No Smithfield Ham?

Published 5:51 pm Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Salt cure smokehouse closed, alternatives studied

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The ham that gave Smithfield its worldwide acclaim is currently not being cured and smoked in town — and whether that product will be processed here in the future is not now known.  

The smokehouse used to cure the Genuine Smithfield ham is no longer in operation.

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 “The 3B Smokehouse is at the end of its useful life,” said Foods Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs Keira Lombardo in an email. 

“Production volume of our Genuine Smithfield Ham is extremely low, at just 100,000 pounds per year, which is essentially a rounding error when considered in the context of our three billion-pound U.S. packaged meats business. We currently have adequate inventory to meet the demand for our Genuine Smithfield Ham for quite some time. This affords us the opportunity to assess alternatives for the production of our Genuine Smithfield Ham while continuing to supply this product to our loyal consumers,” wrote Lombardo. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The 3B smokehouse is used only for the Genuine Smithfield Ham and no other products are impacted, said Lombardo, adding that the company’s other packaged meat produced produced in Smithfield are manufactured at the North plant. 

Lombardo did not indicate how long the inventory would last. 

The Genuine Smithfield Ham is not only a brand, it is defined by the Code of Virginia. 

Hams cured in the old-fashioned, country method, by preserving them with salt, then smoking and aging them, are generally known as Virginia-type hams. 

A Genuine Smithfield Ham is one of those, but it must be processed, treated, smoked, aged and salt-cured for at least six months within the Smithfield town limits, according to 3.2-5419 of the Code of Virginia. 

However, a ham cured by any method and anywhere by the pork conglomerate can be branded with the company’s trademark and thus be a “Smithfield” ham — just not a “Genuine Smithfield Ham.”

The law was originally passed in 1926 and at that time, stipulated that the pigs be peanut-fed and raised in the “peanut belt” of Virginia and North Carolina. 

That portion of the law was repealed in 1966. By that time, few hogs raised for slaughter ever saw a peanut.

The law was enacted because “competitors outside the town were calling their lower-quality hams “Smithfield Ham,” according to a family history by P.D. Gwaltney Jr.

Today, Smithfield Foods is the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer and employs more than 50,000 people in North America and Europe. 

In 2013, the company was purchased by Shuanghui, later the WH Group of China. 

Smithfield Foods’ corporate headquarters, as well as Smithfield Packing, continue to be located within the town limits of Smithfield, as does the smokehouse that has been taken out of production. Here in town, the company produces fresh pork, bacon, sausage and smoked meats as well as pet food ingredients, according to its website.

The company also sells a variety of ham products besides its Genuine Smithfield ham, to include a country ham, the Charles Henry Gray ham, a spiral sliced country whole honey glazed ham and more, according to the Smithfield Marketplace website.   {/mprestriction}