Farms Add More Chicken Houses In Northwest Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Poultry producers in northwest Arkansas are adding more chicken houses to their farms this year, according to new state data.

Benton and Washington counties saw an increase in poultry houses in 2018 compared to last year, according to a report released last week at the Arkansas-Oklahoma Arkansas River Compact Commission meeting.

“It used to be standard to have two, or four houses; but now it’s common to have six or eight houses per location,” said Travis Justice, chief economist at the Arkansas Farm Bureau. “It’s tended to go higher over the years.”

Benton County’s bird capacity increased to 28.9 million this year, up from 24.1 million in 2017, the AP reports. Washington County’s poultry capacity grew to 23.1 million in 2018, compared to 17.3 million last year. Capacities refer to the maximum number of birds that can be grown at once.

Benton and Washington counties are home to some of the state’s leading poultry producers, including Tyson Foods, Simmons Foods and George’s Inc.

Ed Milliken, a contract chicken grower for George’s Inc, said local farms are growing because there’s more cash flow. He said the increase in poultry homes is in part the result of additional processing capacity in the area.

Simmons Foods’ new plant in Benton County will ramp up its operations next year. It’s also leading to an increase in the number of poultry farms in eastern Oklahoma.

More than 140 of the new or expanding poultry houses in Oklahoma are listed to grow poultry for Simmons Foods.