Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale said Monday that it will close its 48-year-old poultry plant in Van Buren, a move that will affect 969 employees there.
The publicly traded meat processor (NYSE: TSN) confirmed to Arkansas Business and news partner KFSM-TV, Channel 5, that it is shuttering the plant and another in Glen Allen, Virginia, effective May 12.
The Virginia plant employs 692 people. In a statement, Tyson Foods said it would shift demand to other Tyson facilities.
"While the decision was not easy, it reflects our broader strategy to strengthen our poultry business by optimizing operations and utilizing full available capacity at each plant," Alicia Buffer, a Tyson Foods spokesperson, said.
Buffer said the company would work with employees affected by the closure, helping them apply for open positions and, where applicable, relocation assistance to other Tyson Foods facilities.
"We are also closely coordinating with state and local agencies and officials to provide resources and assistance for those who choose to remain in Van Buren," Buffer said.
The Van Buren plant was built in 1975. The Virginia plant, a former Holly Farms plant Tyson acquired in the 1980s, has been in operation since 1952, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Tyson Foods reported last month that chicken segment operating income fell 51% in the first quarter to $69 million from $140 million in the same quarter last year. Revenue was $4.3 billion, up from $3.9 billion, with prices 7.1% higher than a year ago.
At the time, Tyson Foods CEO Donnie King said the company got “hit in the mouth” because of all the protein available on the market. He said the company expected higher demand for chicken in November and December but a “softer” market led to an oversupply of retail fresh chicken. That forced the company to sell its excess product but at prices lower than it needed.
In all, Tyson Foods reported first-quarter net income of $316 million, down more than 71% from $1.1 billion in the same quarter last year. Earnings per share came to 88 cents, down from $3.07 and missing Wall Street expectations.
In January, King replaced David Bray as president of the poultry division with Wes Morris, a longtime Tyson Foods executive before he retired in 2017.
Tyson Foods has about 142,000 employees globally, including 24,000 in Arkansas.