BEST OF 2017: On the processing floor with Fieldale Farms
Dec. 20, 2017
by Bob Sims
Carcasses move through a pathogen-preventing bath while still warm to ensure penetration through open pores.
Fieldale Farms began in 1972 when the three original owners, Lee and Tom Arrendale and Joe Hatfield Sr. bought the plants from Purina. The name Fieldale is derived from the last half of each of the founder’’ names, Hatfield and Arrendale. The company is still family owned and all of its locations are within a 30-mile radius in the Northeast corner of Georgia.
“Fieldale has two slaughter facilities and one further processing cook plant. This one is slaughter,” says David Rackley, plant manager of Fieldale’s Murrayville, Georgia, plant, which it acquired in the early 1980s. “The other slaughter plant is in Cornelia, Georgia, which is about 25 or 30 miles from here and the cook plant is in Gainesville, Georgia.” Fieldale’s corporate office is in Baldwin, Georgia, the first town directly south of Cornelia.
Lay of the land
Fieldale Farms processes 3 million birds per week with the Murrayville plant responsible for 1.8 million of those. The bulk of the Murrayville plant’s two-bird program, consisting of 4.5-lb. live weight for whole bird processing and about 6.8-lb. birds for deboning for foodservice.
“Plus, we’re a feeder plant or supply plant for our further processing,” Rackley says. “We send a lot of our boneless and tenders to our further processing plant for them to cook.” The Cornelia plant handles the retail side of production, which consists mostly of tray pack, Rackley adds.
Fieldale’s Murrayville plant employs approximately 1,775 workers for two production shifts and one sanitation shift. For the most part, sanitation is handled in-house, but currently, a third-party company has been contracted to help. “Because of labor, we’ve had to go out and get a contract crew to come in and just do one section of the plant,” Rackley says. “This is just temporary until we can get a more dependable workforce,” he says. “We prefer to do it ourselves.”
The 210,000-sq.-ft., SQF Level 3 certified plant produces mostly deboned breast meat and dark meat with some whole birds, as well. “As far as our volume here at the plant over the last five years, it’s pretty much remained the same,” Rackley says. “Our mix changes a little bit, but for the most part we’re set up to take care of foodservice.”
Once unloaded from the dock and transported onto the conveyor, three kill lines process 140 birds per minute for a total of 420 birds per minute. Birds are then bled and go through pickers to remove feathers before the carcasses are dipped in a pathogen-preventing bath while they are still warm. Rackley says the warmth of the bird ensures the pores are open, allowing for optimum penetration of the anti-pathogen solution. This represents an integral piece of Fieldale’s commitment to safety for both food, and for its workers.
“Our main focus here is employee safety and food safety along with quality and customer service,” Rackley says.
Currently, Fieldale employs two full-time safety coordinators and two helpers for worker safety with 60 quality assurance (QA) techs dedicated to food safety and quality control.