New Packing Plants Mean New Opportunities for the Pork Industry

By Garth Ruff, Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator with The Ohio State University Extension in Henry County.

Previously printed in Defiance Crescent-News

This past September was a monumental month for the US pork industry as two major pork packing plants opened their doors for business. With the opening of the Triumph-Seaboard facility in Iowa and the Clemens Food Group plant in Coldwater, Michigan the industry has added more harvest capacity in the just the past month than it has ever added in a given years’ time.

Each plant when fully operational, will be able to harvest and process around 10,000 head of market hogs during a single shift. It will take some time to get to that point as both plants will take a couple of months to ramp up for full production. However, when that time comes there will be an additional 100,000 pigs per week to be marketed from Midwest hog farms.

So what does this mean? First off, it means expanding the footprint of the swine industry. The owners of these plants also own sows and have been increasing the size of their herds in order to fill shackle spaces in the new harvest facilities. Moreover, with expansion of the breeding herd comes a need for an increased number of contract finishing facilities to take young pigs to market weight.

In response to the Coldwater plant coming on-line there has been tremendous interest in building new swine finishing barns in the Tri-State area (Northern Indiana, Northwest/Western Ohio, and Southern Michigan) from many of the major integrators and investors in the industry. This area is heavily sought after by pig owners due to the close proximity to the Clemens plant. It has been estimated that around 100 new hog finishing facilities will be built across the Buckeye State alone, with the majority of new construction being in West Central and Northwestern Ohio. A number of these barns have been recently completed or are in the planning stages. By moving pigs closer to the harvest facility, transportation costs are greatly reduced, which can result in significant savings when producer margins are slim.

In talking with some integrators, they are looking for hard working, ambitious farmers that have the skill set to be successful pig growers. In addition, they are looking for potential growers who are also in the right location with respect to environmental stewardship, which brings up a whole other challenge. Manure and nutrient management planning are a top priority for growers and integrators when deciding where to build a swine facility, as is the responsibility of being a good neighbor, with respect to odor and dust control. There are a number of resources available to assist in evaluating potential barn sites, economics, and opportunities for any farmer interested in becoming a contract swine grower.

The second opportunity provided by increased harvest capacity, is the opportunity to increase pork consumption, both in this country and abroad. A considerable amount of the additional pork produced by these new plants will be exported. As the middle class continues to grow in developing countries, particularly in Eastern Asia, their demand for American pork has increased. While increasing pork exports is a goal of the industry, there is still room to grow domestic demand. In recent years barbecue and fast food restaurants have added more pork to their menus. Therefore, the next time you’re at a barbecue joint opt for pulled pork, or go ahead and slide another slice of bacon onto that chicken sandwich.


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