House of Raeford Plant to be Vacated by December

US - Some time in December, the old House of Raeford turkey slaughtering plant on East Central Avenue in North Carolina should stand vacant of company personnel.
calendar icon 22 October 2013
clock icon 4 minute read reports that the 215,000-square-foot cinder-block plant largely ceased operations 1 August after 23 years, marking the end of an era in Hoke County and delivering a significant blow to the region's rural economy. The facility, the House of Raeford's first and only "kill" turkey plant, employed a workforce of about 950 who collectively produced fully cooked whole turkeys for delis and supermarkets.

A ground turkey tray pack line has continued to run inside the facility, said company spokesman Dave Witter. But that processing line was expected to shut down Thursday before the equipment was moved into the House of Raeford's nearby cook plant on US 401 Business.

The ground turkey operation is scheduled to restart Tuesday in the cook plant, Mr Witter said last week.

House of Raeford also maintains some sales and accounting offices in the old plant. Plans call for the office employees to relocate to the cook plant before the end of the year.

"We're not shutting electricity off right away," said Mr Witter. "Over the next couple of months, we eventually will get to that point."

House of Raeford Farms announced the plant closure in March as part of a company restructuring. The Rose Hill-based business is moving ahead to focus on chicken production and expanding its line of fully cooked poultry products.

The cook plant now employs about 450 people, Mr Witter said. Before the slaughter plant closure, there were about 400.

"Technically, they were already part of that (cook) plant," he said. "They're just moving the location where they worked."

Overall, Mr Witter said, about 80 workers have transferred from the old plant to various jobs at the cook plant. Some, in supervisory roles, have transferred to the company's facility in Rose Hill in Duplin County.

If they qualified, laid-off workers received severance packages based on the length of time they had worked at the slaughter plant, Mr Witter said. He declined to discuss specifics of the pay and benefits.

"We have called back some laid-off employees to work at the new plant - in the neighborhood of 25 or so," Mr Witter said. "We've gone to our layoff list and, by seniority, called people. We've been able to rehire some folks to work in the further processing plant."

Mr Witter said the company still plans to conduct a job fair for those who lost jobs.

As of Wednesday morning, he said House of Raeford officials had not received any serious offers to purchase the plant, which has been home to at least three other food companies since the 1940s.

"To be honest," Mr Witter said, "I'm not really sure what we're going to do. We just haven't decided what to do with it."

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