Poultry processors in the path of Hurricane Isaac are stockpiling fuel, testing generators and making other preparations to keep their plants and chicken houses operational. Reuters reports that such precaution by chicken producers Sanderson Farms and Tyson Foods Inc come amid a growing sense of caution by the chicken industry, which was hard hit by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago.
Back then, storm-related damages to agricultural industries topped $2 billion. Farms were destroyed, processing plants were shut down and high winds crushed chicken houses and killed flocks.
Sanderson Farms has been preparing for the last week in the event that the storm will cause the company's southern Mississippi and Louisiana operations to temporarily lose power, said Mike Cockrell, CFO.
"Our live chickens, and we have some 35 million live chickens on the ground in South Mississippi, are housed in chicken houses that, of course, require electricity and natural gas to power ventilation equipment," Cockrell said.
If those livestock houses lose power, Cockrell said, the chickens could die from heat. So the company requires all of its poultry producers to keep generators on site to power the equipment in the event of a power outage.
At Tyson Foods, which has chicken farms in northern Alabama and central Mississippi that are most likely to be affected, plant managers and farmers are topping off feed bins, draining down their wastewater levels, cleaning gutters on their buildings and making sure that their generators are in working order, said Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman.
Though Isaac is a far smaller storm than Katrina, Sanderson decided it needed to be as prepared as possible: The company has topped off all of the company's the fuel tanks and set up easier-to-access stock piles of ice, water, fuel and spare generators around the region.
"Our plants are going to be down one shift today in Mississippi and Louisiana, and then tomorrow, and hopefully we'll be able to make it up Saturday," Sanderson said on the analyst call.