Responding to a public demand for antibiotic-free (ABF) meat and poultry products, Pilgrim's will be producing more antibiotic-free chicken, Pilgrim's CEO Bill Lovette said. "We are going to convert more complexes in the next couple of years to ABF chicken," Lovette said during a February 21 conference call with shareholders.
"The move in us growing in that category is strictly tied to our strategy of being a more valuable partner to our key customers. We stay close with our key customers' needs. Their needs are driven by their customers -- the ultimate consumer -- and the consumer is clearly calling for an increase in supply of ABF chicken. As such, we have a plan to grow in that category."
Lovette acknowledged that raising chickens without antibiotics can cost as much as 15 percent more than growing chickens by traditional means. However, the consumer is also willing to pay more for the final product.
"The consumer has clearly spoken and voted with their wallets, and as such in order to remain relevant in the marketplace, we are going to grow in that category," said Lovette.