Poultry Industry News

Sneak Peek: A Look Inside Cargill's Turkey Operations

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Cargill’s turkey processing facility in Springdale, Arkansas, is one of the largest in a city that is home to many established poultry companies. Since 1976 Cargill has produced turkeys in Springdale and the 360,000-sq.-ft. facility currently employs 1,100 and produces approximately 300 million lbs. of finished goods per year.

The fully integrated operation works with approximately 150 independent growers that supply big toms weighing 42 lbs. to 45 lbs. and commercial hens that come in at 14.5 lbs. to 16 lbs. Big toms go through processing on the first shift and hens on the second with a third shift dedicated to third-party sanitation.

“We process approximately 50,000 birds a day,” says Shane Acosta, complex general manager at the plant. “We do 19,000 big toms per day and we’ll do right at 30-31,000 hens on a normal basis. The hens are strictly for our whole bird/bone in breast (BIB) operation which is your standard thanksgiving type product.”

The variance in size and weight of turkeys necessitates turkey plants to utilize more manual processes than typical chicken operations. While at a typical chicken operation the variation in bird size measures in ounces, the variance in turkeys can be in the pounds even though they’re from the same farm. Acosta emphasizes the importance of the skilled labor to keep the processing efficient and smooth. “I consider myself truly blessed to lead such an amazing team,” he says.  

Automation comes into the facility at a rate conducive to maintaining quality and efficiency. Acosta says advancing facility automation with machines to perform jobs once done by humans eventually creates a significant change in skill sets within the workforce. With more automation comes more machine operators and technicians to service those machines. Facilities need a different level of skilled maintenance for success as automation increases.

The management team emphasizes the people doing the work, whether manual processing, machine operation, maintenance or any of the many tasks needed to keep the facility running smoothly and profitably, the people are still the most important variable in a winning equation.

“Despite increased spending on automation, our people are our most valuable asset,” Acosta says. “We could have all the greatest automation, processes and procedures in the world, but it’s our engaged team members that make us a success.”

To read the entire article, “The human touch,” read the cover story of  MEAT+POULTRY’s March issue, available digitally at http://www.meatpoultry.com/ the week of March 16.


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