The Milford Perdue location, purchased by the company from Con-Agra in 1995, recently began a 10,800 square foot expansion in order to process organic poultry. The Milford location is the first facility to produce organic poultry on the eastern shore, and processing actually began on the plant in December 2012.
“We added 71 additional positions for the new process in December, and expect construction to be complete in June,” said Dean Walston, Director of Operations at the Milford plant. “In June, we expect to add an additional 30 positions that will include supervisors, maintenance personnel and line workers.” Mr. Walston anticipates that growth in the organic industry could lead to as many as 200 additional jobs in Milford.
“We think this is exciting for Milford to be the first organic poultry processing plant on the eastern shore,” Mr. Walston said. “This is a win-win for the city and for Perdue.”
The Milford location, when purchased from Con-Agra, was a traditional tray pack, ready-to-cook poultry facility, providing items to retail locations. In early 2000, the company expanded and retooled the facility in order to process a new product exclusive to Walmart and Sam’s Club known as Tender and Tasty.
“If you purchased a Tender and Tasty product at Walmart or Sam’s Club, it was more than likely processed at this location,” Mr. Walston explained. However, using the facility for broilers, as well as the Tender and Tasty line, only utilized 82 percent of the plant’s capabilities, and Perdue began seeking a way to increase the utilization of the plant to increase the profitability of the location.”
The company owns a Pennsylvania facility that produces a high-quality organic line, and with a customer base that is growing rapidly, the facility needed additional capacity. In addition, Perdue wanted to create some redundancy as weather and seasonal demand often put additional strain on the Pennsylvania plant. The decision was made to expand the Milford facility to increase organic poultry production based on the growing organic market needs.
“Before we could expand, we had to meet certain USDA criteria,” said Mr. Walston. “The USDA has very strict guidelines when it comes to labeling poultry organic, some related to growing and some related to packaging.” Mr. Walston explained that the company wanted to begin processing the organic poultry at Milford before the first of the year as the organic market increases in January, so a section of the existing plant was retooled to accommodate organic processing. The processing is not optimal, so Perdue had to expand, building a new section to accommodate the organic processing department.
The equipment currently used in the temporary location will be relocated to the new section once it is completed. The new section will also allow the company to better segregate organic products from traditional products more efficiently. The Milford location sends poultry products throughout the Northeast and to some markets in the Midwest. The company delivers as far west as Texas, and their focus is on retail markets.
“We love being here in Milford and have a great relationship with the city,” said Walston. “Perdue is proud to be able to expand in an economy that is still struggling, and are pleased to be able to create between 100 and 200 jobs in a city where we are appreciated and where we appreciate the city. We hope we are good neighbors and look forward to a long, profitable and friendly relationship with the town.”