Labor Day fire halts operations at Smithfield pork plant

UPDATED: Full kill operations begin Sept. 9.

U.S. pork packing capacity just got tighter as a Labor Day fire shuts down the Smithfield Farmland processing plant in Monmouth, Ill. Nearly a dozen fire departments battled the blaze Monday evening. Due to the Holiday, the 1,524 workers had the day off, and only a normal cleaning crew was present. Every worker was evacuated safely with no injuries reported.

Tuesday, the fire marshal began the investigation to determine the cause of the fire that occurred in the render section of the plant. Lowell Crow, Monmouth City Administrator, says the refrigerators and freezers were full and a full assessment must be conducted.

In a company statement, Smithfield said, “The safety and wellbeing of our employees and the local community are of the utmost importance, and thankfully there were no injuries during this event. We would like to thank emergency response personnel from the local and surrounding communities for their efforts to assist in this situation. Further assessments continue to be made early this week, and the plant will be operational as soon as possible.”

The facility processes 10,700 hogs per day. Even a temporary shutdown will further squeeze an already extremely tight packing capacity as U.S. hog farmers are bringing more pigs to market. 

Employees working on the cold side return to work Wednesday. The facility will operate a limited production schedule Sept. 8, and full schedule on Friday and Saturday.

In statement, the company says, “The company would like to express its sincere appreciation to the employees and contractors who were instrumental in efficiently restoring the plant back to full capacity. We also appreciate our customers, vendors and other stakeholders working with us through this situation and continue to be thankful to emergency response personnel from the local and surrounding communities for their support.”

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