Update: Smithfield Closes Genuine Ham Smokehouse; Evaluates New Sites

There's an art to making the perfect smoked and cured ham. ( National Pork Board )

This story was updated at 5:10 p.m. July 24, 2018. 

The genuine Smithfield ham is legendary—one report says in the 1800s the Queen of England would specifically purchase a Smithfield ham every year. It’s an industry that has brought prosperity to the East Cost since it was settled.

Smithfield, Va., is all about pork. The connection goes back to the colonial times—even Virginia law requires genuine Smithfield hams to be cured in the city limits.

But that historical legend is about to change. Smithfield announced last month the 3B Smokehouse would close, saying the facility was more than 50 years old and near the end of its useful life, according to a Smithfield spokesperson. The company has plenty of genuine Smithfield hams stockpiled to satisfy immediate demand and they do not plan to discontinue the item. 

“Production volume of our Genuine Smithfield Ham is extremely low, at just 100,000 lb. per year, which is essentially a rounding error when considered in the context of our three billion-pound U.S. packaged meats business. We currently have adequate inventory to meet the demand for our Genuine Smithfield Ham for quite some time. This affords us the opportunity to assess alternatives for the production of our Genuine Smithfield Ham while continuing to supply this product to our loyal consumers,” said Keira Lombardo, Smithfield Foods Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs, in an email to The Smithfield Times.

"While we have closed the original smokehouse that produced these hams due to its age, we have plenty of these hams in inventory," says Ken Sullivan, Smithfield Foods president and CEO, in a statement to Farm Journal's PORK. "This affords us the opportunity to assess alternatives for the production of our Genuine Smithfield Ham in Smithfield, Va."

"We are incredibly proud to be a part of your family tradition and look forward to being at your table for many years to come," he adds.

Employees at the facility have been relocated to another facility on the Smithfield, Va., campus and are evaluating the best site to produce the Genuine Smithfield Ham going forward.

While the change in production is certainly news of the industry, pork producers will also be interested in the history of how the Genuine Smithfield ham became so popular. Smoked, cured, and flavored—hams come in many forms, but not all are genuine Smithfield hams. At first glance, the difference is the long cut, with the loin attached, while other country hams are short cut. But the flavor profile…that’s another matter.

The Smithfield ham is a blend of English settlers’ salted ham curing method and Native American smoking methods. Read more on the character of Genuine Smithfield hams from The Washington Post.