Food processing in Alabama

Alabama has a dynamic food-processing industry, ranging from grain and oilseed milling to seafood product prep and packaging to bakeries. As of 2013, the establishments totaled 349, in addition to 41 beverage product manufacturers.
In 2013, Alabama food and beverage industries employed over 33,200 workers, accounting for about 15 percent of manufacturing jobs in the state.

Some of the largest of the food firms include Tyson Foods, Zeigler Meats, Southeastern Meats, Pepsi-Cola Bottling, Mayfield Dairy Farms, Coca-Cola Bottling and Buffalo Rock Vending.

Food and beverage product exports from Alabama increased from about $123 million in 2000 to $570 million in 2013.
Weekly wages for food manufacturer employees are about $600 on average, and beverage and tobacco product manufacturing salaries average $1,041 per week. Infrastructure advantages for these manufacturers are available in Alabama due to the state’s comprehensive transportation network. The interstate system allows companies to access over 160 metropolitan areas in a 600-mile radius.

Low energy costs, one-stop environmental permitting, available property statewide and other workforce advantages help foster food production in Alabama.

Research and development programs for food processing at Auburn University, Alabama A&M and Tuskegee University will continue to strengthen this industry for Alabama.

Keystone Foods

One of the nation’s largest multi-protein suppliers has its U.S. Proteins Group headquartered in Huntsville. Keystone Foods Proteins has seven processing plants, two of which are in Alabama. Known for its innovation, Keystone Foods developed a mass production and freezing process for hamburgers known as cryogenics, pioneered the concept of “total distribution” and introduced the chicken nugget.

The Eufaula operation is a fully integrated broiler chicken complex and includes a hatchery, feed mill, broiler, breeder, pullet houses, live-haul operation and a processing plant. The facility processes boneless meat products, which are sold to the food service and retail industry in the United States and abroad.

The Gadsden complex includes a processing plant, state-of-the-art waste water facility and an 83,000-square-foot cold storage building. The facility produces fully cooked chicken products for large national and industrial food service customers.

Both facilities received awards of merit for safety from the American Meat Institute in 2011 and have been recognized by many organizations for their records of safety, including the Joint Industry Safety and Health Council of the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association (Gadsden 2012) and the Poultry Industry Safety Council (Eufaula 2012).

Barber Dairies (Dean Foods)

Founded in 1934, Barber’s is one of Alabama’s venerable brands, selling milk, buttermilk, cottage cheese, dips and sour cream through seven distribution facilities throughout the state. Production facilities are in Birmingham. In 1998, Barber was sold to Dallas-based Dean Foods, one of the nation’s largest dairy products companies.

Updated: July 22, 2014