Eat More Chicken isn’t just an advertising slogan, it’s what thousands of Tyson Foods employees are hoping more Americans will do, and soon. The company known for chicken yet the world’s second-largest processor and marketer of beef and pork after JBS S.A. is shutting down four more of its chicken processing plants to cut costs, bringing the tally to six closures this year. Chicken prices are down, beef and pork sales have dropped, and operating costs have increased which resulted in a $417 million loss in the third quarter for Tyson Foods.
Tyson began cutting their workforce in the spring of this year, reducing the senior leadership roles by 15% and corporate jobs by 10% and not just because of lower-than-expected chicken sales. A combination of industry changes, softening demand, and cattle farmers rebuilding herds after a booming 2022 reduced the overall supply of beef and pork. The majority of Tyson Foods’ revenue was generated through beef, approximately 36%, amounting to $4.05 billion in Q2 of 2021. In 2023, the company has seen an 8.3% loss in beef sales and its pork volumes and prices also fell. Responding to the closures Tyson CEO Donnie King told CNN “I’m not telling you that we’re not looking at beef and pork in the same manner that we have looked at chicken.” “We are evaluating everything.”
The company’s cost-cutting decisions are a huge blow to small towns that rely on Tyson for jobs. In March of this year, the meatpacker closed one chicken processing plant in Virginia and another in Arkansas and laid off a total of 1700 workers. With the upcoming closures of four plants; two in Missouri, one in Indiana, and another in Arkansas, thousands more workers will be unemployed. To put into perspective just how devastating these plant closures will be, 1500 people are employed by Tyson in Noel, Missouri and the town’s population is only 2100.
We understand that the board of directors at Tyson Foods must make strategic decisions during tough financial times that benefit shareholders, but none of us wants to see American families struggle because of those decisions. The closures are scheduled to take place later this year or early in 2024.