Sanderson Farms Inc. said Thursday it is planning to build a new poultry processing plant in the town of St. Pauls and Robeson County, North Carolina. The chicken processing company said the new facility will employ about 1,100 people and have the capacity to process and sell about 500 million pounds of dressed meat annually. The Laurel, Mississippi-based company said it will invest about $139 million in the new plant, including on upgrades to an existing facility in Kinston, N.C. Construction is expected to begin during the fourth fiscal quarter of 2016. The announcement comes a day after the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed that turkey flocks in Missouri and Arkansas had been infected with the H5N2 avian flu, sending shares of Sanderson and other meat processors lower. Sanderson said Thursday that none of its flocks had been affected. "However, we have taken this opportunity to remind all of our contract poultry producers and our employees that the Company requires strict adherence to its biosecurity program, and have reminded them of the program's specific requirements and procedures," Chief Executive Joe Sanderson said in the statement announcing the new plant. Shares rose 1.1% in early trade, but are down 7.8% in the last three months, while the S&P 500 has gained about 2%.
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