12 people who transformed US poultry production
Chicken went from rare and expensive to bountiful and low-priced meat protein thanks to a host of innovators, including these 12 trailblazers.
One hundred years ago, nearly half of all Americans worked in farming and most farmers owned poultry of some kind. Today, only 2 percent of Americans work on the farm and only a small fraction of those people raise poultry.
Read the entire report about people who transformed the poultry industry exclusively in the September issue of WATT PoultryUSA.
In the last 100 years, broiler chicken meat enjoyed an astounding success. Production rose from a negligible amount a century ago to 19 million metric tons today (42 billion pounds). How did this happen? Although the development of the industry took the combined efforts of thousands of people, this article examines a few of these people.
Cecile Long Steele (1900-1940) of Delaware is credited with starting, quite by accident, the broiler industry 93 years ago. Her first broiler flock was a mistaken delivery of 500 chicks for a laying flock instead of the 50 chicks she ordered. She decided to grow them all for meat and sold them all reportedly for a hefty profit.
That first phase of the broiler industry was one of mostly small commercial flocks. After Cecile, the next phase of the industry could be described as the development of vertical integration. Jesse Jewell (1902-1975) of Gainesville, Georgia, is credited with being the first to coordinate the broiler production stages. The independent businesses that once were involved in different stages of production were combined by “integrators.” The integrators combined (vertically integrated) production stages under one enterprise.
The next phase of the industry started when chicken companies turned seriously to the question of marketing. One of the key components of marketing is developing a brand and an early genius at branding poultry was Frank Perdue (1920-2005).
Frank Perdue used a classic tool of marketing, product differentiation, to market his branded yellow tinged chicken to consumers. He was one of the first CEOs to appear on television. He is most famous for saying that it takes a tough man to make a tender chicken. In a memorable segment, he asked the question, “Why would you want to eat an unidentified frying object?”