In 2020, our company will turn 100 years old. As we look forward to celebrating our Centennial – and to the start of our second century – we invite you to explore the history of our family-owned company.
Arthur Perdue founded his poultry company in 1920, the same year his wife, Pearl, gave birth to their son, Franklin Parsons Perdue. As soon as he could hold an egg in his hands, Frank started helping with the family business.
In 1925, the Perdues started selling baby chicks to other farmers instead of selling table eggs. By investing in the best available breeding stock, Arthur soon gained a reputation for producing quality chicks. Even when the stock market crashed, Perdue’s business stayed strong through hard work, frugality and a commitment to quality.
A poultry disease sweeping through the region destroyed most of the company’s flocks and threatened the family business. In response, Arthur Perdue sold layer chicks instead of meat bird chicks, aligning with the emerging broiler industry and setting the stage for further growth.
The company gained traction in the grain and oilseed business as Frank recognized the increasing importance of feed ingredients, investing in grain receiving and soybean processing. Frank understood that processing chicken would be part of the future, and Perdue opened its first processing plant in 1968.
Rather than following the lead of others, Frank marketed a measurably superior product and put his family name on it. He advertised in the competitive New York City broiler market to introduce the PERDUE® brand, forever changing the poultry industry—and making marketing history.
The company’s first TV commercial aired in the early ’70s and introduced Frank Perdue, the first company leader to successfully serve as an advertising spokesman in a major branding campaign. The company’s now-famous slogan, “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken®,” helped make PERDUE® a household name.
Frank’s quest to sell a better PERDUE® chicken led to the introduction of the PERDUE® OVEN STUFFER® Roaster in 1974. Perdue became the only company with its own proprietary breed, which had measurably more breast meat than other commercial breeds.
Perdue added turkey to its poultry portfolio, introduced its first fully cooked products with the PERDUE® DONE IT® line and branched out into foodservice.
Frank’s son, Jim, who had grown up spending summers with the company, returned as a management trainee and worked his way up the ranks, learning all parts of the business along the way.
Jim Perdue was named chairman in 1991, becoming a third-generation company leader, and took over the role of advertising spokesman in 1994.
Perdue achieved significant production and sales growth throughout the decade. The introduction of PERDUE® SHORT CUTS® carved chicken breast created an entirely new category of meal ingredients, while fully cooked breaded products met rising consumer demand for added convenience.
Streamlined production, investments in state-of-the-art equipment and a brand-new Innovation Center positioned the company well in the new century. New, inventive products included the PERDUE® OVEN STUFFER® Roaster and fully cooked frozen products. Perdue became a key supplier in the foodservice industry with an increased emphasis on meeting operators’ needs.
In 2005, the company said farewell to Frank Perdue, honoring his legacy by recommitting to quality, service and reliability. To mark the company’s 85th anniversary, a new logo featuring the original Perdue family farmhouse celebrated “a family commitment to quality since 1920.®”
Perdue launched the HARVESTLAND® brand, featuring chicken raised with no antibiotics ever, and became the first poultry company to provide consumers the assurance of USDA Process Verified Programs. PERDUE® PERFECT PORTIONS® individually packaged sliced chicken breast revolutionized the fresh chicken category with well-sized portions for easy cooking.
Perdue AgriBusiness established itself as a global player by becoming an independent company and continuing to grow outside sales, including exports.
Perdue Farms formed an Environmental Steering Committee to guide the company’s environmental sustainability efforts.
Perdue purchased Coleman Natural Foods and became the leading producer of organic chicken and no-antibiotics-ever chicken, turkey and pork. The new PERDUE® SIMPLY SMART® line offered reduced sodium and fat levels and simple ingredients. Perdue Foods set a new standard for responsible use of antibiotics, reducing the use of human antibiotics by 95% across the company.
Perdue AgriBusiness expanded its agricultural services, supporting farmers with seeds, organic fertilizers, agronomy services, risk management, and expanding opportunities for specialty seeds and cover crops.
Perdue Farms introduced its corporate responsibility platform, “We believe in responsible food and agriculture.®”
Continuing to focus on premium proteins and trusted brands, Perdue Farms acquired Natural Food Holdings, including the NIMAN RANCH® brand, the PRAIRIE GROVE® brand and pork processing operations. This enabled Perdue Foods to grow pork through brands with high standards for animal welfare and sustainable agricultural practices.
Perdue expanded organic chicken production and committed to raising as many animals as possible without antibiotics, amplifying the scope of its no-antibiotics-ever products. New advertising promoted the transparency of the no-antibiotics-ever claim as Perdue called for clarity in antibiotics use claims.
Perdue AgriBusiness increased organic production of crops and purchased the U.S. business of Technology Crops International, furthering its commitment to giving farmers opportunities to diversify through specialty oil seeds and crops.
Groundbreaking Commitments to Animal Care transformed the company’s approach to raising chickens, moving from the industry norm of basic needs to the Five Freedoms, a globally accepted welfare standard encouraging normal behaviors.
Perdue moved completely away from antibiotics, becoming the first major poultry company to stop the routine use of human antibiotics and all use of animal antibiotics. On average, 95% of Perdue’s chickens and two-thirds of its turkeys are raised without ever receiving an antibiotic.
Perdue AgriBusiness opened a trading office in Brazil.
Perdue took another major step in protecting the Chesapeake Bay, expanding a $60 million investment in nutrient recycling on Delmarva with the addition of a $12.5 million capital investment in a composting operation at Perdue AgriRecycle. Perdue AgriRecycle, which celebrated its 15th anniversary, already handled more than two billion pounds of poultry.
The PERDUE® brand continued to make advertising history by introducing a fourth-generation of family advertising spokespersons in what were also the first national TV ads to promote USDA certified organic chicken. Chris and Ryan Perdue, part of the fourth generation of Perdues working in the family business, joined their father, Chairman and long-time advertising spokesperson Jim Perdue, in two commercials featuring PERDUE® HARVESTLAND® organic chicken.
Perdue’s Commitments to Animal Care 2017 continued the company’s leadership in continuous improvement in poultry care, based on the Five Freedoms. Perdue’s 2017 Animal Care Summit brought together diverse stakeholders, including poultry care experts, animal welfare advocacy groups, customers and farmers to review Perdue’s progress and discuss future advancements.
The Perdue family farmhouse celebrated its 100th anniversary.
In 2018, we marked the 50th anniversary of the PERDUE® brand and brought the party home with a celebration at our Salisbury, Md., plant where it all started.
New packaging brought a fresh look to our PERDUE® fresh chicken and PERDUE® SIMPLY SMART® Organics combined fully cooked convenience and great taste.
We announced goals for significant reductions in greenhouse gases, water use and solid waste.
We debuted in the international Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare among the top 15% of more than 100 global food companies, while moving all our Coleman Natural pork production to crate-free.
Moving into our Next Century
As we look forward to our second century, our path forward is about getting better, not just bigger. We’ll continue on ongoing journey to become “the most-trusted name in food and agricultural products.”