Last week, John Morrell & Co. officials announced the company will lay off 485 workers on Feb. 19 when the second shift at the Sioux City, Iowa, pork processing plant ends. At that point, the plant will process about 7,000 hogs a day, with 900 or so employees.

The company press release cited “unfavorable market conditions” for the layoffs. Officials called the measure "temporary."

Company officials would not explain what "unfavorable market conditions" involved. But the Des Moines Register asked John Lawrence, an Iowa State University Extension economist, for his thoughts. Lawrence said hog carcass prices have increased $5 a hundredweight since Jan. 1. “It sounds to me like the price they are paying for hogs is unfavorable compared to the price they are selling pork for,” he told the Register. 

Joseph Sebring, Morrell's president, said the hope is to resume the second shift when market conditions improve. Morrell has annual sales of about $2 billion and employs 6,700 workers in the United States. Sioux Falls, S.D., is the site of the company's largest pork processing plant. There are seven other processing operations in Morrell's group. 

John Morrell & Co. is a wholly owned and independently managed subsidiary of Smithfield Foods.

Source: John Morrell & Co., The Des Moines Register