Raeford slaughterhouse to close in July and eliminate 1,000 jobs

dbracken@newsobserver.comMay 15, 2013 

House of Raeford Farms will close its turkey slaughtering plant in Raeford in July and lay off 1,060 people.

The company, which first announced plans to shutter the facility in March, informed the state last week that the plant would close by July 27.

House of Raeford is also closing its turkey hatchery in Rose Hill and ending its relationship with about 140 turkey farmers in Eastern North Carolina.

The state Department of Commerce is sending a rapid response team to assist workers with finding other employment.

Dave Witter, a House of Raeford spokesman, said the Rose Hill-based company is offering severance to those employees who work through to the plant’s closing.

“They’ve been provided an incentive to stay until the plant finally closes ... if they can,” he said.

The slaughterhouse is by far the largest employer in Raeford, a city of fewer than 5,000 people just south of Fort Bragg. House of Raeford is also the largest water user in Raeford, accounting for $1 million in water and sewer revenues annually.

The company said in March that elevated corn prices, as well as falling turkey prices and flat turkey consumption in recent years, have made the breeding and slaughtering business unprofitable. High corn prices have forced other poultry operators in the state to close or scale back their operations in recent years.

Getting out of the business will allow House of Raeford to focus on increasing chicken production and expanding its lines of fully cooked turkeys and chickens over the next several years.

Chickens account for more than 90 percent of House of Raeford sales. The company will still employ more than 2,000 people in North Carolina after the closings, including 400 at a plant in Raeford where they cook turkeys to package and sell in grocery stores.

After the Raeford plant’s closing, North Carolina will have two turkey processing facilities. Butterball, which is based in Garner and is the country’s largest turkey producer, operates a plant in Mount Olive, and Prestige Farms has one in St. Pauls in Robeson County.

House of Raeford’s letter to the state included a list of more than 150 positions being eliminated as a result of the plant’s closing. Just a sampling of the specialized job titles provides a window into the physical work done inside: bird thrower, condemned hauler, crop puller, giblet scaler, gizzard harvester, hock stuffer, knife grinder, knife sharpener, neck splitter, oil gland cutter, rehanger and wiz knife knuckle.

Bracken: 919-829-4548

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