Editor’s Note: Chief Executive is kicking off a new annual tradition this year by celebrating every sizable (over $100 million in annual revenues) standalone company turning 100 in 2023. Check out the rest of this year’s class for tips, insights and, above all else, the inspiration you need to keep going….and going.
POULTRY BREEDING STOCK
HQ: Huntsville, Alabama
Revenues: ~$1.6 billion
From pandemic-era problems in America’s chicken-processing facilities to the spread of avian influenza (AI) across the globe, the poultry business suffered some high-visibility failures in the past few years. Aviagen, the worldwide market leader in poultry breeding, is no exception. The company weathered an avian flu outbreak a few years ago, responding by aggressively addressing and resolving the issue, and then establishing new levels of vigilance that have made the company a leader in combating avian flu.
In 2017, Aviagen became the first poultry-breeding company in the U.S. to be certified as an AI Clean Compartment, meaning that it implemented the highest levels of biosecurity for its flocks. Compartmentalization allows governments around the world to accept stock from an exporting country with an avian flu outbreak by supplying the importing country’s officials with evidence that the stock is free from disease, according to Aviagen.
Based in Huntsville, Alabama, the company’s operational footprint extends to the UK, Europe, Latin America, New Zealand, Turkey, India and Australia. Aviagen also offers its products through joint ventures in the key poultry markets of Asia. It owns 260 production facilities and 27 commercial hatcheries worldwide.
Building Better Birds
Aviagen’s aim is to consistently deliver genetic improvement to the broiler industry, producing healthy birds through established and sustainable selection and breeding programs through its three brands: Arbor Acres, Indian River and Ross.
In 2003, a 21 percent stake in Aviagen was acquired by Germany’s Erich Wesjohann Group. That followed acquisition of Aviagen by private-equity group Advent International, which made three significant acquisitions to bolster Aviagen during that time, including turkey-breeding operations. The acquisitions and enhanced products boosted revenues by 25 percent from 2002 to 2004.
Aviagen continues to invest heavily in operations in its primary U.S. market. In 2020, it opened a state-of-the-art feed-processing facility in Pikeville, Tennessee, to supply its poultry flocks with high-quality, pathogen-free feed, at a cost of $35 million. Aviagen also has invested in the future of its industry by helping develop a new research facility at the University of Arkansas. This “poultry house of tomorrow” will facilitate cutting-edge broiler research with innovative technologies to collect real-time data for body weight, feed, water intake and environmental conditions, then send the “smart farming” information to the cloud for scientists to access easily with an app.