SPRINGDALE, ARK. – In order to increase its chicken houses on contract farms, Tyson Foods has scheduled information meetings in Wilkesboro N.C., for people interested in raising chickens. Approximately 300 new or renovated chicken houses will be needed to ensure Tyson’s Wilkesboro operations have a sufficient supply of birds to continue running efficiently, said Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said.

One information meeting for people interested in becoming a Tyson Foods contract grower was already held. Another is scheduled on Feb. 23.

"We’re encouraging the development of new and renovated houses to make sure we continue to have a sufficient supply of birds for our Wilkesboro poultry processing operations,” Mr. Mickelson told MeatPoultry.com.

Approximately 275 contract growers currently raise birds for Tyson’s Wilkesboro Complex. Local Tyson managers are especially interested in more housing in Wilkes County. Tyson Foods provides the birds, feed and technical assistance, while the contract grower raises the chickens by providing the housing, labor and utilities, Mr. Mickelson said.

Tyson is the largest employer Wilkes County, providing jobs for more than 2,400 people. The company pays about $700,000 annually in local property tax and also spends approximately $1.9 million a year in water and sewer fees. Including the company’s payroll, payout to contract poultry producers and payments for other utilities, the annual economic impact of Tyson’s Wilkesboro poultry complex is estimated at $130 million.

The average cost of upgrading a house is about $40,000 while it costs almost $190,000 to build a new premium house, according to a report in the Wilkes Journal Patriot. Approximately 275 contract growers in Wilkes and other area counties now raise chickens for the Tyson Foods complex in Wilkesboro, which processes about 1.65 million chickens during a five-day workweek. However, during periods of peak demand, the complex operates on Saturdays to process about 1.9 million chickens per week, the news brief relayed.

Approximately 55% of the Tyson Foods houses in Wilkes have been upgraded to premium, and company officials expect about 20% to 25% more by the end of 2010.