How Tyson’s Chicken Plant Became A $320M Turkey
by Megan Durisin & Shruti Singh, Bloomberg
Posted: 2017-10-17 15:33:34 EST

On Sept. 5, executives from Tyson Foods Inc., the nation’s largest meat processor, traveled to the east Kansas town of Tonganoxie with what they figured would be welcome news for the locals. Joined by Governor Sam Brownback and other political leaders, Doug Ramsey, Tyson’s group president for poultry, unveiled plans to build a huge chicken complex outside of town. The $320 million project, Tyson’s first new plant in 20 years, would be home to a hatchery, feed mill, and processing plant—employing about 1,600 workers to package 1.25 million birds a week.

“Six months ago, I couldn’t have told you where Tonganoxie, Kansas, is,” Ramsey told the townspeople assembled at the Brunswick Ballroom, a local event venue. “I can tell you today that Tonganoxie, Kansas, is the center of the Tyson universe.”

To many small communities, that would have been cause for celebration. But for residents of Tonganoxie (population 5,195), the news—which many locals complain had been kept from them because of nondisclosure agreements that officials had signed during Tyson’s site search—drew a far different response. “Citizens Against Project Sunset” quickly mobilized, borrowing the code name officials had used for the poultry complex, to object to the likely stress on roads and waterways, the plant’s proximity to local schools, and the dozens of chicken barns—often odoriferous operations run by contract growers who would raise the chickens for Tyson’s plant—that would pop up in the area. “I have a daughter in the elementary school, and I don’t want her basically playing in the backyard of a slaughterhouse,” says Jen Peak, a Tonganoxie resident who organized the opposition.

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