Pork plant closure in Iowa sets off scandal for Tyson Foods


​​When Tyson Foods announced on March 11 that it will close its 60 year-old pork plant in Perry, Iowa by July, it was not long before the company’s hiring activities also made headlines. Reports that Tyson Foods is seeking to hire new immigrants and/or illegal migrants in New York at the same time it is eliminating thousands of plant jobs in ‘small town America’ across many states has led to calls for a boycott of Tyson products.

Other plant closures

In 2023, Tyson Foods closed 6 chicken processing plants. In 2024, it has closed 2 beef plants and the New York Post reports that it will close 4 more meat processing plants this year.

The US pork industry is also reeling from the closure of 37 Missouri sow farms in 2023 by the world’s largest processor Smithfield Foods, which has been owned for over a decade by Shuanghui International, China’s largest pork producer.

Pork sales for Tyson

In 2023, pork sales for Tyson Foods were lower than in 2022. Bloomberg recently reported that “the company is slowly recovering from a combination of setbacks, including a chicken and pork glut that sent its profits plunging by 85% in the latest fiscal year.”

“Tyson’s pork operations returned to profit in the 3 months ending in December after 5bstraight quarters of losses, as increased volumes more than offset a decline in prices.”

Boycott and response

In addition to the boycott, an investment firm has just announced that it will divest from Tyson Foods. The CEO of Ridgeline Investments stated that Tyson leadership “should have known better” and that “the risk of alienating a significant percentage of their customers [by actively recruiting illegal migrants and helping them attain citizenship while eliminating jobs for Americans] outweighs any potential economic benefit.”

There are reports that over 1.2 million US-born workers lost their jobs recently while the foreign-born workforce increased by nearly 700,000, at the same time illegal migrants continue to enter the US through the southern border daily in large numbers.

Tyson Foods disputes that the closing of the Iowa pork plant and other plants is connected to hiring migrants. It stated that “there has been a lot of misinformation in the media about our company, and we feel compelled to set the record straight. Tyson Foods is strongly opposed to illegal immigration.”

Tyson Foods

More bacon and sausage

At the same time Tyson is closing the pork plant in Iowa, in January 2024, the company opened a new bacon plant in Kentucky. This will “support a significant expansion” of its bacon production capabilities” and allow Tyson to keep up with further increased market demand. This new facility creates almost 450 new jobs.

The 400,000-ft2 plant will produce 2 million pounds a week of bacon products for grocery stores and also foodservice applications. Tyson has also made investments in expanding pork sausage production.

In May 2023, Tyson announced the completion of an expansion at its cocktail sausage plant in Kentucky. This helps Tyson meet high demand for its Hillshire Farm products, with sales of these products in spring 2023 over 11% higher than in 2022.

The added space and state-of-the-art equipment is enabling a 50% production increase, but no new jobs were added to the plant. In May 2023, Tyson also acquired a smaller sausage company.

Treena Hein Correspondent
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