The game is about to change for pork producers in Michigan.
Value is in Processing
Even without a sizable in- state processor, the pork industry in Michigan has maintained an important role in the state’s food and agriculture system. It ranks 13th in U.S. pork production, with 2 million head of market hogs generating around $356 million in cash receipts in 2012 and nearly $600 million in total economic activity. The need for a processor within the Great Lakes State has been building since 1998, when Thorn Apple Valley closed its Detroit processing facility and laid off 1,000 workers. That was the missing link. “MDARD had been working with the Michigan Pork Producers Association, just taking a look at a gap in our supply chain, which was the value-added processing piece,” Gruner says. “We were sending pork across state lines to be processed, which is no different than sending any other commodity. The value is in the processing. When Thorn Apple closed, we lost that. We have been looking for quite a while and working with producers.”
Instrumental in raising support for the pork processing facility, Harley Sietsema of Sietsema Farms in Allendale and his business partner, Joel Phelps, led discussions about the project. They were able to secure a $100,000 value-added grant from MDARD to conduct a feasibility assessment on a pork processing plant in Michigan. The project moved forward after funds were elicited from other producers to match the grant.