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House Of Raeford Cuts 1,000 Turkey Jobs

Turkeys at a farm.
Curt Gibbs

Nearly 1,000 workers at House of Raeford Farms slaughter plant in Hoke County will be officially out of jobs today.

It’s the end of an era for the town of Raeford. Some of the 950 workers at the turkey slaughter house will retire, some will be transferred to other House of Raeford poultry plants and cook facilities, and many will be jobless.

Bob Johnson is the CEO of House of Raeford and the son of founder Marvin Johnson. He said in a statement, "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 have ever made." The House of Raeford turkey business has been consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally, but still has been losing ground to top sellers Butterball and Jennie-O.

Meanwhile, Johnson said they are doing all they can to assist employees with future employment.  A job fair is being planned and, "the company will file all unemployment insurance claims electronically for employees." Severance packages will be given to eligible workers.

House of Raeford got many of its turkeys from farmers in nearby Duplin County.

"Duplin County did have a lot of farmers that raised turkeys for House of Raeford that have lost their contract," said James Wolfe, the county's Executive Director of Economic Development. "A lot of the support workers such as the people that drove feed trucks to the farms or servicemen or things like that, that went from farm to farm."

Wolfe says finding new work or transitioning to other work won't be easy.

“I think some of the farmers are going to convert their houses from turkey houses to chicken houses and continue to grow chickens for House of Raeford, but that is an expensive process," Wolfe said.

But that may be a venture worth pursuing. House of Raeford says it will focus more of its resources on chicken production which accounts for 90% of its sales.

Leoneda Inge is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Leoneda has been a radio journalist for more than 30 years, spending most of her career at WUNC as the Race and Southern Culture reporter. Leoneda’s work includes stories of race, slavery, memory and monuments. She has won "Gracie" awards, an Alfred I. duPont Award and several awards from the Radio, Television, Digital News Association (RTDNA). In 2017, Leoneda was named "Journalist of Distinction" by the National Association of Black Journalists.
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