- Tyson Foods is investing $84 million to expand and upgrade its Union City, Tennessee poultry plant, doubling output capabilities at the facility, according to a company press release. The two-year construction project will add an estimated 300 jobs to the local economy.
- The company also will need about 200 more broiler chicken houses in the area beyond what already exists to support the added production. Through its Grow With Tyson initiative, the manufacturer supports local area farmers who want to supply chickens for Tyson.
- "Customer and consumer demand for protein, especially chicken, is increasing so we're investing in projects that build on our strengths, expand our capabilities and increase our capacity," Doug Ramsey, Tyson's group president of poultry, said in a statement.
Tom Hayes, Tyson's chief executive, has only been at the helm since Jan. 1, but he is making a clear commitment to growing and transforming the company. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the transformation is all about boosting Tyson’s protein offerings and jettisoning non-core businesses.
"Through our ongoing strategic planning process, we're continuously looking at ways to maximize the effectiveness and growth potential of our protein-based portfolio of products," Tom Hayes, president and CEO of Tyson Foods, said in a statement earlier this year. Expanding its poultry facility and chicken production capacity in Tennessee is just the latest in a string of initiatives aimed at following through on that pledge.
In February, the manufacturer announced it would phase-out of antibiotics in its branded chicken products, a move that has helped the company tap into consumer demand for cleaner products. After hinting at increased acquisition activity for more than a year, Tyson bought AdvancePierre, a maker of ready-to-eat sandwiches and snacks, in April. Shortly thereafter, it announced plans to divest three non-meat businesses — Kettle, Van’s and Sara Lee Frozen Bakery — to instead focus on its protein portfolio. Earlier this month, the company reorganized its corporate structure around its three key protein segments: chicken, prepared foods and beef and pork.
There’s little doubt about why Tyson is so intently focused on protein, and chicken in particular. Global demand for protein is growing, and the meat giant wants to fortify its position to capitalize on this trend and grow along with it. The new CEO’s moves seem to be paying off. Tyson beat Q3 expectations when it reported earlier this month. Sales for all of Tyson’s core categories grew, and the company reported strong demand for beef, pork and chicken during the last nine months.
Tyson isn’t resting on its laurels, however. Hayes also has spoken about how plant-based proteins are the future of the industry. Last year, Tyson took a 5% stake in Beyond Meat, the first time a major meat company invested in a plant protein-based company. The company also has a $150 million venture capital fund that invests in companies developing meat substitutes. “I think the migration [toward meatless proteins] may continue in that direction,” Hayes told Fox Business Network in March. “People want protein, so whether it’s animal-based protein or plant-based protein, they have an appetite for it.”
For Tyson, however people end up getting their protein, the company's latest initiatives show it's intent on having a meaningful stake in it.