Pilgrim's Pride products are sold to foodservice, retail and frozen entree customers. The company's primary distribution is through retailers, foodservice distributors and restaurants throughout the United States and Puerto Rico and in the Northern and Central regions of Mexico. Pilgrim's Pride also owns one turkey facility in Pennsylvania and operates a separate distribution wing, known as PFS Distribution.
Pilgrim's traces its origins to a feed store opened in 1946 in Pittsburg, Texas by Lonnie "Bo" Pilgrim and his older brother, Aubrey. The brothers were known to give away free chicks with the bags of feed they sold, thereby expanding their business. Bo Pilgrim, wearing traditional Pilgrim dress, with a pet chicken named "Henrietta" under his arm, is featured in Pilgrim's Pride advertisements. Today, Pilgrim's Pride is vertically integrated, meaning the company has its own divisions for every process from "egg to table."
Pilgrim's Pride is a supplier of Kentucky Fried Chicken and was named its "supplier of the year" in 1997. Other customers include Wal-Mart, Publix and Wendy's. Pierce Chicken (formerly of ConAgra Foods and Hester Industries) is a division of Pilgrim's Pride. Pierce Chicken is best known for its brand-name Wing Dings, Wing Zings, and various other prepared food products.
On July 20, 2004, PETA released a video claiming to show cruelty to chickens at Pilgrim's Pride. The video showed Pilgrim Pride employees and a member of PETA kicking, jumping, throwing, and spitting on live chickens. Pilgrim's Pride held an investigation and fired eleven employees and has provided ongoing animal welfare training to its work force, however, none of the employees involved in the incident faced any criminal charges.
Pilgrim's is also is a supplier of cattle feed to various ranching operations in East Texas. The supply of cattle feed was criticized because of the alleged use of "inedible" chicken parts being used for protein content. This is a common practice in the poultry industry known as protein conversion, so as to profit from all parts of the bird. Protein conversion uses techniques to convert inedible parts of the animal, such as keratin in feathers and skin, into digestible protein to be used for livestock and pet food.
On December 4, 2006 Pilgrim's Pride announced the successful acquisition of Gold Kist (formerly the third largest chicken company) for $21.00 a share. Although there was initial resistance from Gold Kist, the board members of both companies voted unanimously to combine the two companies.
On December 17, 2007, Pilgrim's Pride's CEO, O.B. Goolsby, Jr. died after suffering a stroke while on a hunting trip in South Texas with customers.
On april, 2008, federal officials in a biggest raid arrest 400 employees at plants in Arkansas, Texas, Tenesse, Florida, And Virginia, after a year long investigation, all defendants were found with misused social security numbers.