Sanderson Farms has grown from a small general feed and seed business in 1947 to one of the nation's leading food corporations in fiscal 2017, with sales of more than $3.3 billion. We are currently the third largest poultry producer in the U.S., processing over 4.2 billion pounds of meat in fiscal 2017.
Our state-of-the-art facilities provide us the capacity to process more than 12.0 million chickens per week. We currently operate 11 poultry plants, with our newest complex having opened in January 2017 in St. Pauls, North Carolina. This location provides additional quality products for new customers, opportunities for our employees and, above all, value for our shareholders. Combined with our company-owned feed mills and hatcheries, we are well positioned to keep up with the growing demand for our products.
In fiscal 2017, Sanderson Farms announced sites for a 12th complex located in Smith and Wood Counties, Texas, for a new feed mill, hatchery, poultry processing plant and waste water treatment facility. Together these facilities will comprise a state-of-the-art poultry complex with the capacity to process 1.25 million birds per week for retail chill pack customers. The complex will employ approximately 1,700 people, will require 80 contract growers, and will be equipped to process and sell approximately 375 million pounds of dressed poultry meat annually. Initial operations of the new Texas complex is expected to begin during the first calendar quarter of 2019.
Our 15,000+ employees and over 900 independent growers are committed to offering our customers the very best products on the market today. Perhaps that's why the products produced by Sanderson Farms can be found in major markets throughout the country as well as overseas.
Sanderson Farms was incorporated in Mississippi in 1955 as a fully integrated poultry processing company that produces, processes, markets and distributes fresh and frozen chicken products. Our stock became publicly traded in May 1987 and is listed on NASDAQ under the symbol SAFM.
Today, the company continues to build upon its rich traditions, believing that our success is largely due to the values instilled by the tenacious efforts of our founders and our extended family of employees. This includes the tradition of providing quality products to our customers and being responsive to their diverse needs, a hallmark of our business for 70 years.