Sioux City officials say the John Morrell & Co. meatpacking plant, one of the city's largest employers, will close this spring. The plant has about 1,500 workers. The Sioux City plant processes hogs and produces boneless loins and other fresh pork products.

"We deeply regret having to close this facility," said Joseph B. Sebring, president of John Morrell, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods. "We recognize that layoffs and plant closings are difficult for everyone concerned. But at the same time, we believe this is a necessary business decision. The Sioux City plant is one of the oldest, most outdated and least efficient plants in the Smithfield system," he continued.

The Sioux City plant closure will affect approximately 1,450 hourly and salaried employees. The company will confer with union officials regarding this transition.

"The consistent quality of our products is extremely important and is a daily priority. We are constantly improving our facilities and equipment to ensure a safer, higher-quality product. In this case, the Sioux City plant was constructed in 1959 and would require significant capital expenditures to outfit it with the next generation of pork processing technology. In this adverse business environment those capital needs simply cannot be met," said Sebring.

"Furthermore, the Sioux City plant design, layout, and footprint severely limit our operating and sales flexibility and our ability to produce value-added packaged meats products and maximize production throughput. The refrigeration system is antiquated and inefficient and the plant lacks any significant refrigerated storage space," he continued.

The company said that three other Smithfield plants - located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Denison, Iowa; and Crete, Nebraska - have the capacity to partially absorb the number of hogs that are currently being processed at Sioux City and that it will transfer some of the Sioux City production to those plants in the near term. This partial transfer of production capacity will not require the company to secure additional employees. In addition, the company stated that it will honor all production contracts at Sioux City and that Smithfield has no further plans for plant closures in the foreseeable future.

Source: Associated Press, Smithfield Foods Inc.

Steve Olson named NAMP advisor

Steve Olson, who teaches the North American Meat Processors Association's Center of the Plate Training courses, retired from USDA on Dec. 31 and became NAMP’s standards & specifications advisor this month.

Olson retired as a livestock & meat marketing specialist in USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service after 32 years of service. Darin Doerscher will take over his responsibilities in maintaining the Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications (IMPS) at USDA. Doerscher will participate in some of NAMP’s Center of the Plate Trainings this year to maintain USDA’s involvement.

In his new role with NAMP, Olson will continue his teaching in the COP Training program, advise on the continued development of the NAMP Meat Buyer’s Guide, and help NAMP staff represent association members to USDA on standards. He will help NAMP celebrate the launch of the new Meat Buyer’s Guide at the March Management Conference.

Source: NAMP

Uno Chicago Grill files for bankruptcy

After losing $22.2 million in FY2009 because of a drop in consumer spending, Uno Restaurant Holdings Corp., owner of the Uno Chicago Grill restaurants, filed for bankruptcy protection in New York early on Wednesday.

Reuters reports that the company had reached an agreement with a noteholder group last August on a debt-for-equity exchange that would cut its liabilities by about $142 million. Uno also sought court approval for $52 million in debtor-in-possession financing from Wells Fargo and the majority noteholder group to continue operations while in bankruptcy.

Uno said that as of Sept. 27, 2009, it had assets of $144.6 million and long-term debt of $171.8 million.

The company closed 17 restaurants before filing for bankruptcy and may seek to shutter more restaurants if it is unable to negotiate acceptable lease terms. It currently franchises and operates about 175 restaurants worldwide.

Source: Reuters