KANSAS CITY, MO. – Meat and poultry processors are reaching out to help communities affected by the recent tornadoes across Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky where at least 74 people were confirmed dead as of Dec. 13.

Greeley, Colo.-based Pilgrim’s Pride operates a debone portioning facility in Mayfield, Ky., which was the scene of widespread destruction. Pilgrim’s, the largest employer in Graves County, announced a $1 million investment to assist with community recovery needs and support long-term rebuilding efforts.

“We are humbled to contribute to the relief efforts in our hometown of Mayfield,” said Kent Massey, Pilgrim’s Mayfield complex manager. “The community has always supported us, and we are focused on helping with the efforts to rebuild during this critical time.”

The Mayfield complex became the first poultry processing plant in Kentucky when it opened in 1990. Pilgrim’s employs more than 1,500 people and supports 235 family farmers and poultry growers in the area. Pilgrim’s said the Mayfield facility was not directly impacted by the storm, but two hatcheries and a feedmill were damaged.

Pilgrim’s will determine how funds will be spent as needs are identified, including potential partnerships with other organizations and local relief entities. The company said it will also help employees who were directly affected by the storm.

“We are extremely saddened by the loss of lives in our community,” said Fabio Sandri, Pilgrim’s chief executive officer. “I and members of my senior team immediately traveled to Mayfield after the tornado. The devastation we have witnessed firsthand cannot be put into words. There is much work to be done, and our hope is that this investment will aid in critical relief efforts that will support the people of Mayfield.”

Pilgrim’s has been delivering food, water, fuel and essential supplies to Mayfield to support the community in the wake of the storm. The company has a hub set up at 1195 Macedonia St. for those who need assistance.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Louisville explained that a potent storm system moved across the central United States that resulted in widespread severe weather across the region, including multiple tornadoes.

A single tornado is thought to have devastated Mayfield and other communities in western Kentucky. The storms that traveled through Kentucky on the evening of Dec. 10 and into the morning of Dec. 11 included a significant “long track” tornado that traveled more than 200 miles on the ground in the commonwealth before dissipating.

“Preliminary damage surveys suggest this tornado began in northeast Arkansas, crossed the Missouri Bootheel and northwest Tennessee, and then traversed through western Kentucky,” the agency said. “NWS Storm Survey Teams continue to assess the long track tornado as well as several other tornado tracks across the state.”

On Dec. 11, President Biden approved Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s emergency declaration request, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide disaster assistance to 16 counties in the commonwealth to supplement state and local recovery efforts.

Tyson Foods, Springdale, Ark., said the storms caused temporary power outages at some western Tennessee farms that supply chickens to the company. A small number of chicken houses in northern Tennessee also were damaged, however the company said there is no indication of any significant impact on Tyson operations.

Tyson Foods is donating 600,000 meals (150,000 lbs of protein) and deploying other disaster relief efforts to help support parts of Kentucky, Tennessee and other states affected by the tornadoes.

The company and Walmart are working together to help feed families and relief workers in Mayfield, which is home to Tyson employees who work at the company’s poultry complex in nearby Union City, Tenn. Plans are also underway to provide food and other assistance in Bowling Green, Ky., as well as other nearby communities. Food will also be provided in Samburg and Dresden, Tenn.

“We’re deeply saddened by the damage and loss of life caused by this powerful storm, and we want to do our part to help,” said John R. Tyson, executive vice president and chief sustainability officer of Tyson Foods. “We’re pitching in to help Tyson team members who have experienced storm damage, and we will continue to work with local community partners to learn where our resources and expertise can be best utilized.”

Tyson will deploy its Meals That Matter disaster relief trailer at the Walmart Supercenter in Mayfield early this week and will have volunteers on site who will distribute food. The volunteers will include grill teams from Tyson Foods’ facilities in Humboldt, Tenn., and Corydon, Ind. Volunteers from Tyson locations in Arkansas will also join relief efforts.