Tyson to close two out-of-state plants

The exterior of the Tyson Foods Inc. headquarters in Springdale is shown in this undated file photo. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Anthony Reyes)
The exterior of the Tyson Foods Inc. headquarters in Springdale is shown in this undated file photo. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Anthony Reyes)

Springdale-based Tyson Foods confirmed Thursday morning it is closing two more plants -- cutting more than 450 jobs -- as the meat giant continues to struggle with profitability.

A company spokesman said Tyson Foods is closing plants in Jacksonville, Fla. and Columbia, S.C.

"We are making the difficult decision to close two of our Case Ready Value-Added plants," the spokesman said in response to emailed questions on Thursday.

According to letters sent to Florida's State Trade and Rapid Response Program, Tyson Foods said it plans to stop production at its Jacksonville plant around Jan. 8, with the move leaving 219 workers without jobs -- including more than 65 butchers and more than 90 food handlers. Case ready meat products typically are processed at a central facility for retail sale elsewhere.

The South Carolina plant is slated to close around Jan. 8 as well, according to a notice by Tyson Foods to the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce, and will result in the loss of 241 jobs.

"We understand the impact of this decision on our team members," the Tyson spokesman said in the statement. "We will make every effort to offer them opportunities to remain with the company at other locations and will partner with state and local officials to provide additional resources. With a focus on optimizing our operational footprint, we are reallocating resources to operate as efficiently as possible, while maintaining ample capacity to serve our customers."

Tyson Food's Columbia, S.C. plant was reopened by the company in the summer of 2021 with an anticipated $42 million investment to repurpose the operation to produce case ready meat and was expected to eventually employ about 300 workers, according to a state news release. In 2020, Tyson Foods closed the pant that then made taco meat and employed about 160, according to media reports and news releases at the time.

Tyson Foods shares closed at $46.40, up 6 cents or less than 1% in trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares have traded as low as $44.94 and as high as $68.76 over the past year.

Tyson Foods has reported back-to-back quarterly losses, as it faces pressure in all of its meat segments -- but primarily chicken. It has closed six plants this year that employed about 4,600 workers in total, including a plant in Van Buren and one in North Little Rock.

In August, Tyson reported a loss of $417 million, or $1.18 per share, for its third quarter compared with a profit of $750 million, or $2.07 per share, in last year's third quarter. Tyson said its revenue fell 3% from last year's third quarter, to $13.14 billion. The sales decline was mainly in the pork and chicken segments, Tyson said.

The company reported a loss of $97 million, or 28 cents per share, in its second quarter compared with a year-ago profit of $829 million, or $2.28 a share.

During recent conference calls, company executives highlighted Tyson's moves to modernize and become more efficient across all its operating segments. Tyson President and Chief Executive Officer Donnie King indicated the company would continue to push to improve its performance.

The company is expected to report its fourth quarter results on Monday.