CUDAHY, WIS. — Only 60 of 1,400 hourly production workers are not back on the job two months after a fire destroyed one-quarter of Patrick Cudahy Inc.’s meat processing plant in Cudahy, Wis., according to the Milwaukee Business Journal. A variety of bacon, dry sausage, ham and sliced meats are produced at that facility.
Parent company Smithfield Foods Inc. is still working with its insurance carrier to determine a final cost on fire damage, which is estimated to be at least $50 million. The fire began after a military-grade flare was shot from a nearby residential property during a July 4th weekend party and landed on the roof of the plant. Two brothers, Kurtis and Joshua Popp, have since pleaded guilty to charges stemming from their roles in starting the fire, the MBJ account relays. Burning for days, the fire was one of the largest industrial fires in Wisconsin history.
Approximately 25% of the 1 million-square-foot complex was damaged or destroyed by the fire. As a result, Cudahy was forced to temporarily stop operations and lay off almost all of its hourly workers. Although most hourly production workers went back to work within days, many who worked in the burned-out section of the plant remained without jobs as the company adjusted its production operations.
Cudahy’s employee callback is largely due to an extension of its microwave bacon operation from five days to seven days a week, according to one insider. Boiled ham processing and slicing operations have since been shifted to other facilities after the fire, he added.