Pork packers in the U.S. and Canada have announced plant sales and expansion plans that will extend North American packing and processing capacity.

Maple Leaf Foods of Toronto, Canada has closed the $378-million deal it struck in September to buy Schneider Corp. of Kitchener, Canada from Smithfield Foods, Inc. of Smithfield, VA.

“This is long awaited and very exciting news for our two companies,” said Michael H. McCain, Maple Leaf's president and chief executive officer.

“It is a transformational event, creating a world-class, globally competitive food company, with more than 23,000 employees and $6 billion in sales, operating across North America and around the world,” McCain said.

It's the second time Maple Leaf has made a run at buying Schneiders. The first attempt in 1998 was spurned by the Schneider family, which held about three-quarters of the voting shares and decided to sell to Smithfield instead. Smithfield took Schneider Corp. private in November 2000.

Since that deal, Schneiders sold its hog slaughtering and pork processing plants in Winnipeg to Maple Leaf and bought Mitchell Gourmet Foods of Saskatoon, which is Saskatchewan province's biggest hog-slaughtering and pork-processing company. It also bought Cold Spring Farms Ltd., one of Ontario's largest corporate turkey and hog farms.

Maple Leaf's hog production, which is conducted mainly through its Manitoba-based Elite Swine business, might be merged with the hog production business of Cold Spring Farms. Maple Leaf also owns Shur Gain Feeds, Landmark Feeds of Manitoba and Rothsay Concentrates, the nation's largest rendering business.

Hormel Food Plans Processing Plant

Hormel Foods Corp. and partner Quality Pork Processors (QPP) Inc. plan to erect a 50,000-sq.-ft., pork-processing facility in Albert Lea, MN.

QPP President Kelly Wadding says the boning and packaging facility, estimated to cost $5-6 million, will employ 100 workers to start and will ramp up to 200 in the next two years.

Austin, MN-based Hormel Foods will build and own the plant on 11 acres in Albert Lea's Northaire Industrial Park. QPP will process pork products at the facility exclusively for Hormel Foods.

Albert Lea, a city of 18,000 people in southern Minnesota, has been looking for a replacement for its Farmland pork packing plant that was destroyed by fire three years ago. Albert Lea bid on a 130,000-sq.-ft. packing plant for Triumph Foods (formerly known as Premium Pork Allied Producers), which went to St. Joseph, MO.

Triumph Foods' Plant Construction Underway

Construction for the $140-million, producer-owned plant in St. Joseph, MO, began in early 2004. The 630,000-sq. ft. facility will literally be built on top of the old Monfort plant, with concrete from the old structure ground up and used as landfill. The plant is scheduled to begin operating in the summer or fall of 2005, says Rick Hoffman, chief executive officer of Triumph Foods. The plant will start with 400-500 employees and expand to about 1,000 within two years, in hog slaughtering, processing and administrative positions.

Christensen Farms, one of the producer-owners of the project, recently bought the major assets of Heartland Pork Enterprises of Alden, IA, to become the fourth-largest pork producer in the U.S. with about 144,000 sows. Included in the purchase were 50,000 sows in Heartland's hog operation, a multi-million-dollar feedmill built in the late 1990s, an agricultural construction division and a genetics company.

Cooler Space Added

Indiana Packers Corp., (IPC) Delphi, IN, a 13-year-old company owned by Mitsubishi Corp., is planning a $70-million expansion that will add 269 jobs over the next two years to its 1,400-employee workforce.

IPC is adding 160,000 sq. ft. to expand its meat cooler and production capacity. The company produces more than 700 million pounds of pork products per year with annual sales around $400 million. IPC supplies fresh and processed pork to domestic and international markets under the Indiana Kitchens brand.

Tyson Revamps Plant

Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc. has initiated a multi-million-dollar project involving mechanical and procedural changes at its Storm Lake, IA, pork plant. These changes will result in a slight increase in the number of hogs handled each day, moving production capacity to more than 15,000 hogs per day and increasing processing volume.

Besides changes in the existing layout of the plant, the work will also include a two-story, 14,000-sq.-ft. addition for product cooler space and box storage. Work is to be completed in October.