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CEO Interview: Jim Perdue of Perdue Farms

Staying Close to Customers Jim PerdueChairman and CEO, Perdue Farms We’re usually immune from recessions because chicken has always been …

Staying Close to Customers

Jim Perdue
Chairman and CEO, Perdue Farms

We’re usually immune from recessions because chicken has always been a value. But this recession for the first time has impacted consumption patterns. One of the questions is, will these buying patterns change back when the economy recovers?

So a lot of our newer products are more convenient and also meet the consumer’s price point. Are we shunning value-added products? Not necessarily; [Americans] still have a problem feeding their families. Our job is to give them products to help them do that. Especially in these economic times, people are picking up odd jobs, so time constraints are even more now than in the past.

Another concern is that there is more and more detachment of consumers and policymakers in Washington from how food is actually produced. They have [legitimate] questions about whether food is being produced sustainably and is safe. Years ago, people were closer to farms and knew where their food came from; now, people in cities don’t even know how it gets to the supermarket. So their perceptions are being dictated by what they read and by interest groups, but the reality is far different. We need policymakers to see with their own eyes the standards and sustainability methods we use.

We’ve got really good relationships with our consumer base, and I think they have a lot of confidence in us that we’ll do the right thing. I’m confident that next year is going to be a good year.

Perdue Farms, the nation’s largest poultry producer, is a family-owned company based in Salisbury, Md., with more than $4.6 billion in sales.

About dale buss

dale buss
Dale Buss is a long-time contributor to Chief Executive, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and other top-flight business publications. He lives in Michigan.