By Doug Schmitz
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Tyson Foods has opened a $355 million, 400,000-square-foot facility in Bowling Green, Ky., to expand its bacon brands, according to company officials.
“The new Tyson Foods Bowling Green facility enables end-to-end profitability by utilizing pork bellies sourced through Tyson Foods’ pork segment,” the company said in a Feb. 1 statement to Farm World.
“The plant, which is the third bacon facility the company has (the other two are located in Omaha, Neb., and Vernon, Texas), will produce approximately 100 million pounds of bacon annually, and build on the market leadership of its family of brands – Jimmy Dean® and Wright® Brand – sold through retailers nationwide,” the statement added.
According to Nielsen data, Tyson Foods is a bacon category leader in foodservice and at retail, with Jimmy Dean products representing the fastest-growing retail food brand over the past two years, and Wright Brand products rising to the number one consumer choice at retail in the stack category.
Bacon represents over $1 billion in sales across retail and foodservice at Tyson Foods, which said the new plant will help the company meet the needs of this category now and as it grows in the future.
Company officials told Farm World, “With its two existing food production facilities that produce bacon at capacity, Tyson Foods made the strategic choice to construct a new prepared foods plant from the ground up. With the completion of the Bowling Green plant, the company now has three food production plants dedicated to bacon.”
Melanie Boulden, Tyson Foods group president of prepared foods and chief officer, said the new facility represents a significant opportunity for Tyson Foods to further innovate with new bacon flavors, cuts and products such as fully cooked bacon.
“Bacon is a growing category based on consumer demand, both at home and at restaurants, and our expanded production will enable us to lead this growth and drive innovation,” she said.
Tyson Foods has historically operated in the state of Kentucky, beginning production in Claryville in the 1980s.
“Based on the established state and local partnerships, coupled with its proximity to raw materials in the company’s pork supply chain and in- and outbound transportation lanes, Bowling Green was the perfect location for the new food production facility in support of the company’s focus on efficiencyA and operational excellence,” the company’s statement to Farm World said.
When asked how the new plant will specifically benefit farmers, the company’s statement to Farm World said, “The new facility utilizes pork bellies from our own harvesting operations, which source hogs from regional suppliers. Increasing demand for pork products increases the values of the animals farmers raise, and what we can afford to pay.”
Located in Warren County’s Kentucky Transpark, the investment in the Bowling Green facility creates nearly 450 new jobs for southcentral Kentucky residents, the statement added: “More than three-quarters of the workforce – approximately 365 team members as of today – have been hired, with production expected to increase throughout 2024 to meet customer demand.”
Company officials said the Bowling Green plant was designed with the safety and well-being of team members at the forefront.
“It combines high-tech robots that help eliminate ergonomically stressful tasks such as transporting large pork bellies along multiple production lines, packing and stacking boxes, and safely moving product through production zones with driverless forklifts and autonomous guide vehicles,” company officials said.
Donnie King, president and CEO of Tyson Foods, said, “Our innovative new plant in Bowling Green reflects a major investment that we are proud to make in southcentral Kentucky. This enables us to focus on the health and safety of our team members, while also delivering best-in-class service for our customers.”
Company officials added Tyson Foods is also helping team members improve their skills by partnering with Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College to offer relevant technical training, including a robotics lab.
“These initiatives are part of the company’s commitment to becoming the most sought-after place to work, reflected through competitive pay, benefits, and a safe and healthy workplace,” company officials said.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the grand opening of Tyson Foods’ cutting-edge facility marks a significant leap in Kentucky’s economic development and job creation efforts.
“This plant embodies our vision for a flourishing Kentucky, and symbolizes a new chapter of growth and prosperity in our state, thanks to Tyson Foods’ expansion,” he said.