JACKSON, MS (WLBT) -There’s one industry that can’t be ignored in Scott County. Poultry is big business.
Several companies have processing plants within the county, and the work goes back generations for many families. You don’t even have to veer off the beaten path and see the chicken houses to realize where you are.
“By in large, we’re chicken country,” said City of Forest Alderman Matt Alford.
The City of Forest is dotted with colorful roosters, each sponsored by a local business. One is perched atop The Durham Company.
“If the poultry industry wasn’t here, we wouldn’t be here," said Jim Durham. "Pretty much the city of Forest would be a ghost town, because poultry is Scott County, and actually Forest as well.”
The poultry business is in Durham’s blood.
“I’m the third generation in the business," noted Durham. "Anything that would be inside that house that grows the chickens, we would be able to sell to them.”
But the Durham’s also have five chicken houses in the county.
“Most people don’t know that the chicken houses in this local area, especially for Tyson, those birds are only about 35-36 days old when they actually go to the processing plant," he explained.
They’re contracted with Tyson. That means they provide the land, chicken houses, water, and heating and cooling. Tyson provides birds, feed and any vitamins. And that’s the usual set-up, no matter the company that farmers are linked up with.
“We’re delivering to Tyson foods about 185,000 chickens every eight weeks or so,” said Durham.
And that’s just one family. In 2016, the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association estimated the poultry industry’s total economic impact in Scott County of nearly 2.3 billion dollars.
“I counted up that there are 97 growers, according to DEQ, that they have in Scott County. So, it’s in the top ten of growers,” said President of the Mississippi Poultry Association Mark Leggett.
And as the Mississippi Poultry Association explains, that fits into the largest agricultural industry in the state.
“If it all went away tomorrow, Mississippi’s economy would have about a $20 billion hole in it," added Leggett. "$3 billion of that is what’s paid to growers.”
“Every facet of Scott County is somehow tied to the poultry industry," explained Alford. "Every merchant that we have here in town, every grocery store, every bank is somehow directly or indirectly doing business with the poultry companies here in the area. We don’t know what we’d do without the poultry industry.”