The Rise and Fall of Ogden’s Packing Industry

Miriam B. Murphy
History Blazer, June 1996

In 1901 a group of men organized the Ogden Packing Company with a capital investment of $7,500. In 1906 the first packing plant was built. During the next decade the facility was constantly expanded until by 1917 the Ogden Packing & Provision Company, as it was then called, encompassed almost six acres or 240,650 square feet. It was reportedly the largest meat packing plant west of the Missouri River and comparable to large eastern plants in its output. The development of the packing industry in Ogden was a direct outgrowth of the Junction City’s prominence as “the livestock capital of the Intermountain West. Millions of head of cattle, sheep, and hogs were bought and sold annually at the bustling Ogden Livestock Yards and processed by local slaughterhouses and packing plants.”

Located at the west end of the 24th Street viaduct, Ogden Packing & Provision Company had a daily capacity in 1917 of 1,250 hogs, 1,500 sheep, and 300 cattle, numbers that could be increased with the addition of refrigeration space. The manufacturing or processing divisions of the company could handle twice that amount. In addition to fresh pork, beef, mutton, veal, and lamb, the company also produced ham, bacon, sausage, cooking compounds, lard, tallow, and by-products, including fertilizer. These products were shipped throughout the Intermountain Area and into all regions of the United States and abroad. During World War I exports to Great Britain and France enhanced company profits. In addition to its main plant in Ogden the company had branches in Salt Lake City, Price, Butte, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The two California facilities were new, having been completed in 1917.

To keep the operation running at capacity the company’s officers worked with representatives of the livestock industry in the West and urged stockraisers to increase their herd size—especially the number of hogs. To that end they “brought brood sows into the country for distribution among the farmers and their boys.” Their slogan in Utah was “Raise a Pig.”

OP&P claimed to employ the largest number of men and women in any single factory in Utah. Indeed, the company had expanded during World War I at a pace that R. & L. Polk’s Ogden City Directory for 1917 called breathtaking. At war’s end Utah’s booming canneries and meat packing plants were forced to cut production as demand dropped. Not only was the government not buying as much canned goods and meat for the troops, but postwar recession was causing the average family to cut back on its purchases as well. By 1920 OP&P was unable to pay its creditors. Officers and board members of the company were forced to resign and a committee of stockholders took over in an attempt to salvage the business.

The industry did recover, in part because of the continuing success of the Ogden Livestock Yards—at one time the 12th largest livestock yard in the United States. “The annual Golden Spike National Livestock Show drew so many visitors to Ogden that the Golden Spike Coliseum was constructed in 1926 at a cost of $100,000 to house it and other industry events,” Murray M. Moler wrote. That same year the stockyards handled almost 1.5 million head of livestock, including sheep, hogs, cattle, and horses, and Utah packing plants produced 22 million pounds of fresh meat and meat products valued at $4 million. Some 75 carloads of meat and meat products were sent to southern California alone.

But the trucking of livestock directly from farms and ranches to feedlots and slaughter houses greatly affected Ogden’s stockyards and major packing plant. The Ogden Livestock Yards were reduced to a weekly auction and the city’s packing houses to small operations. In that they followed a nationwide trend, according to Moler. Even the fabled Chicago stockyards closed as did those in many large metropolitan centers.

The livestock industry remains an important component in Utah’s economy, but it is no longer “Ogden’s financial backbone.”

Sources: “Utah’s Packing Industry,” Utah Payroll Builder, November 1917; Jesse S. Richards, “Ogden: Industrial, Agricultural and Livestock Center,” Utah Payroll Builder, July 1927; Ogden Packing & Provision Co. Creditor’s Agreement, Dated February 24, 1920, pamphlet in Utah State Historical Society collections; Murray M. Moler, “A Century in the Livestock Trade,” Ogden: Junction City, ed. Richard C. Roberts and Richard W. Sadler (Northridge, Calif: Windsor Publications, 1985).