Wayne Farms completed its latest expansion to its Jack location and company officials spoke about the impacts of the latest expansion at a media tour on Nov. 19.
“We’ve added about 200,000 square feet of building, spent about $110 million on this project and now we’re operating and doing well,” said South Alabama Area Complex Manager Brad Williams.
Williams said the expansion served a two-fold purpose: to increase the number of small birds produced and create a third line for the Global Animal Partnerships Level 2 “Naked Truth” products.
GAP 2 chickens require an antibiotic free and vegetarian diet, at least two additional enrichment products, six hours of darkness daily, natural light, an eight-hour maximum transport time and minimum space requirements at the farm.
Williams said that process at the facility also has to follow specific guidelines to make sure the products stay GAP 2 certified. He said one of the ways the facility ensures this is the use of controlled atmospheric stunning before the chickens are processed.
“The idea is that you use a combination—in our case, there’s only a handful of these in the United States—of O2, oxygen, and carbon dioxide, CO2, to make the bird unconscious prior to the processing step,” Williams said. “And in doing that the welfare nature of it is enhanced.”
He said that the CAS system at the facility is the one of five in the entire continent of North America.
On the production side of things, Enterprise Operations Manager of Wayne Farms Eddie Fortner said the new facility has been a success.
“This expansion that we’ve done has actually increased our production by 40 percent,” said Fortner. “We were processing around 265,000 birds a day. With this expansion, it’s moved us up to over 400,000 birds a day. So that’s over 2 million birds a week we process out of this facility.”
That equates to 26,000 cases of chicken nuggets, 27,000 cases of leg quarters and 10,000 cases of breast filets a day being produced at the Jack location, according to Assistant Area Complex Manager Neil Martin.
The updated facility also includes automatic deboners, a water jet cutter, automated packaging, controlled vacuum packaging, automatic sizing, a new processing line, upgrades to the waste water treatment facility and 30,000 square feet of offices and amenities that includes a spacious break room for all of the employees.
Along with all of the upgrades and renovations that doubled the size of the facility, Fortner said the expansion also brought jobs to the area.
“We’ve added 350 jobs so far with the intention of getting up to 500 jobs. That’ll put us at a total of 1,500 jobs for this site — a huge economic impact for this community. It’s really this community that’s made it where we can do this all the way to—what Brad (Williams) was talking about—the leaders around this area that jumped in, joined in and helped promote what’s going on here. It’s really been an inspiration to us here.
“With those jobs, they’re all full-time permanent positions here at the site. They are full benefit jobs with health and dental insurance, a nice 401k program that comes along with the job (and) we just increased our starting pay here so we’re now up to $11.30 an hour.”
The expansion originally broke ground in December of 2017, started processing in May of this year and now is fully up and running.
Martin said that the timeline of the facility beat all expectations.
“The expectations for the startup of this facility have been surpassed,” Martin said. “The group here with their diligent work and—again—we couldn’t have done it without the local community along with the (county) commissioners. We ramped this up—again—in half the time it took (the) Dothan (facility) to.”
Fortner credited the Wayne Farms team, workers, the local community, community leaders and businesses for the success of the expansion as well as the company’s site in Jack in general.
“We couldn’t have reached this point without a team effort,” said Fortner. “We’re in a great community that supports us — we’re more than a business here — we’re neighbors and partners in making Enterprise and Coffee County better and more prosperous. We’re proud that this facility and these new jobs are going to be part of that.”