Major poultry processor Perdue Farms is to close its Petersburg, W.Va., deboning plant on 11 October as it moves to phase out production of its DeLuca line of refrigerated entrees.

Perdue explained that the plant provides deboned chicken breast products but boneless breast prices have declined over the past few years and the forecast indicates no improvement in the market. Petersburg boneless breast production will move to other Perdue facilities, reducing transportation and logistics costs.

Perdue Farms purchased the former Advantage Foods deboning operation in 1998. The plant's 365 employees will be assisted with eligibility for unemployment benefits, possible transfer to other company facilities or employment with other area businesses.

Perdue is also now seeking a buyer for its DeLuca Foods operation in Middlebury, Conn. But if a buyer is not found, the company will close the plant, which is too specialized for the company's other products, by the end of the calendar year. The DeLuca Foods operation employs about 74 associates.

"These were difficult decisions," said chairman Jim Perdue: "We never take lightly any decision that affects our associates, their families or communities."

The DeLuca line was not profitable and forecasts showed continued losses for its operation, which Perdue acquired in 1998. "Exiting the DeLuca business will allow Perdue to put more resources into launching other new value-added products," said Bob Turley, president and COO.