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Plant closing in Hoke Co. means loss of nearly 1,000 jobs

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RAEFORD, N.C. -

The House of Raeford Farms turkey slaughtering house in Hoke County closed Thursday, putting nearly 1,000 people out of work.

The slaughterhouse is the largest employer in Raeford. The company said 950 people worked at the plant. Some will retire, while many others will need to look for other work.

"I never thought I'd see this day, that the slaughter process would be stopped," said Washington McAllister who has worked at the plant for more than 23 years.

It is a thought shared by many employees. No matter how long they have been at the plant, they know decades-long workers, like Carmen Hunt's supervisor who was there 45 years.

"This was her first and only job, and now she's about to retire," Hunt said. "I want something like that."

The employees have heard about the plant being in operation since the 50's, operated by House of Raeford since the 70's, and they have relied on the steady income.

"I could count on 4:40 every morning hitting that line," commented Oscar Squalls, a four-year employee. "I have four kids, and I have bills just like everybody else, and they have to get paid."

John Wilson has been a truck driver for the House of Raeford plant for ten years. He delivered the last turkeys Thursday.

"It was kind of sad you know, when I brought it in, because I know I'm going to wake up in the morning without a job," Wilson said.

While some have plans for what they would like to do next, there is a lot of uncertainty. Few of the 950 people whose jobs ended Thursday said they felt confident about finding other work in the area. The State Department of Commerce sent a rapid response team to assist workers with finding new jobs in June.

"The economy will be impacted for sure," McAllister said. "I don't know if we can replace it any time soon or if it can ever be replaced."

House of Raeford closed its turkey hatchery in Rose Hill in May.

The company said in March that higher corn prices, falling turkey prices and flat turkey consumption in recent years have made the business unprofitable. The company said it will focus on chicken products, which account for more than 90 percent of its sales.
    
House of Raeford will still employ more than 2,000 people in North Carolina after the closings, including 400 at a plant in Raeford where they cook turkeys and chickens to package and sell in grocery stores.

The company is putting more focus on chicken production and the fully cooked line of turkey and chicken products.

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