A massive new plant that turns hogs into pork loin and bacon opens up this week in Coldwater, about 80 miles southwest of Ann Arbor.
The new Clemens Food Group plant employs more than 800 people. Once it’s up and running, it’ll process roughly 10,000 hogs a day.
“This is the biggest thing we’ve had in 30 years,” said Mary Kelpinski, CEO of the Michigan Pork Producer Association.
The state lost its only major processing plant in 1998. Kelpinski says everyone knew back then that the Thorn Apple Valley processing plant in Detroit needed major improvements. Still, she remembers getting the call when it closed.
“1998 was a terrible, terrible year for pork producers. Most pork producers lost a lot of money that year and really dipped into their savings. And a lot of that was because there wasn’t enough processing capability,” Kelpinski said.
That’s not going to be a problem now. The plant will have plenty of capacity to process Michigan pork as well as hogs from nearby states.
With the new plant, Kelpinski expects more Michigan farmers to consider raising pigs. She says Michigan produces about 2 million hogs a year, making it the 13th largest state for pork production.
“We’ve got the corn. We’ve got the soybeans. We’ve got the knowledge base of producers, and we have the land too to raise pigs on. So it’s an exciting opportunity for the pork industry,” she said.