Smithfield ends online sales of ‘genuine’ ham

Published 4:50 pm Monday, November 20, 2023

As the season for holiday hams approaches, those wanting to purchase the salt-cured cut of meat that made Smithfield the famed “ham capital of the world” will have to look to brick-and-mortar stores this year.

The Smithfield Marketplace website operated by Smithfield Foods, which in past years had allowed the buying and shipping of brand-name “Genuine Smithfield Hams” online, was discontinued on Oct. 18, according to an email sent to past customers.

“Smithfield country, spiral cut and other hams are an important part of our heritage and remain available at retail outlets nationwide,” the email states.

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According to Jim Monroe, vice president of corporate affairs for Smithfield, the company’s online store served “a relatively small number of people.”

“The volume of orders on Marketplace did not justify its ongoing maintenance, hence our decision to focus on distribution via retail outlets,” Monroe said.

The website, still viewable as of Nov. 10, listed a fully-cooked, bone-in, 12- to 15-pound Genuine Smithfield Ham at a price of just under $200, with a note that “ordering is unavailable.”

The Genuine Smithfield Ham is one type of what the company calls “country hams,” which, according to Monroe, remain available for purchase at Taste of Smithfield, a restaurant and retail outlet on Main Street affiliated with the company.

Spiral-cut hams, rather than the Genuine Smithfield Ham, are the “overwhelming ham of choice during the holidays,” Monroe said.

Genuine Smithfield Hams can only be marketed as such if they are created by the “long-cure, dry salt method” and aged for a minimum of six months, all “within the corporate limits of the town of Smithfield,” reads a Virginia state law.

According to past reporting by the Times, the law dates to 1926 and at that time required that pigs be peanut-fed and raised in the “peanut belt” of Virginia and North Carolina, a provision that was repealed in 1966. The law was last amended and re-enacted in 2008.