A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with my uncle Roy, and he showed me the article in the Times about the concern over the coming chicken houses. After reading the article and discussing what we thought were truths about our situations, we were both pretty riled up. I told him that I would just go and talk with these people and let them know exactly how we felt! Well, I went to their office and met with several of the management from the main company, Cobb-Vantress. These managers were down visiting with the local farmers and getting the office ready for business.
I wanted to get to know them a little so I started asking them about who Cobb-Vantress was and how did Tyson Corp. fit into all of this. They explained that Cobb-Vantress was a wholly owned subsidiary of Tyson and that it ran completely on and by itself. They explained that it was much like Diamler Benz with Chrysler: Diamler is the parent company, but Chrysler runs its own business. They said in fact, they try to stay as far away as possible from Tyson because they are a completely different type of operation.
I was concerned about the influx of people that weren’t from around here, and how I understood that the Tyson plant in Shelbyville, Tn. has over 1,000 employees and many are not even from this country. LIke Mr. Harper stated in a recent article, there are many Somalians working in Shelbyville, and while they may be fairly decent people, we want to make sure we keep the beliefs and values that we have here in Macon County, intact. I shared with he manager about these concerns and he said that since this a completely different type of operation, we would not have those problems. He said this operation is about raising the layers that get distributed to the hatcheries not the ones for cooking. In fact, he said the system works like this: On contracted farms in a 50 mile radius from here, the would deliver the day old chicks that would become the egg layers. These would be raised for the purpose of breading and to produce breading stock for Cobbs customers.
The eggs brought to the hatchery from these contracted farms will be hatched and then sold to the customer for breading. What Cobb-Vantress does mainly is to provided certain genetic bloodlines for the customer’s specific needs, like bigger breast meat or thicker legs. Much like a cattle rancher that produces Blank Angus cattle for high quality meat. He said that there would be somewhere around 50 employees in the main plant and these are generally local folks. There will be everything from management to maintenance and opportunity to advance as well. He did say that the employees that the employees the individual farmer uses will stilll e his own choice as it is now like with the tobacco industry or a cattle operation. The few people that have moved here to get this started, will be buying property, shopping in our stores, having children that go to our schools, and in face, some already have.
Of course, the strong odor fo the chicken manure came up in our conversation. I farmed here in Macon Co. for over 10 years and knew that farmers used this manure as fertilizer. The manager agreed that this manure does have an odor but assured me that because of the location of the chicken farms out in the country and the process in the plant, most would never even know there was a chicken business around. I remembered that we have several chicken houses already here in Macon Co., and the ones that are well managed, have very little odor. There are, of course, some that are not operated correctly, and it shoes both visibly and odor wise. The manager said that this is as “green as it gets” when it comes to fertilizer and it is a local product as well.
This is not at all what I was expecting, and started to get a better feeling about this. I also started thinking about how 50 families could benefit and then all of the supplemental people that would benefit from this. More people having to spend money of fuel, food, insurance, clothes, the list goes on and on. This, I realized, will have a great economic impact on Lafayette and surrounding communities. I asked him what their long term plans were, and he said that they were here for good, in face, he had just signed several 15 year contracts with local farmers. He also gave me a website to look at www.cobb-vantress.com, which gave me a much broader picture about the company.
To sum it all up, I believe that if you have any questions, that you should get the answers straight from the horse’s mouth (or chicken’s beak, in this case). These are very nice people and were willing to answer any and all questions that I had. I came away educated and feeling much more positive about this situation. I know there are those, like I was, who are basin their decisions on what they have heard in the past or how it is at another company, but I feel that once they were to get the truth about Cobb-Vantres, they would feel better. too.
-- Billy Snyder