In a statement, the company said: "As part of its on-going operational footprint optimisation review and business recovery plan, the business has proposed to transfer operations from the West Midlands site to alternative sites within its UK network. This will place 642 roles at Tipton at risk of redundancy.
"Tipton has a long history and is well established in the local area with many long-serving employees. However, the site itself requires significant investment and redevelopment to cater for future requirements, while its location places severe restrictions on any further development.
"The business is keen to retain the experience and skills of the Tipton team where possible. Transfer opportunities to alternative Tulip sites will be explored thoroughly if the closure is confirmed and employees will be presented with a number of options as part of the consultation process."
The staff consultation is expected to take at least 45 days. The Tipton factory is engaged in two primary activities: the boning of pork primals and the transformation of that deboned material into fresh product for retail.
Trade union Unite, which has more than 200 members at the site, said the news was ‘devastating’ for the workforce.
Unite regional officer Rick Coyle said: “This is devastating for our members. We will be considering the serious implications of today’s announcement very closely.
“I will be seeking urgent talks with the management to see what can be done to save this site and also what redeployment opportunities there may be. I will be meeting our shop stewards for detailed discussions on Friday (6 March).
“Unite’s top priority will be the welfare of our members and their families at this difficult time – we will be giving them maximum support in the days and weeks ahead.”
King's Lynn turn around
The announcement represents a painful moment in Tulip's recent history. Its King's Lynn facility won Site Team of The Year at this year's Food Manufacture Excellence Awards last month for the turn around in the plant's fortunes. And the Business Benchmark for Farm Animal Welfare gave Tulip its highest benchmark for animal welfare standards in February.
In addition, while announcing 49 redundancies at its Bodmin site, the company has agreed a recovery plan to secure its future.
Hit by larger net losses, Tulip reported an operating loss of £17.3m for the full-year ended 30 September 2019, reduced from an operating loss of £37.6m in the previous year.
A spokesman for Tulip told Food Manufacture at the time: "Last year was all about recovery and, this year, having got to a point where we feel the business is now out of recovery, there's a renewed sense of optimism. This year is all about stabilising the business and growth.
Tough cost-management programme
"We went through quite a tough cost-management programme, where we took a significant amount of operating cost out of the business, efficiency drives that went throughout the organisation."
"Having started the financial year in a position where we were effectively losing £800,000 to £1m a week, we closed the financial year and, during the course of the current financial year, have been consistently making a profit week-on-week."
Tulip was acquired from Danish Crown by Pilgrim's Pride in a deal worth £290m in the autumn of last year.