Circle Four Farms raises hundreds of thousands of pigs in southern Utah every year, but the animals leave the state alive.
Once they reach market weight, the hogs are loaded on trucks and sent to plants in California or Oklahoma for slaughter and distribution.Circle Four officials say that system is likely to stay in place for quite some time.
But some opponents of the farm say the corporate giant is planning to build a slaughterhouse, bringing more pollution potential and thousands of employees to the sparsely populated valley near Milford.
D. Steven Pollmann, Circle Four's general manager, said the farms currently ship about 10,000 hogs each week to processing facilities. That may seem like a lot of pigs, he said, but the company would need to drastically increase its inventory to support an on-site processing plant.
A processing plant also would require 800 to 1,200 employees, he said, which means the company would have to bring in workers.
"We don't have any immediate plans to put a pork processing facility in," Pollmann said, but that may change if Circle Four reaches its goal of producing 2.5 million hogs per year.
A. True Ott, spokesman for the vocal anti-Circle Four group Citizens for Responsible and Sustainable Agriculture, said he is convinced that a slaughterhouse will be part of the project.
In fact, he said he thinks recent moves to bring a prison to nearby Millard County and an international airport to Cedar City all are part of a plan to provide workers for the slaughterhouse.
"There are things like this that we aren't being told honestly," Ott said.
He said a big slaughterhouse would "devastate" the area, and he warned that people who work at it will bring drugs and crime with them.
Mary Wiseman, Milford's mayor of five years and a 45-year resident, said she was told that Cedar City officials have been fighting a Circle Four plan to build a slaughterhouse in Iron County.
"A slaughterhouse is a sure thing, but where it will go is not," Wiseman said.
Pollmann maintains that it is not "a sure thing."
"In the year I've been here, it hasn't really been discussed," Pollmann said. "It's not likely that it will occur in this area."
Brent Drew, director of economic development for Cedar City and Iron County, said he has heard rumors about a slaughterhouse but nothing official.
"Anything that has to do with Circle Four is Beaver County's first choice," he said. "Iron County has made a policy that we will not actively recruit anything from Beaver County."