Springdale-based Tyson Foods was in 2019 king of the nation’s broiler production with 200.47 million pounds of ready-to-cook chicken produced each week. Tyson Foods slaughtered 38.3 million chickens a week at an average weight of 6 pounds, according to WattAgNet’s annual survey.
The closest to Tyson Foods by weekly production is Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., based in Greely, Colo., and a subsidiary of JBS. Pilgrim’s reports 160.04 million pounds of ready-to-cook chicken going to market each week. Pilgrim’s slaughters an average of 30.3 million chickens each week at an average bird weight of 5.78 pounds.
The gap between the top two companies and the rest of the industry is wide. Tyson Foods reduced production between 2018 and 2019 with a 5.68% drop in pounds slaughtered. This was the largest pullback on any of the 30 companies listed in the WattAgNet report. During that same period, Pilgrim’s reported a 6.9% uptick in pounds slaughtered. Smaller companies like No. 5 Koch Foods and No. 6 Mountaire Farms increased slaughter (pounds) by more than 8.7%.
Sanderson Farms, based in Laurel, Miss., ranked No. 3 in the WattAgNet report. Sanderson’s weekly slaughter was 89.65 million pounds in 2019. The company slaughtered an average of 11.97 million head a week, which is roughly a third the level of Tyson Foods and less than one-third of Pilgrim’s weekly slaughter. Sanderson did slaughter larger birds at an average weight of 8.17 pounds, which is indicative of its mostly retail consumer business.
The drop to No. 4 Perdue Foods shows a business that is roughly one-third the size of Tyson Foods and Pilgrim’s Pride. Perdue reports 63.02 million pounds of ready-to-eat chicken processed each week in 2019. No. 5 ranked Koch Foods processed 60.74 million pounds of ready-to-eat chicken per week in 2019. No. 6 Mountaire Farms processed 57.39 million pounds per week last year.
No. 7-ranked Wayne Farms, which operates a plant in Danville, Ark., total weekly production last year was 49.4 million pounds. Wayne, like Mountaire, grows mostly for retail grocery with the larger 7.2-pound average bird weight. No. 8 Peco Foods had an average weekly production of 36.48 million pounds with an average bird weight of 8.38 pounds.
Spingdale-based George’s Inc., ranked No. 9 with 29.5 million pounds of chicken processed each week in 2019. This production is nearly all food-service with a smaller bird size of 5.07 pounds. Foster Farms rounds out the top 10 with a weekly production of 28.09 million pounds.
The top two largest processors outpace the other 28 competitors combined in weekly slaughter and production. By revenue, Tyson Foods’ $13.864 billion was more than No. 2 Pilgrim’s at $11.389 billion. Each of the top 10 ranked companies had revenue in excess of $1 billion last year. Tyson Foods and Pilgrim’s also have more production and manufacturing capacity than their smaller competitors. Tyson Foods has 37 hatcheries to Pilgrim’s 32 with Perdue third at 15 hatcheries, 11 at Sanderson Farms, and 10 at Wayne Farms. Production begins at the hatcheries which in turn become broiler hens in the food chain.
In total, Tyson Foods operates 140 chicken facilities from hatchery to feed mills to kill and cook plants. This compares to 86 operated by Pilgrim’s Pride. Sanderson Farms has 33 total facilities for its chicken operations. Perdue has 45 facilities and Wayne Farms has 21.
Tyson Foods operates 35 slaughter plants, compared to 25 by Pilgrim’s Pride. Sanderson Farms operates 12 kill plants and Perdue Foods has 11. Tyson Foods also leads in the number of further-processing plants at 16. Pilgrim’s has none. Foster Farms had the second most further-processing plants with 5. Siloam Springs-based Simmons Foods has three further processing plants as does Wayne Farms. Overall, Simmons Foods ranks No. 17 by weekly pounds slaughtered at 13.97 million. OK Foods of Fort Smith ranked No. 16 with 15 million pounds slaughtered each week last year.
By sales revenue, Simmons ranked above OK Foods with $999 million compared to $600 million reported by the former. Simmons is also larger by the number of employees at 5,100 compared to 3,000 at OK Foods. The two companies have a similar number of facilities with Simmons having more hatcheries and further processing and OK Foods having more cook plants. George’s is bigger with 20 total facilities and 7,200 employees.
Following are the top 10 2020 broiler rankings by weekly production (pounds, millions).
1. Tyson Foods, 200.47
2. Pilgrim’s Pride, 160.94
3. Sanderson Farms, 89,65
4. Perdue Foods, 63.02
5. Koch Foods, 60.74
6. Mountaire Farms, 57.39
7. Wayne Farms, 49.4
8. Peco Foods, 36.48
9. George’s Inc., 29.5
10. Foster Farms, 28.09
Source: WattAgNet Annual Survey