Pilgrim’s Pride, the US poultry group, is to close its Georgia chicken processing plant with the loss of 280 jobs.

The Dalton plant will be closed within 60 days, the company announced yesterday (13 April), in a bid to “improve” the company’s “capacity utilisation” and reduce costs.

The company plans to consolidate production at the company’s processing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Pilgrim’s Pride filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2008 to address “short-term operational and liquidity challenges”. Since then, the company has idled three of its 32 US chicken processing plants and sold a chicken complex in Louisiana to rival Foster Farms for US$80m.

The company’s hatchery in Cohutta, Georgia will continue to operate, along with other live production operations, but as a part of the Chattanooga complex or other nearby operations.

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Around 120 independent contract growers who currently supply birds to the Dalton processing plant will be transitioned to begin supplying the company’s Chattanooga plant or other nearby company facilities within around 90 days.

“The closing of the Dalton plant is part of our plan to maximise our capacity utilisation and operate more efficiently as a market-driven company,” said Don Jackson, president and CEO.

“We will continue to look for opportunities to improve our cost structure as we reorganise the company. While the decision to eliminate jobs is always painful, we are taking decisive steps now to protect the greatest number of jobs in order to restructure our business and ultimately emerge from Chapter 11 as a stronger, more efficient competitor.”

The company said there will not be any disruption in the supply of product to retail, foodservice and industrial customers as a result of closing the Dalton facility.