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Case Studies

Public Response to Smithfield

This article details both the economic and environmentalist reactions to Smithfield Foods opening its 850-acre slaughterhouse plant in Tar Heel, NC. Employees of the industry argue that Smithfield's presence is a blessing in what would otherwise be an economic wasteland where unemployment exceeds 10% in certain parts of rural North Carolina. Environmentalists are concerned that the plant is contaminating groundwater, creating unbearable odors, and polluting streams, rivers, and estuaries. Click here for entire story.

Dirty Money and NC Politics

Since 1991, pro-hog industry lobbyists have used their checkbooks to maintain contol over North Carolina state legislation with regard to environmental policy. Industry moguls have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaign funds of state politicians in return for lose policy under which the major industry players operate. Public outcry was finally heard in 1997, with the passage of the Clean Water Responsiblity Act. Click here for entire article.

Hurricane Floyd Impact

In 1999, Hurricane Floyd struck the North Carolina coast dumping 10-15 inches of rain in a short period of time. This proved disastrous in terms of both human lives as well as livestock lost in the torrential downpour. The greater issue however was the hurricane's impact on the open air waste disposal lagoons scattered across the eastern and southeastern areas of the state. The suddne flooding resulting in countless tons of hog waste flowing freely across the land, contaminating everything in its path. Click here for entire article.

History of Smithfield

The hog farming industry's leading company is Smithfield Foods, a Fortune 500 company with annual worldwide sales of almost $8 billion in 2003. Smithfield ranks as the industry's leading hog producer, raising over 13 million hog annually, mainly in the Southeastern region of North Carolina. This tremendous population of hogs enabled Smithfield to produce about 2.6 billion pounds of fresh pork in 2003, also an industry standard. In 2001, Smithfield expanded into the beef industry and is already the nation's 5th leading beef producer.

Founded in 1936 in Smithfield, VA, Smithfield Foods overcame financial difficulties in the 1970s under the leadership of Joseph W. Luter III, who began an expansion of the company during the early 1980s that still continues today. Smithfield Foods has made 25 acquisitions since 1981, transforming the company into a global leader in the pork and beef industries.

Table and information courtesy of Smithfield Foods

Beginning in the early 1990s, Smithfield and the rest of the major hog farming companies moved toward vertical integration. Vertical integration involves a company gaining the ability to control as many stages of production of a certain industry as possible. Smithfield took a major step in vertical integration in 1990 when it flew 2,000 specially bred sows to the United States from Britain's National Pig Development Company that were to comprise the Smithfield Lean Generation Pork line, which was certified by the American Heart Association for its low fat, sodium, and cholesterol content.

Additionally, through its own hog production and contracts with other hog farmers in North Carolina, Smithfield is able to control all aspects of hog production from "squeal to meal", according to the president of The Smithfield Packing Company, Lewis Little.

Smithfield's diversity is best demonstrated by showing some of its best known brands.

Graphics courtesy of Smithfield Foods



© 2004. last updated: April 28, 2004
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