I recently spent time with our Poultry Farmer Advisory Council at our Springdale, Arkansas headquarters and I’m happy about the progress we’ve made in a short time. The Council, formed last year, is a group of six farmers who we’ve tapped to provide candid feedback about the relationship between the company and the farmers who raise chickens for us. It was part of an INITIATIVE TO ENHANCE COMMUNICATIONS and transparency with farmers.
For those who don’t know, chicken farmers are independent contractors, not employees of Tyson Foods. We’ve been working with farmers on a contract basis since the 1940s and it’s been a relationship we believe works well for both parties. We supply the birds, their feed and technical advice. The farmers provide the labor, housing, utilities and land to raise the birds. This relationship increases efficiency and quality, while maintaining affordable prices for consumers.
We created the Advisory Council as a part of our efforts to continue to improve. For us, improvement isn’t just about being more efficient or more profitable; it’s also about improving relationships, being more transparent and learning what others think. They meet with us, we talk about ideas and they have the ears of many people who are responsible for our live operations.
In our first meeting months ago, the group said they wanted more information to help them manage their time and work better. Since they’re dependent upon us to deliver their chicks and feed, and eventually gather chickens for harvest, farmers can spend a fair amount of time waiting on us. They may delay a trip to town or end up paying a hired hand for more time than they need to.
Nowadays farmers remotely manage so many aspects of the chicken houses via their smartphone—the temperature of chicken houses, turning the lights on or off, and even receive alerts if anything goes wrong in the house. Today there’s an app for almost everything, so why don’t we have a mobile app for our farmers? It sounds unbelievable, but no one had thought of this idea until we sat down and started actively listening to the needs of our farmers—which is why our Advisory Council is so important. In one of our next meetings, our information technology team listened to the growers’ requests and began to ideate on a solution.
I’m proud to say our information technology team delivered—we presented an early version of a smartphone app that, functionally, does everything we wanted and more. But as we walked through it with the Advisory Council, more ideas came to light. They provided great feedback and are an essential part in helping build a tool that will soon be used by nearly 4,000 Tyson Foods chicken farmers. And I couldn’t be more pleased.
For farmers reading this, the app isn’t out yet—we’ve got some tweaking to do and we’re going to test a beta version for a little while, but it won’t be too long.
I like to spend time with this group of farmers because they speak what’s on their mind. They can make me little uncomfortable with their candidness sometimes, but real change and transformation comes when we’re pushed out of our comfort zone. By sitting down with them and truly listening to them, we’ve gained new perspective and will benefit from their fresh ideas.
They hold us accountable and they know we have their best interest at heart. And, at the end of the day, they’re making us better.
Published October 12, 2018.