Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim, co-founder of Pilgrim’s Pride, died on July 21, 2017. He was 89.

“Few, if any, poultry pioneers have marked the industry with such a lasting and unique impact as did Mr. Pilgrim,” National Chicken Council President Mike Brown said in a statement. “His passion and devotion to his business, his faith, and the National Chicken Council continues to inspire many. Mr. Pilgrim’s passing encourages us to reflect on a life well lived. Bo and his family are in our thoughts and prayers.”

Pilgrim helped start what is now the second largest broiler company in the United States after his brother, Aubrey Pilgrim, and his partner, Pat Johns, in 1946 purchased a feed and seed store for $3,500 from W.W. Weems in Pittsburg, Texas. Soon after that purchase was made, Lonnie Pilgrim asked his brother to join him.

According to the Pilgrim’s website, the Pilgrim brothers would sell 100 baby chicks and a sack of feed to local farmers who would take the chicks home and raise them in their backyards. Selling those chicks to drive feed sales was one of several innovative ideas that would later lead to the vertical integration model of poultry production that is today’s industry standard.

The business soon grew. The company acquired a hatchery in Mount Pleasant, Texas, in the 1950s, and it leased its first chicken processing plant in Mount Pleasant in 1960.


Aubrey Pilgrim died of a heart attack in 1966, leaving Bo Pilgrim to lead the company.

Bo Pilgrim persevered, and continued to grow the business with more acquisitions. The company also expanded into Mexico.

Pilgrim is survived by his wife, Patty R. Pilgrim, his sons, Ken Pilgrim and Pat Pilgrim; a daughter, Greta Henson, six grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and his sister, Sue Hester Kellam.

A memorial service will be Wednesday, July 26 at First Baptist Church in Pittsburg, Texas. Donations can be made to the American Heart Association, 7272 Greenville Ave., Dallas, TX 75231. Arrangements are being made through Erman Smith Funeral Home in Pittsburg.