(Bloomberg) -- Tyson Foods Inc. officially opened one of its most advanced plants in the US, where robots will help boost the company’s capacity to turn chicken meat into value-added items such as nuggets and fully cooked wings.
The $300-million plant in Danville, Virginia will produce roughly 4 million pounds of Tyson-brand chicken products a week when it reaches full capacity early next year, according to a company spokesperson. The first of five lines at the 325,000-square-foot plant began production in mid September, about two years after construction began, and a second line was put into service earlier this month.
“This brand new Danville facility represents a pivotable move in our company’s history,” Tyson’s Chief Executive Officer Donnie King said Tuesday at a ribbon-cutting event at the plant. “It represents a strategic growth drive, which is key for us as we continue to build positive momentum and drive profitability in our business.”
Tyson is seeking to expand its value-added business, which is typically seen as more resilient in economic downturns, as part of efforts to accelerate long-term growth. The push comes when the meat giant is struggling with an unusual combination of headwinds that sent profits at its beef, chicken and pork operations to the lowest levels in more than a decade last year. The company has closed or announced shutdowns of six chicken plants as it seeks to slash costs and become more efficient.
The Danville plant is part of Tyson’s 2021 plan to invest $1.3 billion in automation, with the goal of reducing labor costs and increasing yields. The facility uses robots to execute some of the most difficult roles on the production floor, including packing and lifting boxes on pallets, King said. Still, the project is expected to create nearly 400 jobs for the southern Virginia region, the CEO said.
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