Smithfield Packing Co.'s Tar Heel, N. C., packing plant was raided by the Immigration Customs Enforcement on Jan. 24 -- a much quieter and systematic effort than the one that Swift & Co. experienced in December. The raid ended in 21 employee arrests.

According to Meatingplace.com, Smithfield spokesman Dennis Pittman, said ICE handled the crackdown "peacefully and professionally," indicating that agents arrived in unmarked cars and wore plain clothes.

Industry watchers are thinking that ICE learned from the Swift raids. "Rather than coming in buses and helicopters this was just a better way to handle it," noted Pittman. Apparently, ICE contacted Smithfield prior to the raid and told officials agents would be coming to question employees who allegedly had criminal backgrounds, reports Meatingplace.com. Plant supervisors confirmed specific workers' presence, then escorted each into a conference room for questioning by the agents.

Pittman pointed out that Smithfield is a member of the ICE Mutual Agreement Between Government and Employers program, and has tried to keep from hiring illegal workers. He said about half of the detainees were identified as having questionable identity information.

Smithfield will run slaughter on Saturday to make up for slow down from the raid. The Tar Heel plant has nearly 5,000 employees and slaughters up to 32,000 hogs a day.

Source: Meatingplace.com, Associated Press