Pork processing companies are seeing the opportunity in consumers’ seemingly insatiable appetite for bacon and in the past several months have put millions of dollars behind projects to bolster belly production.

In April, Smithfield Foods, Smithfield, Va., announced the investment of a new processing plant for its Patrick Cudahy bacon line. The company’s $12-million project includes a 17,000-sq.-ft. slicing facility at the site where a former plant was destroyed by a fire in 2009.

Utilizing four slicing lines, the company estimates the addition will increase its annual bacon production by 10 million lbs.

Barely two months before JBS USA announced the acquisition of Cargill’s pork business, Cargill officials announced the investment of $25 million to expand its Ottumwa, Iowa, processing plant, which reportedly doubled the company’s bacon production. The 500,000-sq.-ft. plant slaughters as many as 19,000 hogs per day, in large part to keep up with bacon demand in a region known as a hotbed for production of the product.

“People love bacon, and we see demand continuing to increase,” said Randy Zorn, general manager of the Ottumwa plant. “As consumer demand for bacon has increased, our retail and foodservice customers want more bacon and we intend to meet their needs.”

In the wake of Tyson Fresh Meats announcing the closure of its Denison, Iowa, beef plant in August, Quality Food Processors LLC announced it was awaiting municipal approval on a $20 million expansion of its bacon-processing plant, including the addition of 200 jobs.

This past March, Daily’s Premium Meats, which is jointly owned by Shawnee Mission, Kan.-based Seaboard Foods and St. Joseph, Mo.-based Triumph Foods, announced plans to build a new $41.5-million, 100,000 sq.-ft. bacon-processing plant, just across the street from Triumph Foods’ fresh pork procession plant in St. Joseph. Daily’s will begin operations at the plant by May 2016, according to the companies. The new plant will produce sliced-to-order, naturally hardwood smoked bacon and employ approximately 200 people. 

A Daily’s executive said the investment in the new facility is positive proof of the popularity of bacon, which has been the lifeblood of the company for more than 120 years.

At the time of the announcement, Kelly Hattan, president of Daily’s, said: “Since 1893, Daily’s has stood for the highest quality in premium meats, especially hardwood smoked bacon, and we’re proud to carry on that tradition with this new plant…we look forward to the opportunities the new plant will offer our customers, as well as being part of the St. Joseph community.”