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Sending piggies to the market: Smithfield Foods Inc. reflects on their impact as one of the largest employers in Sampson County and their local communities

By Jenna Shackelford, posted 11 months ago
PHOTO PROVIDED BY GFBJ
Smithfield reports that their pork-processing facility in Clinton employs approximately 1,600 people.

Smithfield Foods, Inc., a pork producer and manufacturing company that was founded in Virginia in 1936, employs 60,000 people across the United States, Europe and Mexico. In the rural area of Sampson County, one of its facilities is reaching into a variety of sectors and community organizations to the benefit of the region. 

According to the NC Pork Council, the hog and pork processing industry is booming in North Carolina. In fact, they report that for each “job in pork production, an estimated 2.2 additional jobs are created, meaning the industry supports more than 44,000 total jobs in North Carolina.” 

Moreover, Sampson County ranks second in the state for hog production, and Sampson is the top county for agriculture in the state. 

The organization says that the pork industry accounts for 6,100 jobs in the county; Smithfield reports that their pork-processing facility in Clinton employs approximately 1,600 people. 

According to North Carolina Department of Commerce data, Smithfield Foods was the largest employer in Sampson County in 2022. 

Smithfield Foods further boosts the agricultural landscape by partnering with more than 2,100 contract growers in the United States who raise hogs for the company. 

“We are grateful for our partnerships with our contract growers. They play a vital role in our ongoing mission to produce good food the right way,” said Ray Atkinson, director of external communications for Smithfield Foods. 

According to North Carolina’s Sampson County Economic Development Commission’s 2022 Annual Report, the top industry in the county is “agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting.” 

The company hopes that their agricultural efforts will make an impact on the industry nationwide. “Smithfield Foods has pledged $10 million over the next three years to build a stronger, more inclusive agricultural future,” said Atkinson, “by financially and technically supporting America’s minority farmers.” 

Smithfield has made great strides to improve their sustainability – something they have been a leader in for over 20 years. “We were the first in our industry to announce an absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emission-reduction goal and first to commit to becoming carbon negative by 2030,” Atkinson said. 

In fact, as of last year, Smithfield Foods was on track to accomplish those goals. Across the country’s facilities, the company hopes to reduce GHG by 30 percent. They also aim to get 50 percent of their electricity needs met by renewable resources. 

“We’re converting manure into renewable energy at our hog farms in North Carolina, Missouri and Utah, displacing methane emissions and powering local energy grids with clean, renewable low-carbon renewable natural gas,” said Atkinson. 

In Sampson County, all of the Smithfield Foods facilities and farms are International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001 certified. 

“ISO 14001 specifies the requirements for an environmental management system that organizations can use to enhance their environmental performance,” Atkinson said. 

The ISO, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is an organization with a membership of 168 national standard bodies. The independent non-governmental organization crosses international barriers to publish and develop standardization across several different sectors. 

While Smithfield Foods’ impact reaches into the energy, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors, it doesn’t stop there. The company strives to serve the community through partnerships and other support. To name a few, here are some contributions made by Smithfield to Sampson County:

  • A $20,000 contribution to the Clinton Police Department in 2022 to purchase a bomb-sniffing dog 
  • A First Responder Appreciation Luncheon to acknowledge the work of EMS, firefighters, and law enforcement
  • Support in fundraising activities for Clinton Kiwanis and Clinton Rotary 
  • Support in fundraising activities for Sampson Community College Foundation and an additional annual donation of five $1,000 scholarships
  • Support and assistance for fundraising efforts for the Sampson Regional Medical Center Foundation 
  • Sponsors of annual Coharie People’s Coharie Pow Wow
  • The company also connected with a veteran engagement program called Helping Our Heroes. HOH aids veterans in finding employment and gaining career development skills. Smithfield Foods aims to hire 4,000 veterans by the end of 2025. 
  • For the most part, the facility is fully staffed; when Smithfield is searching for new hires; however, Atkinson said there are ample reasons for job-seekers to apply. “We offer good pay and robust, flexible and affordable benefit plans and programs to support our employees and their families,” Atkinson said. 
  • Additionally, full-time and part-time members of the Smithfield team are eligible for free tuition for a variety of degree and certificate programs as part of an education program in partnership with Guild. The partnership also offers partial funding for other learning programs. 
  • “Smithfield offers more than 200 fully or partially funded programs across 60+ learning partners, including college degrees and certificates in high-growth areas like business, technology, engineering, sustainability and more; high school completion and college preparatory programs; and English language learning,” Atkinson said. 
  • Some of the people on staff in Sampson County have been on board for 40-45 years, Atkinson said, with family members who have come to work at Smithfield Foods as well. The company looks forward to continuing to support and growing with their home in Clinton, NC. 
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