations and lawsuits against Smithfield Foods, the company claims to be committed to animal welfare and has invested heavily in research and development to improve its practices. The company has also implemented a number of initiatives aimed at improving animal welfare, including a goal to eliminate gestation crates on all company-owned farms by 2022.

Quality And Safety Measures In Smithfield’s Bacon Processing

When it comes to processing bacon, Smithfield Foods takes a number of quality and safety measures to ensure that its products are safe for consumers. The company adheres to several global standards for food safety management systems, including the Brand Reputation Compliance Global Standards (BRGCS), the Food Safety System Certification (FSSC) 22000, and the Safe Quality Food (SQF) certification scheme. These standards require Smithfield to implement Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans, conduct internal audits, approve suppliers, and maintain traceability of its products.

In addition to these standards, Smithfield also participates in several industry-specific programs that focus on animal welfare, environmental stewardship, and worker safety. For example, the National Pork Board’s (NPB) PQA® Plus Program is an educational program that promotes continuous improvement of production practices. It addresses food safety, animal well-being, environmental stewardship, worker safety, public health, and community. Farms that participate in this program are assessed every three years to ensure they meet PQA® Plus Site Status criteria.

Smithfield also participates in the NPB Transport Quality Assurance® (TQA®) Plus Program, which is a framework that helps transporters, producers, and handlers understand how to handle, move, and transport pigs while minimizing the potential impacts on pig well-being and pork quality.

Furthermore, Smithfield follows the North American Meat Institute’s (NAMI’s) Recommended Animal Handling Guidelines and Audit Guide when slaughtering animals. These guidelines were developed by Dr. Temple Grandin of Colorado State University and are audited by trained auditors according to the standards of the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Association (PAACO).

Finally, Smithfield has a third-party verification service called the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Process Verified Program (PVP), which provides agricultural suppliers with labeling and marketing tools that assure customers of the consistent quality of the products they purchase.

The Future Of Smithfield Foods And Bacon Processing

Smithfield Foods’ decision to shift its slaughtering operation away from Virginia and towards other existing U.S. facilities is a reflection of the changing consumer behavior and market trends in the food industry. As the demand for packaged meat products like bacon and ham continues to rise, the company is adapting its operations to meet this demand.

The reconfiguration of the Smithfield plant in Virginia will not result in any layoffs, as all impacted hourly and salaried employees will be reassigned to other positions within the plant or across Smithfield’s network of facilities. The company’s commitment to maintaining its workforce and investing in its facilities highlights its dedication to meeting the evolving needs of the food industry.

As Smithfield Foods continues to expand and adapt its operations, it will likely play a significant role in shaping the future of bacon processing and the broader food industry. By leveraging its extensive network of farms and facilities, as well as its expertise in meat processing, Smithfield is well-positioned to remain a major player in the global food market.