Local News

House of Raeford scraps turkey operation, 950 jobs

Posted August 1, 2013

Map Marker  Find News Near Me

— The House of Raeford Farms shuttered its turkey slaughter plant Thursday, putting 950 employees out of work in a region where unemployment is above the national average.

The closing had been anticipated since March, when the company announced it would scale back turkey production because of declining consumer demand.

But workers, many who have been with the company for more than 20 years, said the advance notice didn’t make the day any easier. The unemployment rate in Hoke County was 9.2 percent in June.

“It was kind of sad a little bit,” said John Wilson, who drove his last truckload of live turkeys Thursday. “I’m going to be out of a job in the morning.”

Wilson, 49, worked at House of Raeford for 10 years and said he never thought the plant would close.

“This is probably about the most popular job around here,” he said.

The plant has been in operation since the 1950s, becoming part of the House of Raeford in 1975. Bob Johnson, chief executive officer and son of founder Marvin Johnson, said in a statement that his father was an innovator who saw turkeys could sell year-round and not just during holidays.

But a decreasing appetite for the big birds, combined with higher feed prices, fueled the company’s decision to drop turkey processing and focus on expanding its fully cooked turkey and chicken product lines. The company is ranked among the top 10 chicken producers in the country.

“Because our entire family has been involved in growing turkeys for so many years, leaving the commodity turkey business was one of the most difficult decisions we ever made,” Johnson said.

He said knowing the number of employees who would be out of work made the decision “even harder.” The company is offering severance packages and a job fair to help workers find employment or retraining.

Nikkitia Blue, 25, had a year at the plant. House of Raeford Employees saddened by closure of Raeford turkey plant

“But I hate that it’s closing,” she said. “This is a good job, and the people that’s supplying these jobs are good people.”

Some workers are trying to transfer to House of Raeford’s nearby cook plant, which will remain open and employs 400.

“Hopefully, I’ll get another (job) down there,” said Thomas Bethea, 33.

Franklin Carthens, 66, worked at the plant for 46 years. He said it’s hard to imagine life in Raeford without it.

“It’s done a lot for me,” he said. “I’m going to miss that job because it’s an easy job and a good living.”

Nearby businesses also will be affected the plant’s closing. Bo’s Food Mart, a few blocks away, gets 200 turkey workers a week for lunch.

“I know most of them by name,” said manager Richard Cook. “It’s going to be heavily felt here.”

46 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • btneast Aug 2, 3:37 p.m.

    It has everything to do with a spoiled-brat mentality of the owner and his heirs in a head-butting contest with the city. Something akin to "I'll show you......."
    You are closer to the truth than most. I wouldn't say "spoiled brat".....but it is definitely a head butting contest. I suggest people Google "Marvin Johnson" in NC and read his bio. He pioneered much of how turkeys are processed and sold today. As a Raeford native, I am very familiar with him.

  • btneast Aug 2, 2:36 p.m.

    Tobacco needs to be cut and dried, then sweet potatoes followed by soy beans and cotton

    Tobacco isn't cut, it's pulled.
    Tobacco isn't dried, it's cured. ( Not that much tobacco is grown in that are by the way)
    Soybeans and Cotton are mechanically harvested. There is very little manual labor in either of those crops.
    Sweet Potatoes are mainly east of I-95. Hoke County is west of 95.

  • Sherlock Aug 2, 2:35 p.m.

    Glad to see it closed, how people walking to and from the plant will stop throwing their trash in my yard. I would collect it then throw it back into the House of Raeford back lot.

  • btneast Aug 2, 2:16 p.m.

    I openly accept your chastizing but find it hard to believe this business is an exception to ALL others of similar scope in NC/SC.

    You have examined the books all of these other similar companies in NC and SC to see what employees get benefits, and which ones don't, or are you just going by what you have heard?

  • mack24 Aug 2, 1:56 p.m.

    950 Mexicans out of work is not as bad as it sounds. Tobacco needs to be cut and dried, then sweet potatoes followed by soy beans and cotton. Chances are most all didn't have benefits or bank accounts anyway as that is another way of getting caught being in the US illegally.

    Yes, Sir. There is definitely work out there to be done and pay to be earned by those who desire to be an asset to society, however I think you made a generalized statement without knowing the demographic make-up of the workforce in that facility.

  • BeastieBoy Aug 2, 12:55 p.m.

    You people are way too sensitive. I openly accept your chastizing but find it hard to believe this business is an exception to ALL others of similar scope in NC/SC.

    Critisize all you want. I will comment all I want.

  • mack24 Aug 2, 12:05 p.m.

    As a Hoke Co. resident and native, this is a sad day for Hoke Co. and the City of Raeford. This operation provided local income and was a huge economic benefit.
    Do not be fooled; it's closure has nothing to do with our Governor, our "President", Obamacare affordability or even lackluster turkey demand/consumption. It has everything to do with a spoiled-brat mentality of the owner and his heirs in a head-butting contest with the city. Something akin to "I'll show you......."

  • gt_football Aug 2, 11:57 a.m.

    tracmister

    Well said my friend!!!

  • BubbaDukeforPresident Aug 2, 11:57 a.m.

    It sounds like a company that employees actually liked working for. Very sad. One has to wonder if all the hype over eating healthy isn't as much to blame as our weak economy. Prayers for the workers and the plant owners.

  • davidk_at_unc Aug 2, 11:54 a.m.

    I find all the comments blaming ethanol for the closing of this plant to be very interesting. Is corn not also used to feed chickens, pigs and cows? If that was the cause of this shutdown, wouldn't we be seeing similar shutdowns in these other areas? Do you think the cost of "turkey chow" has risen faster than the cost of "chicken chow"? Why are you having such a hard time with the concept that the popularity of turkey has dropped and there is not enough demand to keep production levels up? Why does everybody always have to blame someone else for their problems???

More...