This Technology Comes at

By Larry Barrett  |  Posted 2002-07-10 Print this article Print

Tyson has cut 17 days from the lifespans of its chickens in the past 40 years. The modern chicken farm has come a long way from its humble, low-tech roots.

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This Technology Comes at a Price

Darrell Sanders, a contract farmer in Seagrove, N.C., recently installed four new chicken houses using Chore-Time Systems' technology. Each house cost between $560,000 and $700,000 each.

"With the new technology, the houses are easier to manage and produce a better yield, but the biggest drawback is you become a prisoner to your farm," he says. "I've got pagers that alert me when something's wrong but you only have a few minutes to react. In the past, when the houses weren't so dependent on technology, you had more time to adjust the temperature or the water. Now, you've got to get there quick or else you'll lose thousands of birds."

This dependence on technology has extended from the processing plants where dozens of cutting, skinning, de-boning and flavoring machines are coordinated through specialized software to the distribution trucks that deliver the final product to the end customers.

Leading chicken producers use software to track not only the availability of the trucks needed but also the size of the loads already scheduled to ensure every truck is as close to capacity as possible or that rail containers with parts destined for international markets make it to their destination. Then yet another piece of software is used to track and manage the availability of the drivers to guide the chicken parts to the grocery store.

Now, Tyson Foods, and potentially other chicken producers to follow, hope to use online marketplaces to get orders from and products into foodservice operations faster. Tyson also hopes to use the efficient communications of at least one such marketplace, the Electronic Food Service Network, to give it a better handle on how its products are being consumed on college campuses, at restaurants and other dining places. If in these venues it can get the same kind of sales data currently produced by scanners at grocery stores, a producer can better anticipate demand for specific parts and products and use it to better coordinate the growing and processing cycles for chickens.

Senior Writer
Larry, of San Carlos, Calif., was a senior writer and editor at CNet, writing analysis, breaking news and opinion stories. He was technology reporter at the San Jose Business Journal from 1996-1997. He graduated with a B.A. from San Jose State University where he was also executive editor of the daily student newspaper.

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