Michigan family farms partner in pork processing plant

New facility will also benefit the state's corn and soybean growers.

The Clemens Food Group, based in Hatfield, Penn., has partnered with a group of family-owned pork producers, five of whom are from Michigan, to build a 550,000 square-foot facility that will be capable of processing 10,000 hogs daily when the plant opens in late 2017 or early 2018. 

“We are happy to see the growth of our hog division in partnership with other great family farms,” said Jim Cooper, CEO of Cooper Farms. “This includes not only the Clemens family, but also the eight other family farms which will be providing high quality hogs to the plant with us.”

The plant in southern Michigan is strategically located in an area near the state’s borders with Ohio and Indiana, and is close to the partnering farms like Cooper Farms that are raising hogs. The plant also is accessible to what is anticipated to be an available strong workforce in Coldwater and the surrounding communities.

“Clemens is pleased to be partnering with nine family farms, who will raise hogs for our new fresh pork processing plant in Michigan,” said Doug Clemens, chief executive officer, Clemens Food Group. “These families have deep roots in pork production; share our commitment to the production of safe, wholesome, high-quality pork; and more importantly, the values they hold and the integrity of their business practices align well with those of our family.”

The initiative to locate a pork processing plant in Michigan was farmer-led by a group of Michigan pork producers who joined with the state to conduct a feasibility study on the viability of the project. The study cited opportunities such as increased demand in the global pork market, the lack of similar resources currently available in the state, and accessibility and transportation benefits.

According to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Strategic Fund had approved actions to support construction of a new fresh pork processing facility in Coldwater.  The project is expected to generate $255.7 million in total capital investment and create more than 800 new jobs in Michigan.

“This is exciting news for not only the pork industry, but all of agriculture and the state’s economy,” said Sam Hines, executive vice president of the Michigan Pork Producers Association, the East Lansing-based trade group representing the state’s 2,100 pig farmers.  “When Thorn Apple Valley in Detroit closed in 1998, it was the seventh largest pork processing facility in the country.  Since that time, Michigan producers have operated at a competitive disadvantage by having to ship all of their hogs out of the state to be processed.” 

Despite this, Hines says Michigan producers have maintained a steady level of production consistently producing around 2 million hogs annually. 

“A new state of the art processing plant is great news for the pork industry, but it’s also great news for the state’s corn and soybean farmers and a host of other businesses that will benefit from the economic activity created by this new investment,” concluded Hines.

Michigan currently ranks 13th among the states in pork production.  The state’s 2 million market hogs generated $356 million in cash receipts in 2012 and $600 million in total economic activity.  Michigan pork production businesses employ 8,800 people directly and total employment from hog production is estimated at 10,800.

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