Food processing in Alabama

Alabama has a dynamic food-processing industry, highlighted by its No. 3 national ranking in the broiler chicken category in 2010 and a No. 14 ranking for egg-laying chickens. The state even ranks No. 3 in quail as a livestock, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In-state, poultry ranks first for agricultural commodities (excluding forestry) with 70 percent of total agricultural sales.

Catfish sales were second nationally in a recent survey. The annual Alabama Catfish Festival in Greensboro underscores the importance of the industry.

The food sector industry employs 35,000 in 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, an industry first.

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 further processing plant. The facility processes boneless meat products from this plant which are sold to the foodservice and retail industry in the United States and abroad.

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

Both facilities received Awards of Merit for Safety from the American Meat Institute in 2011 and have been recognized by countless other 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, according to the company website. Production facilities are in Birmingham. In 1998, Barber was sold to Dallas-based Dean Foods, one of the nation’s largest dairy products companies.