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Pilgrim's Pride Corporation

Pilgrim's Pride Corporation


4845 U.S. Highway 271 North
Pittsburg, Texas 75686-0093
U.S.A.
Telephone: (903) 855-1000
Fax: (903) 856-7505
Web site: http://www.pilgrimspride.com

Public Company
Incorporated:
1963 as Pilgrim Feed Mills, Inc.
Employees: 56,500
Sales: $7.4 billion (2006)
Stock Exchanges: New York
Ticker Symbol: PPC
NAIC: 311615 Poultry Processing

Pilgrim's Pride Corporation is the largest chicken processor in the United States and the second largest in Mexico. The company processes nearly 44 million birds per week and operates 37 chicken processing plants, 12 prepared-food facilities, and one turkey processing plant. It sells its poultry products and its trademarked Eggs-Plus products to customers in the foodservice, retail, and frozen entrée industries throughout the United States and Mexico and in over 70 countries around the globe. The company secured its industry-leading position through the 2006 acquisition of Gold Kist, Inc. As of 2007, Pilgrim's Pride was approximately 62 percent owned by its founder and chairman Lonnie (Bo) Pilgrim and his family.

COMPANY ORIGINS

According to an article by Toni Mack in Forbes, when Lonnie (Bo) Pilgrim was a boy "and wanted a Coke, his father, who ran the general store in the northeast Texas hamlet of Pine, would first make him sell six Cokes for a nickel apiece to the men working the nearby cotton gin." Such was the early business training of the chicken magnate who, by his own admission, "started from nothing." Because his father died abruptly from a heart attack, leaving the store in debt and the family with just $80, Bo was forced from age 11 to work at several different jobs. At the age of 17, he and his brother Aubrey purchased a farm supply store in Pittsburg, Texas, with money borrowed from a bank and a local dentist. The first capital investment was a used cotton gin, which the brothers converted into a feed grinder. From 1945 until 1966, the year of Aubrey's death, the company that would eventually incorporate as Pilgrim Feed Mills, Inc., expanded into egg-hatching and broiler-processing. In 1968, Bo, along with Aubrey's heirs, reincorporated the business as Pilgrim Industries, Inc.

Well into the 1980s, sales increases for the company averaged 20 percent annually. This growth was largely due to Bo's gutsy leadership and willingness to endure debt-to-equity ratios in excess of four-to-one in order to stay ahead of the competition. Jessica Greenbaum, in an article in Forbes, quotes one of Pilgrim's bankers as stating that Bo had "expanded as fast as he possibly could. The balance sheet couldn't sustain anymore." Pilgrim's strategy apparently paid off, for between 1960 and 1984, the number of broiler producers in the country shrank by more than 80 percent to just 55. Almost a decade later, that number stood at 45.

ADVERTISING AND PRODUCT INNOVATION

Beginning in January 1983, Pilgrim began promoting his company and the Pilgrim's Pride label through an award-winning television commercial, in which he appeared wearing a Pilgrim's hat as he affably related the superiority of his product line. The ads helped raise the profile of the Texas-based company, which posted sales that year of $268 million and profits of $2.1 million. By the following year, Pilgrim's Pride had become the ninth largest chicken producer in the United States and the first to introduce fresh, whole, boneless chickens to the market. Yet, despite such advances, as well as a conscientious paring down of its debt, the business was perhaps as precarious during the mid-1980s as it had ever been. The reason for this, wrote Mack, was that "the company was almost entirely dependent on highly cyclical commodity chicken sales. Twice over the years, commodity chicken down-cycles had almost bankrupted Pilgrim's Pride." Pilgrim's solution to this problem came in January 1986, when the company began operating a state-ofthe-art "further processed" facility at Mt. Pleasant, Texas. In November of the same year, the company went public with a listing on the New York Stock Exchange; however, Bo maintained ownership and control by retaining 80 percent of the company's shares.

Bo's gamble on prepared chicken for the retail market proved just as risky as the commodity business, due to strong competition from Tyson and ConAgra as well as heightened advertising and promotional costs totaling as much as $6 to $8 million a year. 1988 marked a low point for the company when it posted an income loss of nearly $8 million on $506 million in sales. A switch to the accrual method of accounting, however, allowed the business to report a final profit of $1.7 million.

EXPANSION

Two well-timed decisions enabled Pilgrim's Pride to rebound dramatically in 1989. The first was Bo's surrender of the retail market (a minuscule percentage of corporate sales in the late 1990s) and full-scale assault on the foodservice industry. Although Tyson remained the leader, Pilgrim's Pride was able to promote itself as a strong alternate, through contracts with such frontrunners as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Kraft General Foods, and Wendy's restaurants. The second well-timed decision was Pilgrim's entry into the Mexican consumer market with the late 1987 acquisition of four fully integrated poultry operations serving the populous hub of Mexico City. The purchase price for the Mexican venture totaled $15.1 million. Largely because of these two moves, 1989 net sales shot up 30 percent, and net income rose above $20 million, for a profit-to-sales ratio of just over 3 percent. (Pilgrim's long-term goal was to boost this latter figure to around 4 percent.) The only blemish for the company that year was Pilgrim's involvement in a campaign contribution scandal with eight Texas lawmakers. The company CEO was forced to defend himself before a grand jury, but he was not indicted and was able to return to the business of keeping the company in the black.

From 1987 to 1991, the company tripled the size of its Mexican operations, built a strong presence in frozen retail, established a dependable export business, and witnessed enormous increases in output for its further processed and prepared divisions. In addition, it entered into a number of joint marketing and advertising arrangements that kept down costs while increasing market share. All of this helped contribute to record sales of $786 million. Nevertheless, profits were down 21 percent and hovering at just 1.5 percent of revenues. Pilgrim's was a well-integrated agribusiness, 20th in domestic egg production, 5th in broiler sales, and blessed with a solid brand name and rising per capita consumption of its leading product. It had anticipated and responded to consumer demand with a wide array of new food products, including fresh tray packs, party packs, chicken patties, nuggets, strips, and ready-to-eat gourmet entrees and appetizers. Furthermore, the company owned dozens of modern breeder and growout farms; several feed mills and processing plants; and 19 distribution facilities in the Southwest and in Mexico. The explanation for Pilgrim's slide was most likely twofold: the company had failed to distance itself enough from the cyclical price woes of plain processed chicken, and it had saddled itself with increasing debt.

COMPANY PERSPECTIVES


Our vision is to be a world-class food company better than the best. Our mission is to provide outstanding customer satisfaction every day.

PROBLEMS ARISE

In 1991, the company spent $34.4 million on improving the efficiency of its Mexican facilities and another $26.1 million on improving its domestic plants. The company entered 1992 hoping for the best and aiming at reaching sales of $1 billion by 1994. However, while the year proved full of noteworthy events, few of them were good news for the company. In January a fire at the Mt. Pleasant plant left 21 injured following a full evacuation of some 1,200 employees. The cause of the fire was determined to be a loose hydraulic line near a burner. Fortunately, all injuries were minor. Then, in May 1994, a debt restructuring was announced that would allow the company greater latitude in repaying its short-term obligations. The deal was completed in late June and served to extend Pilgrim's loan maturities until May 1, 1993. However, in order to arrange the waivers, the company was forced to sell five million common shares to Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) at six dollars per share. As a result, Bo Pilgrim's personal stake was effectively reduced from almost 80 percent to approximately 65 percent. A clause limiting ADM from acquiring more than a 20 percent interest, and Pilgrim's indemnification of ADM against losses for an undisclosed period, were also part of the deal.

Despite such warning signals, several analysts were surprised by a management reorganization announced in August, which involved the replacement of William Voss, president since 1988. Voss's successor, 11-year veteran Monty Henderson, was appointed to turn a declining earnings trend around. For the first nine months of fiscal 1992, ending June 27, the company sustained a net loss of $17.1 million. In the company's final quarter, another huge drop was added to the bottom line, resulting in one of its worst years ever. According to a Wall Street Journal article published just after this last piece of news, Pilgrim's yearlong "financial funk" was in danger of worsening. Short-term debts still needed to be reduced and further loan negotiations seemed inevitable. In November the company announced that it would not pay its common stock dividend for the first quarter of fiscal 1993. In addition, it was reported that "Pilgrim's Pride is seeking waivers of financial covenants in loan agreements with major secured lenders to whom it owes $65 million." Discussions for extending the May 1993 deadline until October 1993 were in progress.

In a March 16, 1993, press release, Pilgrim's Pride announced that it had filed a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regarding its proposed public offering of $100 million of Senior Subordinated Notes due 2003. According to the press release, the offering was "part of a refinancing plan designed to consolidate indebtedness, extend the average maturity of Pilgrim's Pride outstanding indebtedness and improve Pilgrim's Pride's operating and financial flexibility."

By 1992, Pilgrim's Pride was the country's second largest supplier of prepared chicken products, but was still not profitable. Increases in overall sales slowed in the early 1990s, while profits steadily declined. By the end of fiscal 1992, the company was struggling under the weight of a $29.7 million loss, attributable to excess poultry production and sinking prices.

With overall sales slowing, Pilgrim's Pride's Mexican operations were becoming increasingly important to the company's bottom line. Mexican operations grew to 20 percent of total Pilgrim's Pride revenues by 1994. Success in the region led Pilgrim's Pride to pursue further expansion there. In 1995 the company spent $32 million for five chicken operations known collectively as Union de Queretaro. Despite Mexico's economic problems in 1995 and 1996, Pilgrim's Pride maintained its stability there, and as Mexico's economy recovered, Pilgrim's Pride was in a good position to grow with it. By 1997, the company had entered every major market in the country and had achieved a 19 percent share of the poultry market.

KEY DATES


1968:
Pilgrim Industries incorporates.
1986:
Pilgrim's Pride Corporation goes public.
1987:
The company expands into Mexico.
1997:
Green Acre Foods is acquired.
2001:
WLR Foods, Inc., is purchased.
2002:
The company is forced to issue the largest meat recall to date in the history of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
2003:
The chicken division of ConAgra Foods, Inc., is added to the company's holdings.
2006:
Pilgrim's Pride buys Gold Kist, Inc.

PUBLIC IMAGE CHALLENGES

However, problems at home continued to plague the company. Public attention began focusing on the company's environmental and worker's rights record in the mid-1990s. In 1994, the company was sued by a doctor who had treated approximately 100 Pilgrim's Pride workers claiming to have been injured on the job; the doctor accused Pilgrim's Pride of interfering in his doctor-patient relationships and of retaliating against him for trying to improve working conditions at the plant. Although the company denied any wrongdoing, the suit brought to light several past cases in which Pilgrim's Pride had violated workers' compensation laws. In fact, the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission (TWCC) had already fined the company five times, for a total of $10,000, for violations. According to the Progressive in 1994, the TWCC investigation brought on by Dr. Arroyo's charges revealed "many violations by Pilgrim's Pride and its insurance companies."

At the same time, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) was investigating the company for air- and water-quality violations and industrial waste violations. Between 1984 and 1994, the TNRCC had received more than 110 complaints against Pilgrim's Pride for such environmental violations. By 1994, Pilgrim's Pride had received more than $1.3 million in penalties from the TNRCC. "The record of Pilgrim's Pride does concern me," Kenneth Ramirez of the TNRCC told Texas Monthly in 1994, adding that, "when a company has a history of noncompliance, at some point in time you have to take a special look at that company and the enforcement policy. We intend to take a special look at Pilgrim's Pride."

In 1996 a company proposal to build a new processing plant in Sulphur Springs, Texas, was denied by the city council; the water district's board also voted down the company's second choice in location. While opponents generally cited the company's environmental violations, some critics suggested that the decision may have also been influenced by racism, or concern about the likely influx of Spanish-speaking Mexican immigrants as workers at the plant.

During this time, the combination of a 12-year high in grain prices and the threat by Russia to ban poultry imports from the United States prompted Pilgrim's Pride to cut production by 8.5 percent for the year. Although net sales rose that year, to $1.1 billion, the company reported a loss of over $7 million for the second year in a row.

Pilgrim's Pride received a boost in fiscal 1997, however, as sales rose to $1.3 billion and net income shot up to $41 million. The record earnings beat the previous high in 1994 by 32 percent. The company also expanded that year, acquiring all the assets of Green Acre Foods, including a hatchery, a feed mill, and a processing plant. The company's plans for the late 1990s included further expansion of its prepared foods division, which in 1997 accounted for over 30 percent of the company's sales. Pilgrim's Pride pinned its hopes for a total recovery on the areas where it remained strongest: prepared foods for the foodservice industry and consumer sales to the Southwest and Mexico.

GROWTH IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM

Pilgrim's Pride spent the early years of the new millennium focused on expansion. During 2001, the company purchased WLR Foods, Inc., and secured the number two position in the U.S. chicken industry. Problems arose the following year, however, when the company was forced to issue the largest meat recall to date in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's history. Nearly 27.4 million pounds of turkey and chicken deli meats thought to have been produced in a WLR factory in Pennsylvania were taken off store shelves after a listeriosis outbreak killed eight people, caused three miscarriages, and caused illness in over 40 individuals. While the company denied responsibility, several lawsuits were filed against it and most were eventually settled confidentially.

Despite the major setback, Pilgrim's Pride continued to forge ahead with its growth plans. In 2003, the company added the chicken division of ConAgra Foods, Inc., to its arsenal. The $547 million deal nearly doubled the company's sales and market share, moving it one step closer to usurping competitor Tyson Foods, Inc., from the top spot in the U.S. market. At the same time, the company announced plans to move away from processing fresh turkey and to focus instead on processing prepared turkey products. It sold its turkey processing facility in Hinton, Virginia, in 2004 as part of this strategy.

The company made its boldest move of this time period under the continued leadership of chairman Bo Pilgrim and new CEO O. B. Goolsby, Jr. In August 2006, Pilgrim's Pride made an unsolicited bid for Gold Kist, Inc., the third largest poultry producer in the United States. After several months of heated negotiations, shareholders accepted Pilgrim's Pride's $1.1 billion offer. The deal, which included the assumption of $144 million in debt, catapulted the company into the leading position in the U.S. chicken market and also positioned it as the world's leading chicken company based on production.

By this time, the chicken industry was facing weak export demand, which led to an oversupply in the domestic market. During 2006, the company reported a net loss of $34.2 million. In response to market conditions, the company looked to its prepared-foods business to shore up profits. By offering new products such as its EatWellStayHealthy frozen food linethe first fully-cooked poultry to earn the American Heart Association sealPilgrim's Pride hoped to gain additional market share. Despite the supply and demand challenges, company management was confident it faced a bright future. Indeed, with 60 years of history behind it, Pilgrim's Pride would no doubt remain a leader in the chicken industry for years to come.

Jay P. Pederson

Updated, Susan Windisch Brown;

Christina Stansell Weaver

PRINCIPAL SUBSIDIARIES

Incubadora Hidalgo S. de R.L. de C. V. (Mexico); Inmobiliaria Avicola Pilgrim's Pride, S. de R.L. (Mexico); Pilgrim's Pride S. de R.L. de C.V. (Mexico); Gallina Pesada S.A. de C.V. (Mexico); Pilgrim's Pride Funding Corporation; PPC of Delaware Business Trust; Pilgrim's Pride Mktg, Ltd.; Pilgrim's Pride Affordable Housing Corporation; Grupo Pilgrim's Pride Funding Holdings S. de R.L. de C.V. (Mexico); Grupo Pilgrim's Pride Funding S. de R.L. de C.V. (Mexico); Valley Rail Service, Inc.; Pilgrim's Pride of Nevada, Inc.; Servicios Administrativos Pilgrim's Pride S. de R.L. de C. V. (Mexico); PFS Distribution Company; Mayflower Insurance To-Ricos, Inc.; Pilgrim's Pride Corporation of West Virginia, Inc.; PPC Transportation Company; Pilgrim's Pride Luxembourg Funding S.A.R. L.; Pilgrim's Turkey Company, LLC; Poppsa 3, LLC; Poppsa 4, LLC; Protein Acquisition Corporation; To-Ricos Distribution, Ltd.; To-Ricos, Ltd.; Pilgrim's Pride, LLC; PPC of Delaware, Inc.; Avicola Pilgrim's Pride de Mexico, S. de R.L. de C.V. (Mexico).

PRINCIPAL COMPETITORS

Industrias Bachoco, S.A.B. de C.V.; Perdue Farms; Tyson Foods Inc.; Allen Family Foods, Inc.

FURTHER READING

Ayling, Joe, "Gold Kist Takeover Hatches Leading Poultry Player," Just-Food, December 7, 2006.

Cartwright, Gary, "Bo Pilgrim: The Baron of Texas Agriculture," Texas Monthly, September 1994, pp. 11021.

Countryman, Carol, "Shame of Pilgrim's Pride," Progressive, August 1994, p. 11.

Crispens, Jonna, "Pilgrim's Pride Has New President," Supermarket News, August 24, 1992.

Gazdziak, Sam, "Fully Cooked Commitment," National Provisioner, May 1, 2007.

Gibson, Richard, "Pilgrim's Pride Does Chickens Well," Wall Street Journal, May 12, 2004.

Greenbaum, Jessica, " Sell a'Em or Smell a'Em," Forbes, July 16, 1984.

Lee, Steven H., "Ruffled Feathers: Chicken Processors Cut Production to Survive Price Squeeze," Dallas Morning News, March 9, 1996, p. F1.

Mack, Toni, "Pilgrim's Progress," Forbes, June 25, 1990.

Park, Scott, "Towns Oppose Pilgrim's Pride Chicken Plants," Dallas Morning News, April 21, 1996, p. A45.

"Pilgrim's Pride Corp.," Wall Street Journal, January 13, 1993.

"Pilgrim's Pride Corp.: Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. Agrees to Buy an 18% Stake," Wall Street Journal, May 13, 1992.

"Pilgrim's Pride Omits Dividend on Common for Fiscal 1st Period," Wall Street Journal, November 27, 1992.

"Pilgrim's Pride Ousts President, Chooses Henderson for Post," Wall Street Journal, August 10, 1992.

"Pilgrim's Pride Says Refinancing Delays Threaten Loan Pacts," Wall Street Journal, October 2, 1992.

Trice, Calvin R., "Growers in Co-Op to Buy Pilgrim's Pride Plant," Richmond Times-Dispatch, September 16, 2004.

"21 Hurt in Texas Plant Fire," New York Times, January 9, 1992.

Walker, Tom, "Chicken Rivals Make Deal," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 5, 2006.

Yung, Katherine, "Pilgrim's Pride Meat Recall Creates Crisis for Pittsburg, Texas, Poultry Giant," Dallas Morning News, January 19, 2003.

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Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation

Pilgrims Pride Corporation

110 South Texas Street
P.O. Box 93
Pittsburg, Texas 75686-0093
U.S.A.
(903) 855-1000
Fax: (903) 856-7505
Web site: http://www.pilgrimspride.com

Public Company
Incorporated:
1963 as Pilgrim Feed Mills, Inc.
Employees: 9,700
Sales: $1.3 billion
Stock Exchanges: New York
SICs: 2015 Poultry Slaughtering & Processing

Pilgrims Pride Corporation is the fourth largest chicken processor in the United States and the second largest in Mexico. Once a private company, as of 1998, the company was approximately 65 percent owned by its founder, chief executive officer, and celebrity spokesperson, Lonnie A. (Bo) Pilgrim. As a completely integrated operation, Pilgrims Pride superintends egg producing, contract growing, feed milling, animal rendering, and processing of its brand name foods for the retail, fast-food, food service, and food warehouse markets. Although its principal sales regions are the West, the Southwest, and Mexico, the company also sells selected chicken products to eastern European and Pacific Rim countries. The companys 1997 sales could be broken down as follows: U.S. fresh chicken, 26 percent; U.S. prepared foods, 30 percent; U.S. export and other chicken, 11 percent; U.S. eggs, 11 percent; and Mexican operations, 22 percent.

Company Origins

According to an article by Toni Mack in Forbes, when Pilgrim was a boy and wanted a Coke, his father, who ran the general store in the northeast Texas hamlet of Pine, would first make him sell six Cokes for a nickel apiece to the men working the nearby cotton gin. Such was the early business training of the chicken magnate who, by his own admission, started from nothing. Because his father died abruptly from a heart attack, leaving the store in debt and the family with just $80, Bo was forced to labor from age 11 at several different jobs. At the age of 17, he and his brother Aubrey purchased a farm supply store in Pittsburg, Texas, with money borrowed from a bank and a local dentist. The first capital investment was a used cotton gin, which the brothers converted into a feed grinder. From 1945 until 1966, the year of Aubreys death, the company that would eventually incorporate as Pilgrim Feed Mills, Inc. expanded into egg-hatching and broiler-processing. In 1968, Lonnie and Aubreys heirs reincorporated the business as Pilgrim Industries, Inc.

Well into the 1980s, sales increases for the company averaged 20 percent annually. This growth was largely due to Bos gutsy leadership and willingness to endure debt-to-equity ratios in excess of four-to-one in order to stay ahead of the competition. Jessica Greenbaum, in an article in Forbes, quotes one of Pilgrims bankers as stating that Bo had expanded as fast as he possibly could. The balance sheet couldnt sustain anymore. Pilgrims strategy apparently paid off, for between 1960 and 1984, the number of broiler producers in the country shrank by more than 80 percent to just 55. Almost a decade later, that number stood at 45.

Advertising and Product Innovation in the 1980s

Beginning in January 1983, Pilgrim began promoting his company and the Pilgrims Pride label through an award-winning television commercial, in which he appeared wearing a Pilgrims hat as he affably related the superiority of his product line. The ads helped raise the profile of the Texas-based company, which posted sales that year of $268 million and profits of $2.1 million. The following year, Pilgrims Pride had become the ninth largest chicken producer in the United States and the first to introduce fresh, whole, boneless chickens to the market. Yet, despite such advances, as well as a conscientious paring down of its debt, the business was perhaps as precarious during the mid-1980s as it had ever been. The reason for this, wrote Mack, was that the company was almost entirely dependent on highly cyclical commodity chicken sales. Twice over the years, commodity chicken down-cycles had almost bankrupted Pilgrims Pride. Pilgrims solution to this problem came in January 1986, when the company began operating a state-of-the-art further processed facility at Mt. Pleasant, Texas. In November of the same year, the company went public with a listing on the New York Stock Exchange; however, Bo maintained ownership and control by retaining 80 percent of the companys shares.

Bos gamble on prepared chicken for the retail market proved just as risky as the commodity business, due to strong competition from Tyson and ConAgra as well as heightened advertising and promotional costs totaling as much as $6 to $8 million a year. 1988 marked a low point for the company when it posted an income loss of nearly $8 million on $506 million in sales. A switch to the accrual method of accounting, however, allowed the business to report a final profit of $1.7 million.

Expansion in the Late 1980s

Two well-timed decisions enabled Pilgrims Pride to rebound dramatically in 1989. The first was Bos surrender of the retail market (a minuscule percentage of corporate sales in the late 1990s) and full-scale assault on the food service industry. Although Tyson remained the leader, Pilgrims Pride was able to promote itself as a strong alternate through contracts with such frontrunners as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Kraft General Foods, and Wendys restaurants. The second well-timed decision was Pilgrims entry into the Mexican consumer market with the late 1987 acquisition of four fully integrated poultry operations serving the populous hub of Mexico City. The purchase price for the Mexican venture totaled $15.1 million. Largely because of these two moves, 1989 net sales shot up 30 percent, and net income rose above $20 million, for a profit-to-sales ratio of just over three percent. (Pilgrims long-term goal was to boost this latter figure to around four percent.) The only blemish for the company that year was Pilgrims involvement in a campaign contribution scandal with eight Texas lawmakers. The company CEO was forced to defend himself before a grand jury, but he was not indicted and was able to return to the business of keeping the company in the black.

From 1987 to 1991, the company tripled the size of its Mexican operations, built a strong presence in frozen retail, established a dependable export business, and witnessed enormous increases in output for its further processed and prepared divisions. In addition, it entered into a number of joint marketing and advertising arrangements that kept down costs while increasing market share. All of this helped contribute to record sales of $786 million. Nevertheless, profits were down 21 percent and hovering at just 1.5 percent of revenues. Pilgrims was a well-integrated agribusiness, 20th in domestic egg production, fifth in broiler sales, and blessed with a solid brand name and rising per capita consumption of its leading product. It had anticipated and responded to consumer demand with a wide array of new food products, including fresh tray packs, party packs, chicken patties, nuggets, strips, and ready-to-eat gourmet entrees and appetizers. Furthermore, the company owned dozens of modern breeder and grow-out farms; several feed mills and processing plants; and 19 distribution facilities in the Southwest and in Mexico. The explanation for Pilgrims slide was most likely twofold: the company had failed to distance itself enough from the cyclical price woes of plain processed chicken, and it had saddled itself with increasing debt.

Problems in the Early 1990s

In 1991, the company spent $34.4 million on improving the efficiency of its Mexican facilities and another $26.1 million on improving its domestic plants. The company entered 1992 hoping for the best and aiming at reaching sales of $1 billion by 1994, but while the year proved full of noteworthy events, few of them were good news for the company. In January a fire at the Mt. Pleasant plant left 21 injured following a full evacuation of some 1,200 employees. The cause of the fire was determined to be a loose hydraulic line near a burner. Fortunately, all injuries were minor. Then, in May 1994, a debt restructuring was announced that would allow the company greater latitude in repaying its short-term obligations. The deal was completed in late June and served to extend Pilgrims loan maturities until May 1, 1993. However, in order to arrange the waivers, the company was forced to sell five million common shares to Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) at six dollars per share. As a result, Bo Pilgrims personal stake was effectively reduced from almost 80 percent to approximately 65 percent. A clause limiting ADM from acquiring more than a 20 percent interest and Pilgrims indemnification of ADM against losses for an undisclosed period of time were also part of the deal.

Despite such warning signals, several analysts were surprised by a management reorganization announced in August, which involved the replacement of William Voss, president since 1988. Vosss successor, 11-year veteran Monty Henderson, was appointed to turn a declining earnings trend around. For the first nine months of fiscal 1992, ending June 27, the company sustained a net loss of $17.1 million. In the companys final quarter, another huge drop was added to the bottom line, resulting in one of its worst years ever. According to a Wall Street Journal article published just after this last piece of news, Pilgrims year-long financial funk was in danger of worsening. Short-term debts still needed to be reduced and further loan negotiations seemed inevitable. In November the company announced that it would not pay its common stock dividend for the first quarter of fiscal 1993. In addition, it was reported that Pilgrims Pride is seeking waivers of financial covenants in loan agreements with major secured lenders to whom it owes $65 million. Discussions for extending the May 1993 deadline until October 1993 were in progress.

Company Perspectives:

Our vision: To be a world class chicken company better than the best; Our mission: Our job is outstanding customer satisfaction every day.

In a March 16, 1993 press release, Pilgrims Pride announced that it had filed a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regarding its proposed public offering of $100 million of Senior Subordinated Notes due 2003. According to the press release, the offering was part of a refinancing plan designed to consolidate indebtedness, extend the average maturity of Pilgrims Pride outstanding indebtedness and improve Pilgrims Prides operating and financial flexibility.

By 1992, Pilgrims Pride was the countrys second largest supplier of prepared chicken products, but was still not profitable. Increases in overall sales slowed in the early 1990s, while profits steadily declined. By the end of fiscal 1992, the company was struggling under the weight of a $29.7 million loss, attributable to excess poultry production and sinking prices.

With overall sales slowing, Pilgrims Prides Mexican operations were becoming increasingly important to the companys bottom line. Mexican operations grew to 20 percent of total Pilgrims Pride revenues by 1994. Success in the region led Pilgrims Pride to pursue further expansion there. In 1995 the company spent $32 million for five chicken operations known collectively as Union de Queretaro. Despite Mexicos economic problems in 1995 and 1996, Pilgrims Pride maintained its stability there, and as Mexicos economy recovered, Pilgrims Pride was in a good position to grow with it. By 1997, the company had entered every major market in the country and had achieved a 19 percent share of the poultry market.

Public Image Challenges in the Mid-1990s

However, problems at home continued to plague the company. Public attention began focusing on the companys environmental and workers rights record in the mid-1990s. In 1994, the company was sued by a doctor who had treated approximately 100 Pilgrims Pride workers claiming to have been injured on the job; the doctor accused Pilgrims Pride of interfering in his doctor-patient relationships and of retaliating against him for trying to improve working conditions at the plant. Although the company denied any wrongdoing, the suit brought to light several past cases in which Pilgrims Pride had violated workers compensation laws. In fact, the Texas Workers Compensation Commission (TWCC) had already fined the company five times, for a total of $10,000, for violations. According to The Progressive in 1994, the TWCC investigation brought on by Dr. Arroyos charges revealed many violations by Pilgrims Pride and its insurance companies.

At the same time, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) was investigating the company for air-and water-quality violations and industrial waste violations. Between 1984 and 1994, the TNRCC had received more than 110 complaints against Pilgrims Pride for such environmental violations. By 1994, Pilgrims Pride had received more than $1.3 million in penalties from the TNRCC. The record of Pilgrims Pride does concern me, Kenneth Ramirez of the TNRCC told Texas Monthly in 1994, adding that when a company has a history of noncompliance, at some point in time you have to take a special look at that company and the enforcement policy. We intend to take a special look at Pilgrims Pride.

In 1996 a company proposal to build a new processing plant in Sulphur Springs, Texas, was denied by the city council; the companys second choice in location was also voted down by the water districts board. While opponents generally cited the companys environmental violations, some critics suggested that the decision may have also been influenced by racism, or concern about the likely influx of Spanish-speaking Mexican immigrants as workers at the plant.

During this time, the combination of a 12-year high in grain prices and the threat by Russia to ban poultry imports from the United States prompted Pilgrims Pride to cut production by 8.5 percent for the year. Although net sales did rise that year, to $1.1 billion, the company reported a loss of over $7 million for the second year in a row.

Pilgrims Pride received a boost in fiscal 1997, however, as sales rose to $1.3 billion and net income shot up to $41 million. The record earnings beat the previous high in 1994 by 32 percent. The company also expanded that year, acquiring all the assets of Green Acre Foods, including a hatchery, a feedmill, and a processing plant. The companys plans for the late 1990s included further expansion of its prepared foods division, which in 1997 accounted for over 30 percent of the companys sales.

Pilgrims Pride has pinned its hopes for a total recovery on the areas where it has remained strongest: prepared foods for the foodservice industry and consumer sales to the Southwest and Mexico. Minimal increases in domestic chicken consumption should not deter the company, provided prices rebound and overproduction is avoided. Viewed in a historical context, the companys current problems might only be a small downturn in an overall trend of rising revenue and profitability, for Pilgrims Pride still remains a major contender in chicken processing.

Principal Subsidiaries

Pilgrims Pride de Mexico; Texas Egg Limited.

Further Reading

Cartwright, Gary, Bo Pilgrim: The Baron of Texas Agriculture, Texas Monthly, September 1994, pp. 110121.

Countryman, Carol, Shame of Pilgrims Pride, The Progressive, August 1994, p. 11.

Crispens, Jonna, Pilgrims Pride Has New President, Supermarket News, August 24, 1992.

Greenbaum, Jessica, Sell Em or Smell Em, Forbes, July 16, 1984.

Lee, Steven H., Ruffled Feathers: Chicken Processors Cut Production to Survive Price Squeeze, Dallas Morning News, March 9, 1996, p.F1.

Lonnie Bo Pilgrim, company document, Pittsburg, Tex.: Pilgrims Pride, 1991.

Mack, Toni, Pilgrims Progress, Forbes, June 25, 1990.

Park, Scott, Towns Oppose Pilgrims Pride Chicken Plants, Dallas Morning News, April 21, 1996, p. A45.

Pilgrims Pride Corp.: Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. Agrees to Buy an 18% Stake, Wall Street Journal, May 13, 1992.

Pilgrims Pride Corp., Wall Street Journal, January 13, 1993.

Pilgrims Pride Omits Dividend on Common for Fiscal 1st Period, Wall Street Journal, November 27, 1992.

Pilgrims Pride Ousts President, Chooses Henderson for Post, Wall Street Journal, August 10, 1992.

Pilgrims Pride Says Refinancing Delays Threaten Loan Pacts, Wall Street Journal, October 2, 1992.

21 Hurt in Texas Plant Fire, New York Times, January 9, 1992.

Jay P. Pederson
updated by Susan Windisch Brown

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"Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/pilgrims-pride-corporation-1

Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation

Pilgrims Pride Corporation

P.O. Box 93
Pittsburg, Texas 75686-0093
U.S.A.
(903) 856-7901
Fax: 903-856-7505

Public Company
Incorporated: 1963 as Pilgrim Feed Mills, Inc.
Employees: 10,700
Sales: $787 million
Stock Exchanges: New York
SICs: 2015 Poultry Slaughtering & Processing

Once a privately held business, Pilgrims Pride Corporation is the fifth largest chicken processor in the United States (behind Tyson, ConAgra, Gold Kist, and Perdue) and the second largest in Mexico. The company is approximately 65 percent owned by its founder, chief executive officer, and celebrity spokesperson, Lonnie A. (Bo) Pilgrim.

As a completely integrated operation, Pilgrims Pride superintends egg producing, contract growing, feed milling, animal rendering, and processing of its brand name foods for the retail, fast-food, food service, and food warehouse markets. Although its principal sales regions are the West, the Southwest, and Mexico, the company also sells selected chicken products to eastern European and Pacific Rim countries. Pilgrims Pride entered the prepared foods market in 1986 to offset violent swings in chicken prices and profits and now ranks as the countrys second largest supplier of prepared chicken products. Despite successes in these and other areas, increases in overall sales have slowed since 1989, and profits have steadily declined. By the end of fiscal 1992, the company was struggling under the weight of a $29.7 million loss, attributable to excess poultry production and sinking prices. The sudden naming of a new president at mid-year signalled the necessity for quickly stabilizing such volatility and effecting a turnaround, as did the entry of the Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., which now holds an 18 percent interest in Pilgrims Pride. The company saw its sales for the first quarter of fiscal year 1993 increase 12.8 percent over sales for the same quarter of fiscal year 1992

According to Toni Mack in Forbes, when Pilgrim was a boy and wanted a Coke, his father, who ran the general store in the northeast Texas hamlet of Pine, would first make him sell six Cokes for a nickel apiece to the men working the nearby cotton gin. Such was the early business training of the chicken magnate who, by his own admission, started from nothing. Because his father died abruptly from a heart attack, leaving the store in debt and the family with just $80, Bo was forced to labor from age 11 at several different jobs. At the age of 17, he and his brother Aubrey purchased a farm supply store in Pitts-burg, Texas, with money borrowed from a bank and a local dentist. The first capital investment was a used cotton gin, which the brothers converted into a feed grinder. From 1945 until 1966, the year of Aubreys death, the companyeventually incorporated as Pilgrim Feed Mills, Inc.expanded into egg-hatching and broiler-processing. In 1968, Lonnie and Aubreys heirs reincorporated the business as Pilgrim Industries, Inc.

Well into the 1980s, sales increases for the company averaged 20 percent annually. This growth was largely due to Bos gutsy leadership and willingness to endure debt-to-equity ratios in excess of 4-to-l in order to stay ahead of the competition. Jessica Greenbaum, in an article in Forbes, quotes one of Pilgrims bankers as stating that Bo had expanded as fast as he possibly could. The balance sheet couldnt sustain anymore. Pilgrims strategy apparently paid off, for between 1960 and 1984, the number of broiler producers in the country shrank by more than 80 percent to just 55. Almost a decade later, the number stands at 45.

Beginning in January 1983, Pilgrim began promoting his company and the Pilgrims Pride label through an award-winning television commercial, in which he appeared wearing a Pilgrims hat as he affably related the superiority of his product line. The ads helped raise the profile of the Texas-based company, which posted sales that year of $268 million and profits of $2.1 million. The following year, Pilgrims Pride had become the ninth largest chicken producer in the United States and the first to introduce fresh, whole, boneless chickens to the market. Yet, despite such advances, as well as a conscientious paring down of its debt, the business was perhaps as precarious during the mid-1980s as it had ever been. The reason for this, wrote Mack, was that the company was almost entirely dependent on highly cyclical commodity chicken sales. Twice over the years, commodity chicken down-cycles had almost bankrupted Pilgrims Pride. Pilgrims solution to this problem came in January 1986, when the company began operating a state-of-the-art further processed facility at Mt. Pleasant, Texas. In November of the same year, the company went public with a listing on the New York Stock Exchange; however, Bo maintained ownership and control by retaining 80 percent of the companys shares.

Bos gamble on prepared chicken for the retail market proved just as risky as the commodity business, due to strong competition from Tyson and ConAgra as well as heightened advertising and promotional costs totaling as much as $6 to $8 million a year. 1988 marked a low point for the company when it posted an income loss of nearly $8 million on $506 million in sales. A switch to the accrual method of accounting, however, allowed the business to report a final profit of $1.7 million.

Two well-timed decisions enabled Pilgrims Pride to rebound dramatically in 1989. The first was Bos surrender of the retail market (now a minuscule percentage of corporate sales) and full-scale assault on the food service industry. Although Tyson remains the leader, Pilgrims Pride has been able to promote itself as a strong alternate through contracts with such frontrunners as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Kraft General Foods, and Wendys restaurants. The second well-timed decision was Pilgrims entry into the Mexican consumer market with the late 1987 acquisition of four fully integrated poultry operations serving the populous hub of Mexico City. The purchase price for the Mexican venture totaled $15.1 million. Largely because of these two moves, 1989 net sales shot up 30 percent, and net income rose above $20 million, for a profit-to-sales ratio of just over 3 percent. (Pilgrims long-term goal is to boost this latter figure to around 4 percent.) The only blemish for the company that year was Pilgrims involvement in a campaign contribution scandal with eight Texas lawmakers. Pilgrims CEO was forced to defend himself before a grand jury, but he was not indicted and was able to return to the business of keeping the company in the black.

From 1987 to 1991, the company tripled the size of its Mexican operations, built a strong presence in frozen retail, established a dependable export business, and witnessed enormous increases in output for its further processed and prepared divisions. In addition, it entered into a number of joint marketing and advertising arrangements that kept down costs while increasing market share. All of this helped contribute to record sales of $786 million. Nevertheless, profits were down 21 percent and hovering at just 1.5 percent of revenues. Pilgrims was a well-integrated agribusiness, twentieth in domestic egg production, fifth in broiler sales, and blessed with a solid brand name and rising per capita consumption of its leading product. It had anticipated and responded to consumer demand with a wide array of new food products, including fresh tray packs, party packs, chicken patties, nuggets, strips, and ready-to-eat gourmet entrees and appetizers. Furthermore, the company owned dozens of modern breeder and grow-out farms; several feed mills and processing plants; and 19 distribution facilities in the Southwest and in Mexico. The explanation for Pilgrims slide was most likely twofold: the company had failed to distance itself enough from the cyclical price woes of plain processed chicken, and it had saddled itself with increasing debt.

In 1991, the company spent $34.4 million on improving the efficiency of its Mexican facilities and another $26.1 million on improving its domestic plants. The company entered 1992 hoping for the best and aiming at reaching sales of $1 billion by 1994, but while the year proved to be full of noteworthy events, few of them were good news for the company. In January a fire at the Mt. Pleasant plant left 21 injured following a full evacuation of some 1,200 employees. The cause of the fire was determined to be a loose hydraulic line near a burner. Fortunately, all injuries were minor. Then, in May, a debt restructuring was announced that would allow the company greater latitude in repaying its short-term obligations. The deal was completed in late June and served to extend Pilgrims loan maturities until May 1, 1993. However, in order to arrange the waivers, the company was forced to sell five million common shares to Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) at six dollars per share. As a result, Bo Pilgrims personal stake was effectively reduced from almost 80 percent to approximately 65 percent. A clause limiting ADM from acquiring more than a 20 percent interest and Pilgrims indemnification of ADM against losses for an undisclosed period of time were also part of the deal.

Despite such warning signals, several analysts were surprised by a management reorganization announced in August, which involved the replacement of William Voss, president since 1988. Vosss successor, 11-year veteran Monty Henderson, was appointed to turn a declining earnings trend around. For the first nine months of fiscal 1992, ending June 27, the company sustained a net loss of $17.1 million. In the companys final quarter, another huge drop was added to the bottom line, resulting in one of its worst years ever. According to a Wall Street Journal article published just after this last piece of news, Pilgrims year-long financial funk was in danger of worsening. Short-term debts still needed to be reduced and further loan negotiations seemed inevitable. In November the company announced that it would not pay its common stock dividend for the first quarter of fiscal 1993. In addition, it was reported that Pilgrims Pride is seeking waivers of financial covenants in loan agreements with major secured lenders to whom it owes $65 million. Discussions for extending the May 1993 deadline until October 1993 were in progress.

In a March 16, 1993, press release, Pilgrims Pride announced that it filed a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regarding its proposed public offering of $100 million of Senior Subordinated Notes due 2003. According to the press release, The offering is part of a refinancing plan designed to consolidate indebtedness, extend the average maturity of Pilgrims Pride outstanding indebtedness and improve Pilgrims Prides operating and financial flexibility.

Pilgrims Pride has pinned its hopes for a recovery on the areas where it has remained strongest: prepared foods for the foodservice industry and consumer sales to the Southwest and Mexico. Minimal increases in domestic chicken consumption should not deter the company, provided prices rebound and overproduction is avoided. Viewed in a historical context, the companys current problems might only be a small downturn in an overall trend of rising revenue and profitability, for Pilgrims Pride still remains a major contender in chicken processing.

Principal Subsidiaries

Pilgrims Pride de Mexico; Texas Egg Limited.

Further Reading

Greenbaum, Jessica, sell em or Smell em, Forbes, July 16, 1984; Mack, Toni, Pilgrims Progress, Forbes, June 25, 1990; History and Description: Pilgrims Pride Corporation, Pittsburg, Texas, Pilgrims Pride, 1991; Lonnie Bo Pilgrim, Pittsburg, Texas, Pilgrims Pride, 1991; 21 Hurt in Texas Plant Fire, New York Times, January 9, 1992; Pilgrims Pride Corp.: Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. Agrees to Buy an 18% Stake, Wall Street Journal, May 13, 1992; Pilgrims Pride Ousts President, Chooses Henderson for Post, Wall Street Journal, August 10, 1992; Crispens, Jonna, Pilgrims Pride Has New President, Supermarket News, August 24, 1992; Pilgrims Pride Says Refinancing Delays Threaten Loan Pacts, Wall Street Journal, October 2, 1992; Pilgrims Pride Omits Dividend on Common for Fiscal 1st Period, Wall Street Journal, November 27, 1992; Pilgrims Pride Corp., Wall Street Journal, January 13, 1993; Pilgrims Pride press release, March 16, 1993.

Jay P. Pederson

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"Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/pilgrims-pride-corporation-0