The Poultry Federation’s Turkey Man of the Year Award for 2014 was given to James E. Plyler. The award was given in recognition of Plyler's past and current contributions to the turkey industry and on behalf of The Poultry Federation's Turkey Meeting Planning Committee.
This year’s recipient has a career that spans 38 years in the turkey business, to which he is still a major contributor. Plyler began his career in the turkey industry as breeder/hatchery manager for ConAgra Turkey and then quickly progressed to the role of live operations manager, and then to Carthage complex general manager. During his leadership period in Carthage, the complex tripled its live production volume, increasing from a nominal 40mm pounds in the late 1970s to over 150 mm pounds and double shifting its plant by the late 1980s.
According to the presenters, "This year's recipient is one that is not afraid to get his hands dirty. On more than one occasion he would help load or unload turkeys, ride with us in the fields and on one night in particular, when we were short of live haul drivers, he set an example of being willing to do whatever it takes, by driving a live haul truck and hauling birds from the farm to the plant."
Plyler is a Vietnam War veteran, having served his country four years in the United States Army Medical Corps, achieving an honorable discharge at the rank of Sgt. E-5. He received his bachelor’s degree in animal science and biology from Stephen F. Austin University in 1975, and his master’s degree in poultry science and nutrition from Texas A &M University in 1977. From 1977 to 1987, he worked in the Carthage Missouri Division of ConAgra Turkey Company, during which time he progressed to the level of complex general manager and vice president.
Since 1987 he has served as general manager for Swift Eckrich, as well as operations manager for companies like Louis Rich, McClain Farms and Powell Milling. During the last six years he formed his own independent consulting business, Turkey Health and Specialties, working with the turkey industry in the upper Midwest, on the West Coast and in Canada.