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Smithfield Packaging Reduction Nets Savings in Ham Production

Company wins third place in the Project Category of ProFood World's Sustainability Excellence in Manufacturing Awards.

Smithfield benefitted from a lower cost per foot of netting and decreasing the amount of packaging waste to be hauled.
Smithfield benefitted from a lower cost per foot of netting and decreasing the amount of packaging waste to be hauled.

The Smithfield Foods facility in Kinston, N.C., was on a mission to decrease its cost for and waste of the continuous net used to apply smoke to hams. The netting arrives wrapped in a plastic liner inside a cardboard box.

“We saw an opportunity to increase our piece count per case by increasing the length of the netting per case,” states Smithfield Environmental Coordinator, Charlie Prentice. “Adding length was favorable to the supplier, which could decrease its packaging costs, save on shipping, and have more efficient operations.”

In turn, Smithfield benefitted from a lower cost per foot of netting and decreasing the amount of packaging waste to be hauled. The netting was increased from 1,300 ft to 2,050 ft, and the test runs were successful.

Based on the plant’s annual volume for hams, the new netting reduces the number of material cases by 2,541. “This amounts to around 2.54 tons of cardboard and plastic saved,” states Prentice. “The reduced waste helps us come closer to our goal of zero waste to landfill.”

He says implementing a fundamental change such as this shows Smithfield’s commitment to decreasing its carbon footprint and promoting sustainability.

The project will also have waste-reducing implications at Smithfield’s Grayson, Ky., facility where the same casing is now in use. The project was completed in January 2020 at no cost. It took three months for the research and testing.

“We are always looking for package reduction projects,” says Prentice. “Seeing wasted netting and continuous reloading of the machine, it just made sense to look into a more cost-effective way.”

Prentice advises communicating with suppliers and your purchasing department to see if larger pack sizes are available. “If not, ask if one can be created for your location and others within the company’s network.”


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