Two major stories impacting top broiler companies broke within the past week and a half.

First, the proposed merger of Wayne Farms and Sanderson Farms was announced. Later that week, JBS announced that it intended to buy all shares of Pilgrim’s Pride that it didn’t already own.

Both are significant because Pilgrim’s is the second largest poultry company in the United States, while Sanderson Farms and Wayne Farms rank third and seventh, respectively.

But another thing that caught my attention is that both Pilgrim’s Pride and Sanderson Farms are publicly traded companies. Granted, if the JBS deal goes through, Pilgrim’s would be fully owned by a public company, but not one that would be registered in the United States, since JBS is headquartered in Brazil.

Sanderson Farms, which if the deal is finalized, would be jointly owned by private companies Continental Grain and Cargill.

Fewer earnings calls and investor events

In the United States, the majority of the poultry integrators are private companies, but the three largest – Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride and Sanderson Farms – are public companies.

Because public companies have investors to answer to, they have certain legal obligations to meet. Among those is reporting the company’s financial results on a quarterly basis.

Some companies do the minimum with an earnings report and a press release, but some take the transparency much further, by hosting quarterly calls with shareholders, analysts and the media. They can also take part in certain investor conferences.

Sanderson Farms and Pilgrim's did those things.

But if the two transactions previously mentioned come into fruition, that will mark the definite end of such events from Sanderson Farms. This is particularly sad, because the company’s three top executives – Joe F. Sanderson Jr., Lampkin Butts and Mike Cockrell – were always very candid when delivering remarks, which often made for good news copy.

And if the JBS-Pilgrim’s deal is realized, Pilgrim’s results will only be part of JBS’ earnings reports. They already are, but the JBS presentations focus on all of JBS’ subsidiaries, and less time going forward would be allocated toward specifics about Pilgrim’s.

While Wayne Farms and JBS have typically been good at sharing information, the absence of these calls will definitely be a loss.

Fewer public poultry companies

When I look back at the past five years or so, the number of publicly traded poultry companies in the U.S. has already decreased.

In 2018, Tyson Foods acquired Keystone Foods from Brazil-based Marfrig Global Foods. Granted, both Tyson and Marfrig are publicly traded, but Keystone was absorbed into Tyson’s operations, so it essentially meant one less public poultry company, and you don't get specifics on those former Keystone operations as easily as you could when it was part of Marfrig.

Then in 2019, Hain Celestial divested of its Hain Pure Protein segment and its Empire Kosher business. The broiler operations were sold to Aterian Investment Partners, while the turkey operations were sold to a start-up that named itself Plainville Brands LLC. Unlike Hain Celestial, both of those entities are private companies.

Public turkey, egg companies in the U.S.

If these deals are finalized, the only remaining top broiler companies that are public will be Tyson, Pilgrim’s, which will be part of Brazil-based JBS, O.K. Foods, which is part of Mexico-based Bachoco; and The Best Dressed Chicken, which is part of Jamaica Broilers Group.

But there are still those in the turkey business, that are public companies.

Tyson Foods is also on the Top Turkey Companies database, as is Kraft Heinz, and Jennie-O Turkey Store, a subsidiary of the public company Hormel Foods. However, Kraft Heinz is so diversified, and the turkey operations are such a small portion of Tyson’s overall business, not much is shared about their turkey businesses during investor events. Some information is also shared on Butterball, partly owned by the public company Seaboard Corporation, but Seaboard does not host earnings calls.

As far as egg producers are concerned, the country’s largest egg producer, Cal-Maine Foods, is a public company, and Michael Foods has been a part of the publicly-traded Post Holdings since 2014. The new kid on the block of public companies is Vital Farms, which held its initial public offering in 2020.

Public poultry companies around the world

There are also a good number of public poultry companies headquartered in other countries. Quite a few come to mind. In Canada, there is Maple Leaf Foods. In Latin America, there is JBS, Bachoco and BRF. In the Caribbean, there is Jamaica Broilers. In Europe, there is 2 Sisters Food Group, Cherkizovo, MHP, Scandi Standard, Atria, HKScan, Bell Food Group, and Moy Park, which presently is part of Pilgrim’s. In Asia, there is Charoen Pokphand Foods and WH Group, while Australia has Ingham’s. Africa’s two largest broiler companies – Astral Foods and RCL Foods – are also public companies.