By GARY CONNOR
When Sanderson Farms decided to construct their hatchery and processing plant in Waco and a feed mill in Robertson County, Director of Development and Engineering, Bob Billingsley knew Anderson County would be home to the company’s next expansion project.
“I knew we’d be coming because Anderson County is exactly the kind of place we like to build our facilities,” said Billingsley, who had considered building facilities near Palestine four years ago. “Palestine and Anderson County have an excellent available workforce. They are typical of the size community and county we need to support our operation.
“The Waco facility is the most modern in the industry,” he stated during a recent tour of the Waco facilities. “And, what we will build in Anderson County will be exactly like this Waco operation, only more efficient.”
Efficiency and sustainability are words one hears frequently when talking to Sanderson Farms personnel as they are constantly searching for methods to make their systems more efficient.
The Sanderson Farms methodology is a well-orchestrated, finely honed and extremely clean operation from egg production to the hatchery to the feed mill to the processing plant.
“I know people are concerned about odor, but there is no odor from our facilities,” Billingsley said. “We spent a half million dollars (at the Waco facility) for a cover to enclose our waste pond and that eliminates any chance of odor.
“We are a public company and feel very strongly about our responsibility to our communities, food safety, employee welfare and environmental responsibility. All are very important to us.”
Methane gas from the waste pond is captured by the cover and is ultimately flared off. Soon Sanderson Farms will add a processing system which will process the methane gas to replace the propane currently used by the processing facility increasing their level of sustainability.
Timing is everything to Sanderson Farms, who processes 250,000 chickens per day at the Waco plant.
“These eggs will hatch on Friday within an hour of one another,” Billingsley said standing beside an incubator, one of 52 such incubators responsible for hatching 1.6 million eggs per week.
The Anderson County hatchery will be a $17 million facility with 72 hourly employees, 34 salaried employees with an annual payroll of $4.1 million. The 65,000 square foot facility will be located on 10 acres in the Willow Creek Business Park on the South Loop in Palestine.
A $75 million processing facility is planned on a 170 acre tract of land off South Hwy 79 near the waste water treatment plant. The 180,000 square foot facility will employee 900 hourly employees and 75 salaried employees with a $21.7 million annual payroll.
The $32 million feed mill located in Freestone County near Oakwood will employee 60 hourly employees and nine salaried employees with an annual payroll of $2.6 million. All three sites were researched and recommended to Sanderson Farms by city and county officials.
“We needed mainline rail for our feed mill and that is the reason for the site in Freestone County,” Billingsley said. “And, Union Pacific did their part to assure Sanderson Farms came to Texas.
“All our employees are full time,” he continued. “We do not have any part time positions in the Sanderson Farms operations. At the Bryan and Waco facilities 60 percent of our employees are female and we expect the Palestine facilities to be the same.”
According to Billingsley, Sanderson Farms has a system in place that performs proprietary background checks on all employees.
“We do not locate a plant in a community where the town could not support what we need,” he said. “We would not put a hardship on the school system or the medical community.
“We work two shifts, one that begins at 5 a.m. and another that begins at 3 p.m. plus a clean up crew.”
Sanderson Farms will be a part of the community on many levels, Billingsley reported.
“Sanderson Farms matches dollar for dollar the amount donated by our employees to the United Way,” he said. “From the Bryan and Waco facilities we (employees and company) donated $130,000 to United Way last year.”
Sanderson Farms has an adopt a school program and will be an active part of that school. And, Sanderson Farms buys as much corn as possible from local producers for their feed mills.
“Typically, local corn producers cannot furnish all of our needs, but we buy all the corn that is available locally,” Billingsley said.
A $12 million wastewater facility also is part of Sanderson Farms plans for its Anderson County facility site.
“The water we discharge is drinkable, potable water,” Billingsley said. “We have zero tolerance for environmental compliance. We treat 1 million gallons of water per day.
“We use water from the public water system for all processing operations,” he added. “We do not use any of the discharged water in the processing of the chickens.”
The Anderson County facilities are scheduled to begin operation in 2015.
SANDERSON FARMS EMPLOYEE BENEFITS
• 75 percent paid medical coverage for all employees, both individual and family, through Blue Cross Blue Shield.
• Employee Stock Ownership Plan
• Profit Sharing,
• Dental insurance
• Vision Insurance