US meat heavyweight Tyson Foods is to spend an initial US$42m on repurposing an idle plant in South Carolina to meet demand for prepared meats.

The company plans to reopen an idle factory in Columbia and convert it into a meat-cutting facility that will produce retail-ready, portioned packages of sliced, fresh beef and pork, as well as ground beef, for grocery and club stores in the eastern US.

In June last year, Tyson said it would close the plant, which had processed pork for taco fillings and pizza toppings.

Nate Hodne, senior vice president and general manager of the portioned protein innovations team at Tyson Fresh Meats, the beef and pork subsidiary of Tyson Foods, said: “We’re pleased to bring operations back to Columbia and are very grateful for the strong state and local support we’ve received for this project.

"Once operational, this new facility will help us meet growing demand from our retail customers with high quality, pre-cut, pre-packaged fresh beef and pork."

Tyson will transform the facility into a meat portioning and packaging operation that is expected to begin production in May. 

Over the next three to five years the company plans to invest in additional improvements and production equipment at the facility with a total investment estimated at $55m. 

The new operation will employ 330 people, more than double the number who worked at the facility when it closed in August 2020.

Tyson Foods' case-ready beef and pork business operates plants in Iowa, Tennessee and Texas and plans to open a new facility in Utah later this year. The operations are called case-ready because the packaged meat produced by the facilities are ready to be placed directly in the refrigerated meat case at grocery and club stores.