- Real Estate
- Food & Drink
July 29, 2019
By Rob Swenson, for SiouxFalls.Business
Upgrades at the Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls will help the company meet increasing demand for pork in the United States and the world, according to corporate and industry officials.
Parts of a $45 million plant improvement project announced last December have been completed, and the remaining work is expected to be finished by the end of the year, according to plant manager Mark Wiggs.
Improvements included production-line upgrades designed to increase the output of bacon for U.S. consumption and seasoned ground pork for export.
“These upgrades are complete and currently ramping up production,” Wiggs said. “Renovations to our hog barn and receiving area, which should be completed by the end of 2019, include modern features and design that reflect leading animal-care practices, such as automatic climate-control systems.”
Wiggs provided written answers to a series of questions recently submitted by SiouxFalls.Business to Smithfield’s national communications office.
Smithfield employs approximately 3,600 people at its Sioux Falls plant, making it one of the largest employers in Sioux Falls, and the company expects to add 70 jobs following completion of renovation and expansion work. Sanford Health and Avera Health are the only two private employers in Sioux Falls with bigger workforces.
Smithfield Foods’ Sioux Falls plant was built in 1909 and has been part of the area business community for 110 years. Virginia-based Smithfield acquired the plant from John Morrell & Co. in 1995.
In 2013, Smithfield was purchased by WH Group Ltd., then known as the Shuanghui Group or Shineway Group. Smithfield operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of WH Group, which is based in Hong Kong and is the largest pork company in the world.
Smithfield describes itself as a $15 billion food company and the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer. In the United States, products are sold under several brand names, including Smithfield, Nathan’s Famous, Armour, John Morrell, Gwaltney and Curly’s.
The Sioux Falls plant is Smithfield’s second-largest processing facility and the largest producer of packaged meats in the United States, Wiggs said.
“Smithfield’s Sioux Falls operations play a significant role in helping the company meet the demands of international customers and consumers,” he said.
The United States produces roughly 25 percent more pork than can be consumed domestically, according to Smithfield. Pork is the most consumed protein in the world, and 95 percent of the world’s population lives outside the U.S.
“U.S. farmers and processors are dependent on healthy export markets around the world. Smithfield is one of a number of U.S. pork processors who export a portion of their production — some of which comes from Sioux Falls — to a diverse set of international markets,” Wiggs said.
“As domestic demand for bacon continues to grow, the company’s investments in high-speed lines in Sioux Falls will increase the volume, yield and quality of our bacon, enhancing our product offering and leading market position,” he said.
Glenn Muller, executive director of the South Dakota Pork Producers Council, said farmers in the region “are thrilled” by improvements being made at Smithfield’s plant.
“The general public and maybe the business community have a perception of the plant being an old, antiquated facility, but I think this demonstrates their willingness to upgrade. The inside of the facility is well maintained and has a lot of the latest technology,” Muller said.
“It’s an integral part of the swine industry to have a harvesting facility in our state,” he said.
Hog production in South Dakota and the region has been growing in recent years. Production has increased at an annual rate of 10 percent to 13 percent for about the past five years, Muller said.
The processing plant is a good example of how the agricultural and business communities need each other and work together, he said. Farmers provide resources, and companies such as Smithfield add processing and marketing expertise.
“They have access to domestic and international markets. That’s critically important as the industry expands,” Muller said.
Smithfield’s plant remains an important business in Sioux Falls, and “we’re glad they’re here,” said Bob Mundt, president and CEO of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.
“From an economic development and employment perspective, they are a very large part of this community. They are continuing to make really big improvements to their plant. They are continuing to become more productive and be a vital part of this community,” Mundt said.
Smithfield touts its civic participation. During the past 15 years, company employees have donated almost $7.5 million to the Sioux Empire United Way and other charitable endeavors.
The Smithfield Foundation, the philanthropic branch of Smithfield Foods, recently donated $125,000 to Midwest Honor Flight to sponsor a September trip to Washington, D.C., for 83 military veterans.
Did you know the Sioux Falls Smithfield plant is the nation’s largest producer of packaged meats? We have a rare interview with company leadership on recent upgrades there.