Tyson Foods completed a $90 million expansion of its Forest, Mississippi, plant that will increase its chicken processing capacity amid heightened demand for protein. The company said the project will add more than 320 jobs to its workforce.
The expansion adds automation technology and manufacturing capacity, specifically designed to process more chicken for food service and retailers. Tyson said it will improve the labor conditions at its Forest plant, which employed 1,250 workers during its 2021 fiscal year.
David Bray, Tyson’s group president of poultry, also said the project will accelerate its automation footprint. The company did not specify what “innovative” automation technology would be implemented at the facility.
"This project demonstrates our ability to execute a product mix change that translates into less intensive labor for team members while creating more jobs at a competitive pay structure,” Bray said in a statement. “It's a win-win to support the long-term growth of the Forest community and our operations."
The meat and poultry processor committed in 2021 to spending $1.3 billion on automation during the next three years, with investments coming in artificial intelligence and predictive analytics. Tyson said at the time it planned to open 12 new plants during the next two years in order to boost volume.
The expansion comes as the company is tackling its supply issues in order to improve chicken production and efficiency, which has lagged in recent years. Tyson told Food Dive this week that automation efforts — such as chicken deboning machinery and employee retention programs — are part of its goal to increase output at a time of high demand for the company’s offerings.
Sales of the company’s products increased to $13.1 billion in the most recent year, a 16% jump from the prior year. Amid heightened demand, Tyson increased its yearly sales forecast by more than $3 billion to the range of $52 billion to $54 billion, president and CEO Donnie King said in May.
Tyson and other CPGs have been aggressively opening new plants or adding on to existing ones in an effort to meet growing demand for proteins, snacks and other offerings.
Last April, Tyson said it is opening its first new poultry processing facility in 25 years with a plant in Humboldt, Tennessee. The company invested $425 million in the 370,000-square-foot facility, which will produce pre-packaged trays of fresh chicken for retail. Tyson also announced in 2021 that it would expand a Texas bacon facility and increase its case-ready meat production by reopening an idle plant in South Carolina.