Tyson Foods knows chicken; from production to plucking, portioning, packing and preparation.

Tyson Foods knows chicken; from production to plucking, portioning, packing and preparation.

“No part of a chicken goes to waste,” Nathan McKay, Tyson Foods-Hope plant manager, told the Hope Rotary Club.

Tyson has a marketable use for everything from the feathers to the feet, McKay explained.

Chicken feet? They are a delicacy in China.

With a live production gross of 14 million birds per year in Southwest Arkansas, the 958 employees of the Tyson Hope facility mainly produce Tyson chicken products for McDonald's restaurants in two production shifts per day, making the company the largest single employer in Hempstead County.

McKay said the company produces an annual economic impact to the Southwest Arkansas economy of some $74.6 million.

“If we have a promotion or something, like last spring, we worked four months straight, seven days a week, with only three days off in that time; that's a good problem to have,” he said.

And, of the 39 Tyson processing facilities nationwide, three, including the Hope plant, are dedicated solely to McDonald's end products, McKay said.

“We have a very unique relationship with them in that they are very hands-on and we are very hands-on with them,” he said.

McKay said Tyson managers conduct product quality reviews with McDonald's corporate managers every six months.

“We, normally, are the top scorer in several categories in that; and, we take pride in that,” he said.

The Hope facility processes some 998,000 birds per week, taking a typical 7 lb. chicken and completely processing 210 chickens per minute; which is part of the reason the Tyson Hope facility consistently ranks among the top 25 percent in production performance industry-wide, McKay said.

Tyson Foods is completely vertically integrated from feed mills to hatcheries to breeder houses to broiler houses, to transportation to processing to product delivery, he said. The Hope facility is equipped with the latest processing technology which allows it to customize its portioning of a chicken.

“We can cut chickens to any specifications we want; we can cut nuggets, cut strips, and we can cut portions to a specific gram weight,” McKay explained. “They can cut 160 butterflies per minute, which would be 320 filets per minute; and, that's what you eat on a chicken sandwich and in nuggets.”

The Hope facility produces all of McDonald's grilled chicken product.

“If you go to McDonald's and have a grilled chicken sandwich, or grilled chicken in a salad, or a McWrap; we're producing that,” McKay said. He said all of the grilled products are prepared ready to cook for McDonald's.

He said the Hope facility also produces Tyson products for distribution to Mexico and China.

And, Tyson-Hope also processes products for Arkansas' Wal-Mart.

“If you go to the Wal-Mart deli, those chicken wings are produced here,” McKay said.

He said Tyson is also active in each community where it works, donating chicken products to local fundraisers and Tyson employees are an active part of community life.

“People are our greatest asset,” McKay said.