Pilgrim's Pride merges company, city officials hopeful

By Jena Johnson - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Pilgrim's Pride is one of the key employers in deep East Texas. The sale of majority of the company to Brazilian company JBS could possibly effect many of those employed with Pilgrim's Pride; however, this change could also bring hope to our economy.

For the past 23 years Pilgrim's Pride employees have made up 30 percent of Mom's Diner business.

"You know they don't work there because it's fun," said Petra Irwin, employee at Mom's Diner. "They work there to make a living and support their families."

Wednesday the chicken company merged with Brazilian company JBS, which now holds a 64 percent stake in the company. Family run restaurants like Mom's Diner wonder what that means for their chicken plant customers, who they said have become family.

"For the time being it will be business as usual and things will stay exactly as they are," said Jack Gordon, Lufkin Mayor.

A Pilgrim's Pride representative said while the company is transitioning, local jobs won't be at stake. If anything, those jobs are now more secure. "Many times change is an opportunity," said Gordon.

An opportunity that could benefit more than one party. "They [JBS] have an opportunity to partner with the biggest in the industry during a time that company is looking for partners," said Jim Wehmeier, City of Lufkin's Director of Economic Development.

How that partnership will play out is the big question. "Once they come out of bankruptcy with the reorganization they could split up some of the assets or they could continue to work cooperatively together under one banner we just don't know yet," explained Wehmeier.

For now Pilgrim's Pride employees will continue with their daily labor. "Somebody has to do it and the people that are willing to do it, you know I do respect them a lot," said Irwin.

In the coming weeks, city officials said new details will emerge as the company transitions with JBS.

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