Poultry processing company Cagles Inc. said Monday it is halting a production shift at its plant in nearby Pine Mountain Valley, Ga., putting about 300 people out of work.
Atlanta-based Cagles, in a release issued by J. Douglas Cagle, the firms chairman, chief executive officer and president, said the layoffs will be effective Aug. 19 or no more than two weeks after that date.
The facility, one of Harris Countys largest employers, now has 640 workers on its payroll, processing 520,000 chickens weekly. The plant was converted to a deboning operation a year ago, with production at 630,000 chickens per week.
Soaring feed costs are behind the move, the company said, with prices climbing 34 percent last fall, mainly due to a 75-percent increase in the cost of corn. Boneless breast sales also dipped 10 percent over the past year, it said.
Last November, volume was cut by 20 percent at the Pine Mountain plant, with two shifts working four days per week. That obviously was not enough.
With this layoff the company expects to operate one full shift five days per week processing 320,000 head and improving the weekly take-home pay of its remaining employees, the company said.
Security personnel at the Pine Mountain Valley facility referred phone calls seeking comment on the layoffs to Cagles corporate headquarters in Atlanta. A person answering the phone there would not comment, saying all staff had left for the day.
Cagles celebrated its 60th year of business in 2005, according to its website. J. Douglas Cagle took charge of the company upon his fathers death in 1978. The younger Cagles sons, George D. Cagle and James D. Cagle, are vice presidents with the firm.
The website touts the company as a family business, saying its management takes pride in a policy of not having closed doors to its employees.
As a result, the staff has remained remarkably stable, the site said. Longevity is the rule, not the exception, and every department has employees with 10, 20, even 25 years with the company.
Aside from the Atlanta headquarters and Pine Mountain Valley facility, Cagles also has a processing plant in Collinsville, Ala., a hatchery in Dalton, Ga., and a feed mill in Rockmart, Ga.
The company posted a net loss of $566,000 on sales of $310 million during the 52-week period ended April 2, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Cagles shares, traded on the American Stock Exchange, slipped 7 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $4.20 per share Monday. The stocks trading range for the year is $3.77 to $11.96 per share.