Tyson Foods Inc. said Monday it will spend $70 million on a new hatchery in Arkansas to serve two of its poultry production complexes in the southwestern part of the state, less than a week after it said it would close a plant in Van Buren and a second one in Virginia.
Completion of the 131,000 square foot hatchery in Hope is expected by late 2024. The new hatchery is expected to triple capacity and add to “operational efficiencies” at Tyson’s nearby processing operations in Hope, in Hempstead County, and Nashville, in Howard County. In 2022, the Tyson invested $67 million in its Hempstead County operations, including a feed mill, according to the release.
The current hatchery workers will provide the manpower for the new operation along with additional new hires, the company said in a release. The exact number of employees who will work at the completed hatchery was not available Monday afternoon.
The new, larger hatchery will also provide contract opportunities for current and prospective poultry farmers in an approximate radius of 30 to 50 miles of the complex. A Tyson Foods spokesman could not provide the number of current contract farmers supplying the two facilities.
“This investment is another way to demonstrate our long-term commitment to our home state of Arkansas and the Hope and Nashville communities,” Donnie King, president and chief executive officer of Tyson Foods, said in a statement.
In response to emailed questions Monday afternoon, Alan Ellstrand, professor of management and associate dean of programs and research at the Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, said the hatchery project supports Tyson’s goal of increasing productivity by investing in new and more efficient facilities.
“As they note, the facility will triple capacity and increase operational efficiencies at the nearby processing plants in Hope and Nashville,” he said. “This combined with phasing out less efficient, older facilities will result in better returns on their capital investments.”
Last week, Tyson Foods said it would close a poultry plant in Van Buren employing, about 950 workers, and a second plant in Virginia, with about 700 workers, on May 12. At the time, the company said the current scale and inability to economically improve operations led to the decision to close the facilities.
In 2022, the company saw $53 billion in sales with 32% of those sales attributed to its chicken segment. The company’s earnings report of its first quarter sales and profits released in February widely missed analysts' estimates with the company saying all its meat segments lagged because of inflation and economic pressure on its customers. The company’s poultry division in particular has struggled over recent quarters.
In late January, Tyson Foods named a new group president of its poultry division. Wes Morris, who began working for Tyson in 1999, held several posts including heading up the company’s prepared foods operations before his retirement in 2017. Morris returned and replaced David Bray, who had led the division since 2021, and has left the company.
Tyson Food’s shares closed at $58.57, down 3 cents or less than 1%, in trading Monday on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares have traded as low as $56.07 and as high as $99.54 over the past year.