updated 2/27/2004 2:55:21 PM ET 2004-02-27T19:55:21

Tyson Foods Inc. said Friday it will shut down a Jackson poultry plant to consolidate operations at its newer Carthage facility, costing 800 workers their jobs.

Tyson acquired the Carthage facility when it purchased Choctaw Maid Farms in September 2003.

The company said the decision to close the Jackson plant, which was built in 1961, came after an analysis of the poultry producer’s Mississippi operations.

The Jackson workers will be offered severance packages and relocation assistance, said company spokesman Ed Nicholson.

Tyson said the 850,000 birds currently being processed weekly in Jackson will now be processed at Carthage, bringing the total production at that Leake County facility to about 2.3 million birds weekly.

The company said 120 jobs would be eliminated at the Carthage plant, primarily through attrition, once the new automated systems are operating. The plant currently has about 1,900 employees. It was built in 1995.

Bill Lovette, Tyson’s vice president of food service, said closing Jackson operations was extremely difficult because of the many veteran workers and longtime community support.

“But after Choctaw Maid came on board, we found ourselves with excess capacity in a very old facility,” he said. “We are also faced with a compelling need to install newer, more automated processing equipment, and it simply makes more business sense to invest that capital in the more modern facility.”

Production at the plant will be curtailed in phases, with slaughter operations closing on or about May 10. The remainder of the production is expected to end in late July.

The company said it expected to take pretax charges to earnings of approximately $10 million to $13 million, or 2 cents per diluted share, primarily in the second quarter of this fiscal year related to the production shifts.

Tyson said it also expects the shift to have a positive affect pretax earnings of about $20 million to $25 million annually, or 4 to 5 cents per diluted share, beginning in fiscal 2005.

Tyson has 300 facilities and offices in 26 states and 22 nations. The company employs 120,000 people.

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