News Column

House of Raeford reopens Mocksville chicken processing plant

May 29, 2014

By David Bracken, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)



May 29--House of Raeford has reopened the chicken processing facility in Mocksville that was once operated by chicken processor Townsend.

The Rose Hill-based company will use the plant, about 130 miles west of Raleigh, to produce fully cooked chicken products, chicken wings and tenders and fully cooked chicken sausage and burgers.

The plant, which had been idle for two years, restarted operations last month. House of Raeford expects the workforce to increase to more than 200 employees in the coming years.

The restarting of the plant is a rare bit of good news for the state's poultry industry, which has suffered significant job losses in recent years as the high price of corn -- the main ingredient in chicken feed -- has eroded profits in one of the state's largest industries.

House of Raeford acquired the Mocksville plant from Raben Worldwide, which acquired the North Carolina assets of Townsend in July for $5.36 million. Those assets also included plants in Pittsboro and Siler City that have not reopened.

All three plants were part of the disastrous attempt by Oleg Bakhmatyuk, the majority owner of Ukraine's largest egg producer, to enter the U.S. poultry industry.

After Townsend filed for bankruptcy in December 2010, Omtron USA, Bakhmatyuk's company, acquired its North Carolina assets for $24.9 million.

Omtron planned to import cheap grain from the Ukraine and ramp up exports to markets in the Middle East, Ukraine, Russia and China.

The company spent more than $35 million acquiring and upgrading the facilities before abruptly shutting them down for good in mid-2011.

Omtron filed for bankruptcy in 2012, which led to the auctioning off of the assets to Raben last year.

The Mocksville facility fits neatly into House of Raeford's new strategy, announced last year, of focusing on increasing its chicken production and expanding its lines of fully cooked turkeys and chickens over the next several years. Chickens account for more than 90 percent of House of Raeford sales.

The company shift in strategy included exiting the turkey processing business.

It closed its turkey slaughterhouse in Raeford in August, putting 950 people out of work. The company also closed its turkey hatchery in Rose Hill and ending its relationship with about 140 turkey farmers in Eastern North Carolina.

House of Raeford employs more than 2,000 people in the state.

Bracken: 919-829-4548; Twitter: @brackendavid

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Source: News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)