Pilgrim's Pride Corp. announced plans to idle its chicken processing plant in Athens, Ala., and one of its two plants in Athens, Ga., within 60 to 75 days as part of its continuing effort to improve capacity utilization and reduce costs.

"As we work to restructure Pilgrim's Pride as a market-driven company, we must continue to look for ways to reduce our costs and operate more efficiently," said Don Jackson, president and CEO. "A key component of that effort is improving our capacity utilization through plant consolidation and other operational changes. While the decision to idle a plant and eliminate jobs is always painful - and we regret that it is necessary - it is absolutely critical to the future of Pilgrim's Pride that we make better use of our assets. We are taking these actions now to protect the jobs of our 41,000 employees and 4,500 growers so that we can emerge from Chapter 11 as a stronger, more efficient company."

Production from the Athens, Ala., plant will be consolidated into two other Pilgrim's Pride complexes, bringing those facilities to full capacity. The hatchery in Moulton, Ala., the feed mill in Falkville, Ala., and other live production operations associated with the Athens plant will continue to operate.

Approximately 640 employees who work at the Athens, Ala., processing plant will be affected by the plant idling. Pilgrim's Pride expects to be able to offer positions at other facilities to many of these employees. The company will provide transition programs to employees who are not retained in order to assist them in securing new employment, filing for unemployment and obtaining other applicable benefits.

Production from the company's Athens, Ga., plant on Oneta St. will be consolidated at the neighboring Barber St. plant as well as at several other company complexes in north Georgia, bringing those facilities to full capacity. The live production operations, including hatcheries and feed mills, will continue to operate. Pilgrim's Pride expects to be able to offer positions to most of the approximately 330 employees at the Oneta St. location by the time the plant is idled. The company will provide transition programs to any employees who are not retained after the consolidation.

The company does not expect any significant reduction in the number of Pilgrim's Pride contract growers in either Athens, Ala., or Athens, Ga., as a direct result of idling these plants. Most growers will be transitioned to supplying other complexes.

Since production from these two plants will be consolidated into other complexes, the idling of these two facilities will not result in any decrease in the company's overall production or in any change in product mix. There will be no disruption in the supply of product to Pilgrim's Pride's customers. The company said it would consider restarting the two plants in the future should market conditions justify it.

Source: Pilgrim’s Pride Corp.

Fire damages Columbus Foods plant

Columbus Foods is working with investigators to determine the cause of a four-alarm fire last week at the company’s facility located at 465 Cabot Rd. in South San Francisco.

The fire started around 1:30 a.m. on July 23 and burned for several hours. All employees were immediately evacuated from the facility and nobody was injured. The cause of the fire is unknown at this time and damage to the 40,000-square foot facility is being assessed. All other Columbus facilities in the area are unaffected.

"We are fortunate and grateful that all of our employees are safe and accounted for," said Columbus Foods CEO Ralph Denisco. "We thank the South San Francisco Fire Department and other local fire departments for their quick response to this emergency."

The facility on Cabot Road is used to slice and package Columbus Foods products. The company is working with vendors to ensure there is no significant disruption in its slicing and packaging services. This incident will likely cause some short-term shipment delays, but the impact will be limited.

"This facility is not used to create Columbus Foods products and there is no impact to the product itself," noted Denisco. "We expect there will be minimal disruption in the distribution of our products to stores."

Columbus Foods has been a mainstay of the San Francisco meat industry for more than 90 years, originating the North Beach community of San Francisco. It produces a wide range of quality deli meat and cured meat products.

Source: Columbus Foods