Feeding the World, One Hog at a Time
Nation’s Newest Fresh Pork Processing Facility Realizes Company’s Calling to “Feed the World”
What is the most consumed meat in the world? Beef, right?
The answer is pork, and in a big way. Pork is the most widely-consumed animal protein in the world, and U.S.-produced pork is in strong global demand. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), nearly a quarter (22.8%) of U.S. pork production goes toward exports, and January-June 2017 pork exports were up by 310.8 million pounds (12.2%) compared to the same period last year. Mexico, the largest international customer for the U.S., accounted for more than half the increase in America’s pork exports compared to January-June 2016.
This year is also significant since U.S. pork processing capacity is growing more than any other year in recent history, marked by the September production start for Clemens Food Group’s new 650,000 s.f. fresh pork processing plant in Coldwater, Michigan, capable of processing 11,000 hogs per day.
In 1946, after their original plant burned to the ground, the grandfather and two great-uncles of current Clemens CEO Doug Clemens purchased the Hatfield Packing Company in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, where the company is currently headquartered. What was a 40,000 s.f. plant at the time has expanded through renovations and additions to encompass more than 1.2 million s.f. “With renovation and remodeling on this scale, not everything is ideally where you want it to be,” Clemens explains. Being a multi-story facility, efficient product flow is compromised as well.
With the world’s appetite for pork growing so strongly, Clemens Food Group had been seeking expansion opportunities for at least the past decade. “About three years ago, we were approached by a group of Michigan pork producers for a feasibility study because Michigan was the only state in the Midwest without a pork processing facility,” Clemens says. Trough further dialogue, including Ohio and Indiana pork producers, Clemens decided to locate their first-ever greenfield project site in Coldwater, Michigan, positioned “square in the middle of pork supply coming from 150 miles in any given direction.”
“We are not doing traditional manufacturing of assembling products from individual parts,” Clemens explains. “We’re starting with biological raw material and deconstructing it into parts we can process and sell.” Clemens further explains that the Coldwater plant will be a fresh processing facility. “We will harvest animals, cut and debone into primal pieces, and freeze and ship to Hatfield for further processing into bacon, chops, sausages and other value-added products. Hatfield has the ovens, smokehouses, slicing lines, and end-consumer production capabilities, while at this time, Coldwater is strictly fresh pork processing.”
Fresh pork harvesting involves four basic “primal” cuts: shoulders (pork shoulder roasts, boneless blade Boston roasts and ground pork for sausage); sides (spare ribs, back ribs and pork bellies for bacon); legs (fresh and cured hams); and loins (chops and tenderloins). In Clemens terminology, everything including the oink has a processing purpose. And with the food industry being heavily regulated, process technology, data reporting, efficiency and worker safety were a top priority for the new plant. The new Coldwater facility is not only poised to contribute globally, but it will also invigorate the local economy. The operation itself is creating 830 full-time jobs, including skilled trades (electricians, plumbers and process engineers), production line, maintenance and sanitation workers. “In addition, 2.6 million hogs need to be processed annually,” Clemens says. “That means increased demand for hogs, feedstock, livestock haulers, agricultural equipment, packaging materials – it all cascades down.”
Clemens Food Group defines itself as a vertically coordinated company that encompasses hog farming, production, logistical services and transportation. “By creating a responsive pork production system, we are able to focus on supplying the highest-quality products to our partners via a sustainable system while providing advanced solutions that simplify our partners’ operations.” All this takes place under a long-established set of company values of ethics, integrity and stewardship. “We’re grateful to be a part of this,” Clemens says. “We’re called to feed the world.”