In an initial assessment of damages in the wake of Hurricane Irene, Smithfield Foods announced that employees will be returning to work Monday at its meat processing facilities and farms in North Carolina and Virginia. The company's headquarters offices in Smithfield are also fully operational.

Elsewhere, the company reported minor structural damage to some barns belonging to contract farmers in North Carolina and Virginia, but thanks to onsite emergency generators, all animals are continuing to receive regular food and water. In addition, Smithfield said that all of its environmental pollution-control systems are still in good working order.

Smithfield has posted improved earnings over the past year as it has been able to successfully navigate higher feed costs and take advantage of robust export demand. In June, Smithfield reported it swung to a fiscal fourth-quarter profit on a strong performance at its fresh pork and hog production businesses.

"I am happy and greatly relieved to report that all of our employees are safe," said C. Larry Pope, Smithfield's president and chief executive officer. He added, "I also want to thank our employees at our farms and plants for the outstanding job they did in minimizing damage from the hurricane. They followed our emergency preparedness plans and observed safety precautions, and it really paid off."

Source: Smithfield Foods, Dow Jones