“But when was the last time you ate a chicken neck?”

Two years shuttered and yet not completely non-operational, the El Dorado Pilgrim’s Pride hosted 10 men in hazmat suits this morning in a training class preparing for possible chemical leaks.

Don’t ask what chemicals, they won’t tell you. Don’t ask how many, they’ll hesitate again. But, the point is that there are still operations at the El Dorado facility despite the closure of the processing portion in 2009. Who knew?

They now specialize in necks, backs, skin and frames (bones), all completely safe for human consumption, Plant Manager Hal Davis assures.

“But when was the last time you ate a chicken neck?” he asked, pointing out that the demand for anything but skinless, boneless chicken has dropped way low.

The non-popular pieces of poultry end up at places like the El Dorado plant where they’re turned into ingredients for high-end dog and cat food as well as for biofuels, Davis said. He added that popular products such as IAMS and Nutro use Pilgrim’s Pride chicken meal and fat, but wouldn’t say which company buys ingredients for biofuels (an out-of-towner, he said).

The class will continue tomorrow with a new group of eight men training for all possible chemical contingencies. A total of 18 out of the 27 employed at the plant will be trained by the end of the day Thursday.

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