UTIA breaks ground on poultry research, education facility

New University of Tennessee poultry facility includes four commercial-size broiler production houses and supporting laboratory and office space.

University of Tennessee AgResearch celebrated the official groundbreaking for a next generation poultry research and education facility at the Middle Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center.
University of Tennessee AgResearch celebrated the official groundbreaking for a next generation poultry research and education facility at the Middle Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center.
Courtesy UTIA

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) has embarked on a significant initiative to bolster the poultry production and processing industry in the state by investing in a state-of-the-art poultry research and education facility at its Middle Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Spring Hill.

At the official groundbreaking ceremony held on May 2, numerous state and local officials, as well as members of the poultry industry, convened to celebrate this milestone. The project entails the construction of four commercial-size broiler production houses, each measuring 54’ x 600’, alongside supporting facilities such as a research and teaching lab and office spaces. This facility is poised to become the premier commercial broiler research unit in the country, aligning with UTIA's mission of teaching, research and practical application.

UT System President Randy Boyd expressed gratitude to the honored guests and partners for their support, highlighting the manifold benefits the facility will offer, including advancements in animal welfare, production efficiency and workforce development. Notable attendees at the event included Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture Charlie Hatcher, Spring Hill Mayor Jim Hagaman and Tennessee Farm Bureau President Eric Mayberry, among others.

The significance of this investment is underscored by Tennessee's prominent standing in broiler production nationwide, ranking 15th in the nation. With the state boasting a processing capacity exceeding 8 million birds per week and serving as a primary hub for breeder operations and genetics, the new facility is poised to catalyze further growth in the industry regionally and nationally.

Shane Joyner, vice president for Live Operations at Tyson Foods, emphasized the facility's focus on researching production animal health, industry sustainability and environmental stewardship. He underscored the collaborative potential between UT's research expertise and the industry's practical insights, positioning the facility as a talent hub for the poultry industry.

Keith Carver, UT Institute of Agriculture senior vice president, and Hongwei Xin, dean of UT AgResearch, highlighted the facility's role in educating and empowering the workforce while advancing producer success. They emphasized the facility's capacity to facilitate groundbreaking research in precision livestock farming, animal welfare and sustainability practices, thereby providing unprecedented opportunities for students, researchers and industry stakeholders.

Anticipated to be completed by the latter part of 2025, the facility is expected to house approximately 160,000 broiler chickens at maximum capacity, marking a significant stride towards fostering innovation and excellence in the poultry industry.

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, comprising the Herbert College of Agriculture, UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch and UT Extension, remains steadfast in its commitment to delivering real-life solutions and impacting lives both within Tennessee and beyond.

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