The meat packing business is historically cyclical, and bad times can put unprepared companies into bankruptcy. That’s why John Tyson, chairman of Tyson Foods, is trying to shift the company’s business into branded prepackaged and prepared foods that perform better during market swings. Jacob Bunge reports for The Wall Street Journal:
For 16 hours at a stretch, the stream of deep-brown strips and other products continues across Tyson’s 50 U.S. plants that together disassemble 37 million chickens each week, turning them into nuggets, wings and breasts. By now, another 10.5 pounds have filled crinkly, Tyson-branded plastic bags at the line’s end.
The Rogers chicken plant is part of Tyson’s strategy to transform the 84-year-old meatpacking giant into a modern food company selling branded consumer goods on par with Kraft Heinz Co. or Coca-Cola Co.
John Tyson, the company’s chairman and a controlling shareholder, says Tyson wants to be big in more-profitable prepared and packaged foods to distance itself from the traditional meat business’s boom-and-bust cycles. America’s biggest supplier of meat wants to also be known for selling packaged foods such as “Simple Scrambles”—microwavable eggs with sausage and cheese.
Mr. Tyson, 65 and the grandson of the company’s founder, figures the pieces are in place for Tyson’s reinvention. The company has spent $12 billion in recent years to add staple names such as Jimmy Dean sausage, the organic brand Smart Chicken—which can reap significantly higher retail prices—and plants that make prepackaged sandwiches. Under the company’s namesake Tyson brand, it has branched out from raw chicken cuts to fully prepared heat-and-eat meals such as Tomato Herb Chicken & Vegetable Pasta Dinner Kits.
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