A large Tennessee chicken processing plant has shut down suddenly, citing soaring costs amid record-high inflation.
George’s Inc., one of the nation’s largest vertically integrated chicken producers, is closing down one of its plants in Campbell County.
The news came as a shock to employees and locals, with around 200 jobs being at risk over the move, WVLT-TV is reporting.
Campbell County Mayor E.L Morton told WLVT-TV that he was working to ensure the plant would remain open, so the closure would not hurt employees’ livelihoods.
“I have contacted the Tennessee Economic and Community Development staff to request assistance in keeping the plant open or facilitating a sale to another operator,” Morton said.
“I have requested Governor Lee’s assistance as well.”
“My primary concern is for the welfare of the dedicated workers who have been the backbone of this operation,” Morton said.
“Our prayers go out to them, as well as our very best efforts to keep them employed in Campbell County.”
George’s had purchased the plant from Oklahoma City-based Lopez Foods in 2017, according to TalkBusiness.
Before the sale, the plant had employed 285 employees.
It produced fully-cooked pork, beef, and turkey products that were then delivered to the retail, food service, and convenience store sectors until George’s took over, according to TalkBusiness.
The Caryville plant’s closure comes as food prices have been rising in the country, both due to inflation and Russia’s war against Ukraine, which has had effects on the world crude oil, fertilizer, and agriculture markets.
George’s did not issue a statement to publicly explain the closure.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics reported earlier this month that the Consumer Price Index — a measure for inflation that takes into account typical consumer expenses, including food — rose by 8.6 percent (without seasonal adjustment) over the last 12 months.
According to a BMO Real Financial Progress Index report released May 31, Americans were responding to the growing inflation by changing their food and purchase habits.
The report found that 42 percent of Americans were changing the way they go grocery shopping, looking for cheaper items instead of fixating on brand names and purchasing only essential items.
Also, “46 percent are either dining out less or consciously spending less when dining out,” the report said
Earlier this month, another major food company announced it would shut one of its plants in the country.
Citing high business costs and strict regulations in California, Smithfield Foods announced on June 10 that it would close its Vernon, California, plant and decrease operations in California, Utah, and Arizona.
Smithfield, however, said it had reached a deal with unions to ensure the closure would have minimal impact on workers.
Based in Springdale, Arkansas, George’s is one of the nation’s oldest poultry companies dating back to the 1920s.
According to the company’s website, the company deals in packaged chicken for retail, fully cooked products — such as burgers and sausage patties — and food service.
While specializing in poultry, the company has also been working to diversify its offerings, the website stated.