Tyson Foods is weighing new sites for a $320-million chicken processing plant, hatchery and feed mill after residents in Tonganoxie, Kansas opposed the project, according to Reuters. Tyson Foods had expected to break ground in Tonganoxie this autumn; however, residents were concerned about the project’s impact on the environment and other issues.  The project planned for Tonganoxie would have been Tyson’s first new plant built since the 1990s.

“We’ll be delayed slightly here,” Tyson CEO Tom Hayes told reporters this week.  Tyson decided to build the new plant because it was buying more chicken than it wanted from other producers to meet demand, Hayes said.  Hayes did not say when Tyson would pick a new site. However, he indicated that states are contacting Tyson Foods to be considered as the location for the new plant.

Hayes also said that Tyson Foods wants to gain a better understanding of how local residents will feel about the plant when choosing the site for the new plant.  Kansas had helped Tyson narrow its search in the state and Tyson previously won support from state and local elected officials to build the plant in Tonganoxie.  However, Hayes said “I don’t know how in touch all of the officials were with what the direct local sentiment was for all those in the local community of Tonganoxie and the surrounding area.”

Tyson said it would increase its overall production capacity by processing up to 1.25 million birds per week. U.S. per capita chicken consumption is expected to hit a record high this year.  Chicken sales have increased as consumer seek more protein in their diets.  In addition, some consumers view chicken as a healthier alternative to beef and pork.