Pilgrim’s Pride plans fully cooked chicken plant in Southeast

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Pilgrim’s Pride plans to build a plant for fully cooked poultry products in the Southeast U.S., the company said in its latest quarterly earnings report. It did not provide an investment figure for the new facility.

Andy Rojeski, head of strategy, investor relations and net zero programs for Pilgrim’s Pride, which is majority owned by JBS, told Food Dive in an email that construction of the new facility “could be late 2023 to mid-2024” depending on which location is chosen. The company is looking at several potential locations across the Southeastern states for the plant.

Rojeski said the plant will enhance the company’s consumer-focused strategy to diversify its portfolio. 

“This announcement will enable sufficient capacity to drive growth for our existing and planned launches in fully cooked chicken products, especially our consumer branded portfolio,” Rojeski said.

In Pilgrim’s Pride’s latest quarterly earnings call, President and CEO Fabio Sandri said the new plant will further the company’s competitive advantage in the prepared poultry space. U.S. retail sales of branded Pilgrim’s Pride prepared offerings grew 96% year-over-year in the last quarter, with its Just Bare line as a highlight.

While Sandri said prepared chicken volumes slightly improved in the quarter, indicating the segment’s nearly 100% sales increase was partly driven by higher prices, the CEO said the plant will help it reach greater potential for the category.

“To that end, we are exploring multiple options ensuring the best logistics, labor, and raw availability,” Sandri said. “We are confident that these investments will drive further growth for our business while also enhancing our key customer partnerships, further diversifying our portfolio and supporting operational excellence.”

Overall net sales at Pilgrim’s Pride increased 27.3% year-over-year in the quarter to reach $4.63 billion. The company said e-commerce across its entire U.S. branded portfolio more than doubled. 

Other leading poultry companies are capitalizing on consumers’ increasing desire for chicken. Last month, Tyson announced it would spend $90 million to expand a Mississippi plant to meet demand, along with continuing investments in automation and programs promoting worker retention at its facilities.

Despite strong demand for the protein, higher prices have had their impact on different chicken cuts. “I think the weakest part of the bird has been the wings, which is very interesting because last year wings were really the highlight of the cut out for chicken,” Sandri said during Pilgrim’s earnings call. Last year, many restaurant operators were forced to switch from wings to boneless varieties comprised of chicken breast as prices hit more than $3 per pound, he noted.

Since then, prices for chicken wings had fallen quickly. “But we expect also the wings to start rising now with the coming football and basketball season,” Sandri said. “So wings are very competitive right now compared to the breast meat.”

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About the Author

Jervie David Montejar
A food lover who wants to try every delicious dishes around him and spread the news to everyone to try it as well. Finding the latest trends about food and restaurants around Cebu and the rest of the world :) "Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first." -Ernestine Ulmer
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