Tyson Foods' bacon plant in Vernon, Texas, has operated continuously since 1922, and the plant will officially celebrate its 90th anniversary on February 22 by feeding its team members throughout the day and at shift changes.

The Vernon plant is the sole location which makes Wright Brand Bacon, a regional favorite for dozens of years that has grown in national popularity during the past decade. Wright Brand Bacon is produced in five distinctive flavors and is available at more than 53 retailers throughout the country.

“We’re extremely proud of our plant and the team members who work here,” said Jimmy Dennis, plant manager. “Ninety years is quite a legacy to live up to, but our people do it every day. They ensure the bacon that comes out of this plant is consistently the highest-quality, best-tasting bacon available.”

Tyson’s Vernon plant and supporting operations employ more than 800 team members and had a payroll of about $31 million in 2011. The plant produces thick-cut bacon for retail sale under the Wright Brand label and custom-cut bacon for food service customers. The plant spends around $4 million each year on utilities and is the second largest employer in Vernon.

Tyson’s community support includes a pledge of $100,000 to help fund an aquatics center in Vernon, which is currently being built. In recent years Tyson and the Vernon team members have contributed to the Wilbarger County United Fund, Relay for Life, Meals On Wheels, Project Celebration and the United Samaritan Services of Vernon. They also have supported the Wilbarger County Stock Show, Santa Rosa Rodeo and various Vernon Independent School District events. Last year, Tyson was very proud to sponsor the first benefit golf tournament for the Boys and Girls Club - Vernon.

The Vernon plant was originally founded as the Vernon Meat Co., by Egbert Eggleston, his son Fay, and son-in-law Roy Wright, operating in the back of a local grocery store. Pork bellies used for making bacon were delivered in railroad cars, preserved in salt and eventually painted with liquid smoke. Four years later, the partners constructed a dedicated housing and shipping plant, and continued reselling products from other companies, including cheese, tea, beans, vinegar, preserves and syrup.

During World War II, the company changed ownership, from Eggleston to Roy Wright. A new plant was built and the company was renamed Wright Packing Co. Roy’s two sons, Bill and Bob, then joined their father in the business. Wright Packing grew steadily, and by the 1960s had 225 employees and a solid reputation.

Realizing that being a generalized, jack-of-all-trades company that handled both the slaughter and processing aspects was limiting their ability to grow, Bob, Bill and Bill’s son, Dan Wright, decided to focus on processing, thus allowing the company to focus its efforts on product development. Contemporary favorites such as peppered bacon and hickory-smoked ham were the results of this decision.

Roy Wright retired in 1978, bequeathing the family business to his two sons and Wright Packing began to specialize its production of ham and bacon. As a result of the specialization, Wright Packing became Wright Brand Foods, Inc., and saw great sales growth, causing a need for newer, larger facilities. Between 1982 and 2001, Wright Brand Foods completely overhauled its processing facility and production capability.

In 1999 the Wright family sold the company to Corporate Brand Foods America, a collection of similar previously family-owned meat companies. The same year, CBFA was acquired by IBP Inc., the world’s leading producer of fresh beef and pork. Tyson Foods acquired IBP in 2001.

Source: Tyson Foods Inc.