Letter – Whistling past the smokehouse

Published 5:38 pm Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

Some local officials are saying Smithfield Foods’ decision to stop producing “Genuine Smithfield” hams is a ho-hum business decision — a result of younger generations not knowing how to properly cook the delicacy.  Hopefully I am wrong, but this looks more like whistling past the graveyard than astute business analysis.  

Less than a year ago a Smithfield Foods spokeswoman assured this newspaper there was no need to worry about Smithfield hams, saying 2200 hams were still being produced in Smithfield per year. But here we are, and this is on the heels of Smithfield closing hog farms in Missouri and Utah as well as a plant in Charlotte. 

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When Shuanghui acquired Smithfield with Chinese government funding in 2013, it was certainly controversial. Fears about food safety dominated most of the concern, while others warned of the inherent national security concerns when a foreign entity takes control over our country’s largest pork producer. I encourage local leaders to go back and watch news coverage from 2013, especially the interview with a befuddled Larry Pope being confronted with the fact the Chinese government was behind the deal.

Ten years later, the food safety concerns have been debunked, but the national security issues have worsened. The Chinese state uses its corporations to acquire information to advance its national goals. For Smithfield, this likely meant acquiring industrial farming techniques and technology to fix an antiquated hog industry ravaged by swine flu epidemics, thereby setting the conditions to dominate the global market by flooding it with cheap pork. 

The net results are a competitive disadvantage for the U.S. pork industry and helping fuel aggressive Chinese foreign policy. Frankly, if the Smithfield acquisition were proposed today, I doubt our government would approve it due to national security concerns.

A better response from local officials would be to express sympathetic disappointment at the decision and encourage Smithfield Foods to work with the town to find a way to retain some form of the town’s legacy export. At a minimum, local officials should never help whitewash the realities of Larry Pope’s deal with the communist Chinese devil. The trend shows Smithfield Foods’ future in Smithfield is anything but certain; hopefully everyone is planning for the worse.  Whistling louder ain’t gonna cut it.


Lewis Edmonds