The company said one customer has contracted for the plant’s entire output, but wants only whole birds. The layoffs will be complete by June, although some Laurel workers may be able to work at other processing plants.
“In the dynamic and challenging business environment we’re in today, this agreement gives our Laurel facility the production stability that allows us to be competitive in the market. This also forces us to make the difficult decision to eliminate deboning lines that we no longer need,” Clint Rivers, COO of Wayne Farms, said in the statement. “We’ve made a large investment in the facility here and in order to maximize that investment for the long term, we look for long-term agreements with business partners.”
Rivers added that facility will continue to run and local farmers and suppliers won’t be affected.
The plant produces whole legs, boneless thighs, boneless whole leg meat, wings and boneless chicken breasts, according to a company fact sheet. The 89,400-sq.-ft. plant sits on 24.71 acres and has a processing capacity of 650,000 birds per week. In 2013, Wayne Farms invested $3 million to add new processing lines to the Laurel plant.
Wayne Farms is a unit of New York-based Continental Grain Co. The poultry processor has facilities in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and North Carolina. Combined, the plants process approximately 5 billion lbs. of poultry products per year.