Tyson Foods announced Monday it will build a $300-million poultry processing facility at an industrial park in Humboldt, Tennessee, about 85 miles northeast of Memphis. The plant is expected to provide more than 1,500 jobs and produce pre-packaged trays of fresh chicken for retail grocery stores nationwide by late 2019. Tyson said the facility will process 1.25 million birds per week, increasing overall production capacity by the same amount.
“The location is attractive to us because of the strong support we’ve received from state and local leaders, the existing industrial park and availability of labor, as well as access to feed grains produced in the region,” Doug Ramsey, Tyson's group president of poultry, said in a statement.
Tyson initially chose a site just south of Tonganoxie, Kansas, for the facility, but put those plans on hold following local opposition to the project. However, the company said it is still considering sites in Kansas for future plants.
The new facility — to include a processing plant, hatchery, feed mill and related operations — will be the fifth Tyson operation in Tennessee. The poultry company recently announced a $84-million expansion of its plant in Union City, Tennessee, which will double capacity there. Tyson is also opening a 75,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Incubation Technology Center at its headquarters in Springdale, Arkansas, which will replace two other nearby hatcheries.
Tyson's announcement may end the controversy over the company's earlier plans to build a similar poultry processing plant in Tonganoxie, Kansas, which many local residents opposed. Members of the community said they felt left out of the decision, expressed concern about environmental impacts and potential pressure on land and schools, and some said there was a conflict of interest involving the city's mayor and Tyson.
Following a large anti-Tyson rally in September, the local county commission in Kansas voted to rescind a letter of intent backing a $500-million revenue bond for the project. Tyson responded by pausing its plans while searching for other locations. However, company representatives said they would still consider Kansas for future projects as demand requires. Like Tennessee, Tyson already has a relatively large footprint in Kansas, which likely factors into the company's decisions.
Unlike in Tonganoxie, Tennessee federal, state and local officials welcomed the project with open arms. On Monday, Tennessee's governor, two mayors and several other elected leaders made positive comments about the benefits expected from the project. No details have yet been released about tax breaks or other incentives that may be provided in connection with it.
The U.S. has experienced continuing consumer demand for poultry products. Per-capita chicken consumption is up. Americans eat nearly twice as much chicken — 89 pounds per year — than they do beef and pork — 54 and 50 pounds, respectively.
This demand has caused an explosion in new poultry facilities. In addition to the expansions and additions at Tyson, Foster Farms, Costco and Sanderson Farms have all recently announced new processing plants.
Tyson has seen rising sales not just in chicken products but also in its beef, pork and prepared food units. According to the company's most recent earnings report, sales in its chicken operations rose 10.6% due to increased demand, as well as volume growth from the company's AdvancePierre acquisition earlier this year. Given the continuing consumer demand for poultry products, it's likely that Tyson will continue to look around for more expansion and construction opportunities — either in Kansas or elsewhere.