Perdue Farms Inc. has attracted interest from potential domestic and international suitors as protein demand expands globally, although the third-largest U.S. chicken producer says it plans to continue as a family-owned business.
“We have not had talks with anybody,” said Jim Perdue, the company’s chairman and public face who has appeared on its television commercials. “But you get phone calls.”
Those inquiries are just the latest illustration of how global companies are eying U.S. poultry and meat suppliers. Non- U.S. companies have increased their interest in the nation’s chicken industry to about 25 percent from zero before the financial crisis, according to Perdue.
For example, Brazil’s JBS SA holds a 75 percent stake in Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., the second-largest U.S. chicken producer. Earlier this month, JBS agreed to buy Cargill Inc.’s U.S. pork business.
In addition to selling chicken products, Perdue Farms also sells some processed beef, pork and turkey items. In 2014, processed meats was the most popular category within global- packaged food industry mergers and acquisitions, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Ken Shea.
Perdue said his Salisbury, Maryland-based company, founded by his grandfather in 1920, has “no plans at all” to be sold. A fourth generation of his family currently works there.
“We like what we are doing,” he said during an interview at Bloomberg headquarters in New York on Thursday. “We can go into the next 100 years.”
The company is interested in expanding into what it calls premium protein. Examples include pork produced without gestation stalls and grass-fed beef.
“Each protein has its own set of attributes that the consumer is interested in,” Perdue said. “It’s a matter of making sure we are listening to what those things are.”
Perdue Farms, the largest U.S. producer of organic chicken, has eliminated the routine use of human antibiotics in its chicken. It announced this week more than half of its birds are now raised with no antibiotics of any kind.