Modernization work totaling $7 million has commenced at Cargill Protein’s Harrisonburg, Va., turkey hatchery, with a focus on improving turkey health, biosecurity and worker safety. Construction work is being performed by Nielsen Builders, Inc., of Harrisonburg, with installation of new cutting edge equipment technology expected to take 24 months.
“We are replacing equipment that has served us well for more than 30 years,” said Connie Isenhart, hatchery manager who oversees the incubation and hatching of more than 23 million turkey eggs annually. “The new technology reduces stress on the hatchlings due to advancements in environmental control technology, which improves the survivability of day-old turkey poults. Healthy poults convert feed more efficiently and result in the best bird possible for Cargill turkey farmers and consumers.”
The new incubator/hatcher system is also easier to clean and sanitize between uses, enhancing biosecurity by reducing the potential for cross contamination from bacteria that could pose health risks to turkeys or people. Additionally, with all controls easily accessible, workers will no longer need to climb onto the equipment, reducing the potential for injuries while improving workplace safety.
“When our new system is operating at capacity, we will be setting more than 112,000 eggs daily to meet the needs of our turkey business,” stated Isenhart. “As always, our goal is to hatch, then place with farmers, high-quality, healthy, turkeys that produce the great protein products our customers and consumers have come to expect from our Honeysuckle White, Shady Brook Farms and Honest Turkey brands. By investing in our business for future growth, we will be better positioned to help deliver on our promises to meet customer and consumer expectations.”
Agriculture is the top economic driver in the state of Virginia, generating $70 billion in annual financial impact based on a newly released study by the University of Virginia. Rockingham County, where Cargill’s turkey and cooked meats facilities are located, accounts for more than $4.2 billion in annual economic impact. Cargill operates a feed mill, turkey hatchery, turkey processing facility, cooked meats facility and distribution center in the Harrisonburg area, employing more than 1,800 people.