GODWIN — About 180 workers are looking for new jobs in their rural North Carolina community after a beef slaughterhouse and processing plant closed after nearly six decades of business.
Martin's Abattoir & Wholesale Meats operations director Jeffrey Martin says the company plans to keep paying employees for the next 60 days. Martin blamed the closing on increasingly tough economic conditions in the slaughter industry.
The company once ranked among the largest privately owned businesses based in North Carolina.
A Midwest drought last year hurt the market and Martin said the lack of affordable cattle forced company's closure this week.
The U.S. Agriculture Department says the nearly 2 million cattle sold at market in August was down 4 percent from last year and was the second lowest since 1996.
Following a family discussion late last week, Martin said it was determined that it was simply time to close.
"The company would like to thank the many people in the community and cattle industry for their support over the last 58 years," he said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
In the prepared release, it was noted that "the Martins are suspending their beef operations just as they started them: on their own terms, quietly, with dignity . no cries for government bailouts; no complaints."
The Martin family has been in the cattle business as one of the seven major cattle processing facilities on this side of the Mississippi River since 1955.
The family centered business has employed over 175 people, some of which have been with the company in excess of 40 years.
Martin said the family will continue to move forward with their other companies and are deeply saddened with the closing of their oldest beef plant.
Martin's meat plant closes after 58 years in Sampson County; 180 jobs lost
By Gregory Phillips
GODWIN - Jeffrey
summed up the closure of his family's Sampson County beef processing plant in two words: "No cows."
A lack of affordable supplies of cattle forced the closure Tuesday of the Martin's Abattoir and Wholesale Meats Inc. beef processing plant after 58 years in operation. The company said 180 people worked at the plant off U.S. 13, about 11 miles north of Eastover.
The family's pork processing plant in the area remains open, said Martin, the director of operations.
The company will pay the laid-off employees and maintain their insurance coverage for 60 days, he said. The insurance might be extended through the end of the year, he said.
The workers were upset, Martin said, but many saw it coming.
"It's been slowing down for the last year," he said. "We hate it for the employees, but you can't lose everything. Most of them understood."
Now 78, Carlton Martin still works every day.
"He said he wasn't going to lose everything he'd worked for the last 60 years," his son said.
The fate of the shuttered plant is uncertain. Martin said while the property has gotten some interest, nothing has been decided.
"It's not necessarily the supply that's limited, it's where they're sending the supply," said Deanna Wagner, a livestock agent with the N.C. Cooperative Extension in Lexington.
More cattle are being sold to feedlots where they're fattened for sale, and to larger processors who can pay more, she said. That's further squeezing the overall supply. The USDA reported placements in feedlots were down 11 percent in August.
Some smaller stockyards, including a few in the North Carolina mountains, have been forced to close as producers take their herds to larger marketplaces, Wagner said.