US immigration officials have raided five Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. processing plants and arrested some 400 employees on suspicion of identity theft and immigration-related crimes.

Homeland Security officials said the employees – from sites in Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, West Virginia and Texas – were being held over allegations that they fraudulently tried to gain employment at the US poultry giant.

Pilgrim’s Pride insisted that it had tipped off the US authorities. “We share the government’s goal of eliminating the hiring or employment of unauthorised workers,” the company said.

“We have terminated all of the employees who were taken into custody and will terminate any employee who is found to have engaged in similar misconduct. We are investigating these allegations further.”

Pilgrim’s Pride said the arrested employees comprise just 4.3% of the 9,400 people working at the facilities, and 0.7% of the company’s total staff.

The company added that it will not incur any civil or criminal charges.

The raids are the latest blow at the company, which has announced a wave of job cuts and closures across its business in recent months.

Earlier this week, Pilgrim’s Pride announced plans to cut weekly chicken processing at its plants by around 5% later this year amid soaring commodity costs.

The move followed a decision last month to close a chicken processing complex and six of its 13 distribution centres in the US.