Future unclear for hundreds of meat packers in SW Minn.

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Hundreds of workers in southwestern Minnesota are awaiting word on whether a recent company purchase will affect the town's meatpacking plant.

Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, one of the country’s largest pork producers, is being sold to Chinese meat processor Shuanghui International Holdings for roughly $4.7 billion in cash, Reuters reports. The deal is the largest acquisition of a U.S. company by a Chinese company.

Smithfield, a competitor of Austin, Minn.-based Hormel Foods, owns a meat processing plant in St. James, Minn., that makes sliced luncheon meats, Minnesota Public Radio notes.

The plant employs more than 400 workers. It's considered "vitally important" to the economic health of the area.

"It would be devastating if they were to not stay here and continue," St. James Mayor Gary Sturm told MPR.

Smithfield also operates a major meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., that employs more than 3,400 workers.

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