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Foster Farms
Type Private
Founded Modesto, California, U.S. (1939 (1939))
Headquarters Livingston, California, U.S.

Foster Farms is a United States West Coast poultry company. The company has been privately owned and operated by the Foster Family since 1939. The company is based in Livingston, California with operations throughout the West Coast and a few in the East Coast. The company produces a variety of chicken and turkey products and specializes in fresh poultry products advertised as natural and locally grown.[1]

Contents

History

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Beginnings

Foster Farms was established in 1939 by Max and Vedra. They started by investing $1,000 into a farm in Modesto, California. There, they began to raise turkeys; the back porch was Max's office and the first hatchery was built next to their bedroom because the eggs needed constant care.[2] In 1942, Max quit his day job as a reporter and city editor for the Modesto Bee.[1] Around this time, the Fosters also expanded into raising cattle and chickens. As the business grew, so did their space needs, and the Fosters acquired another farm and feed mill in the 1950s. The feed mill allowed the company some independence from outside feed contracts as it provided food for the animals.[1] In 1959, Foster Farms built a processing plant in Livingston, California, and in 1960, the company's headquarters were moved there from Modesto. Livestock were slaughtered, processed and packaged at the Livingston plan, which featured an assembly line format.

The 1970s and on

In 1969, Max and Verda Foster turned the company over to their son, Paul Foster, who became President of Foster Farms[2]. In 1973, Foster Farms opened a major distribution center in El Monte, California, serving southern California. In 1977, Paul died of a sudden heart attack, and his brother Thomas became president of the family company[2].

In 1982, the company bought the property of The Grange Company and its branch, Valchris Poultry[3]. This purchase provided two advantages: The company was able to re-enter the turkey business and was now able to produce deli products under the Foster Farms name. By the 1980’s, Foster Farms had many new products to offer, such as bologna, poultry franks and luncheon meats[4]. Sales tripled between 1975 and 1988; by 1987, Foster Farms was selling about 140 million chickens per year[3], making it the largest chicken producer in California. The company’s hens laid around 2.2 million eggs per week, which were then transported to hatcheries and kept in an incubator for 18. days[3] When the chicks hatched, they would take them to different ranches for about 52 days, while they ate the company’s own corn and soybean meals.

A day-old chick

By the mid-1980s, Foster Farms sales had skyrocketed, and in 1988 company leadership decided to increase their production capacity.[4]. That year, the company created a new fryer ranch with one million square feet of poultry housing in Merced, California, upgraded its feed mill in Ceres, California, and built a new 85,000 square-foot distribution facility and sales office for northern California in Livingston.[3] In November 1989, Foster Farms obtained a turkey processing center in Fresno, California, from Roxford Foods. The turkey processing plant was quickly converted into a chicken processing plant, where new equipment was added, enabling the plant to process 80 million more chickens a year.

With the discovery that saturated fat intake was linked to heart disease, Americans began to eat less red meat and more chicken[4]. This sudden change dramatically increased sales for Foster farms. However, sales began to drop in 1987, after a report broadcast on television news magazine show “60 Minutes” claimed that a high percentage of chicken was infected with salmonella[5].

In response, the company invited the media to visit its processing centers so that customers could see that Foster Farms chickens were not harmful. Soon reassured, customers began to purchase poultry again.

Throughout the 1980s, Foster Farms began to make better commercials, with one winning a Clio Award in 1988.[5]

In the late 1980s, Foster Farms wanted to expand, and it purchased Oregon's largest poultry producer, Fircrest Farms in Creswell in 1987.[3] In 1994, it purchased Lynden Farms for about $8.2 million.

In 1992, brothers George and Tom gave up their roles of president and chief executive to a non-family member, Robert Fox.

However, the Foster brothers remained on the company's board. Sales began to expand once again, and by 1996 annual sales totaled around $900 million [3]. The company had become the largest poultry producer on the entire West Coast and the eighth largest in the nation. In 1997,the company bought the leading poultry producer in Washington, Pederson’s Fryer Farms, for about $7 million.[4] This gave them the opportunity to get control of most Western markets.

1998 was a year of significant expansion for Foster Farms. The company opened a $45 million, 500-job processing facility in South Kelso, Washington.[3] It also acquired Butterball Turkey Company's turkey processing plant and feed mill in Turlock, California, along with a hatchery in Fresno, California, and purchased Griffith Foods, an Alabama producer of corn dogs.

Tom Foster died in 1999, but George remained active in the company.[2] Foster Farms produced over 750 million pounds of poultry that same year and was the second-largest corn dog producer in the United States.

In October 2001, Foster Farms acquired the chicken operations of Southern California's Zacky Farms.[2] This addition included Zacky Farms' Fresno plant, hatchery, feed mill and live productions ranches, as well as its Los Angeles distribution center. With the addition of 1,500 new employees, production increased significantly.[2]

In 2003, Foster Farms introduced the Fresh & Easy line of individually wrapped, pre-washed boneless, skinless breast and thighs, addressing the need for conveniently packaged fresh chicken.[2]

In 2004, the company built a new distribution center.[2] Today, Max and Verda’s grandson, Ron Foster, is the company's CEO. He worked with his grandfather for 23 years. Foster Farms now has more than 10,000 employees.[2]

Controversies

In 1997, hundreds of employees went on strike for two weeks. They agreed to a new contract and went back to work at the end of October 1997.[6] Hundreds of San Joaquin Valley poultry plan workers also struck in October 2005, accusing Foster Farms of unfair labor practices. [7]

In 1998, Foster Poultry Farms pleaded guilty in the United States District Court, by violating the federal Clean Water Act. Foster Poultry Farms dumped 11 million gallons of chicken-manure-polluted water into the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge.[8]

Finances and industry statistics

The demand for chicken in the meat-producing industry is competitive. Although the poultry industry has received accusations of animal cruelty, in 2005 an independent animal welfare audit by Silliker, Inc., awarded Foster Farms an “excellent” rating – the highest rating possible – in both the “Production” and “Processing” categories. Today Foster Farms maintains a comprehensive Animal Welfare program headed by a veterinarian designated as the company Animal Welfare Officer. The Animal Welfare program includes training and instruction for all employees that come in contact with the company’s flocks.

Also in 2005, Foster Farms was awarded California’s highest environmental honor, the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA), from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The GEELA program recognizes exceptional leadership and notable contributions in conserving California’s resources and recognizes the significance of a joint project between Foster Farms and the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD).

The company also received the 2005 POWER Award from Public Officials for Water and Environmental Reform. The annual POWER Award honors companies that provide solutions to the state’s water issues and serve as models to others in this regard.

Foster Farms is one of the biggest West Coast poultry producers. However, this revenue increase has been accompanied by a decrease in manpower. In December 2006 As of December 2007, the company’s revenues stood at approximately $2.00 bil., an 11.1% change in revenue from the previous year. At the same time, the company was estimated to employ approximately 10,500 people.[9]

Commercial Characters

Foster's Farms has 19 different commercials featuring fictional talking chickens who claim to be from Foster's Farms. However, people reject them, as the chickens are actually plumped with saltwater and are not fresh and natural like real Foster's Farms chicken. The chickens also weigh more so that people pay more. The two chickens have their own website online called "Foster Imposters" with three games.

References

  1. ^ a b c Foster Poultry Farms <http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/Foster-Poultry-Farms-Company-History.html>.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i FosterFarms.com. 2007. 26 Oct. 2008. <http://fosterfarms.com/>
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Lindblom, Mike. “Small Towns Like Its Huge Chicken Plant.” Daily News. Sep 2, 1996: A1.
  4. ^ a b c d Smith, Timothy. “Changing Tastes: By End of This Year Poultry Will Surpass Beef in The U.S. Diet.” Wall Street Journal. Sep. 17, 1987:1
  5. ^ a b Tyson, Rae. “Beef Industry Hits Hard Times.” USA Today. March 5, 1996:B4
  6. ^ Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2008, 1997, “Workers return to Foster Farms Plant,” http://articles.latimes.com/1997/oct/29/business/fi-47804[12]
  7. ^ Los Angeles Times, October 26, 2005, “Foster Farms poultry workers go on strike,” http://articles.latimes.com/2005/oct/26/business/fi-rup26.6
  8. ^ United States Environmental Protection Agency, January 23, 1998, http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/a883dc3da7094f97852572a00065d7d8/1a96ac8b6affb5f985256595006fccc6!OpenDocument
  9. ^ Forbes.com, November 3, 2008, “America’s largest private companies,” http://www.forbes.com/lists/2008/21/privates08_Foster-Farms_IPCZ.html

External links

Foster Farms Sites

Foster Imposter Sites:


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