Jim Perdue reaffirms company will remain family business

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.

In a story published this week by the Bloomberg News Service, Perdue Chairman Jim Perdue reaffirmed his long-maintained stance that the company will remain a family enterprise.

“We have not had talks with anybody,” Perdue told Bloomberg. “But you get phone calls.”

Global companies are seeking U.S. poultry and meat suppliers as possible take-over targets. According to Bloomberg, international companies have increased their interest in the nation’s chicken industry to about 25 percent from zero before the financial crisis.

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 the 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 last week. “We can go into the next 100 years.”

Perdue said  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.

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