After United Food and Commercial Workers union staged a rally outside celebrity cook Paula Deen’s Savannah, Ga. restaurant to protest her endorsement of Smithfield products, she decided to respond. Deen paid a surprise visit to union workers at a Smithfield processing facility.

The union has repeatedly and publicly requested that Deen meet with workers at the Tar Heel plant, take their concerns about wages and working conditions to Smithfield executives and end her endorsement deal with Smithfield, Va.-based processor.

In a Smithfield news release, the company said Deen met with about 250 UFCW members at its Plant City, Fla. facility to thank them for producing her personal recipe Smithfield Crackle Glazed Spiral Sliced Ham. The UFCW has sought for more than a decade to unionize workers at another Smithfield location — the company's Tar Heel, N.C. facility

In October, Smithfield sued the UFCW for what it alleged has been an illegal pressure campaign intent on hurting the company's business.