Pilgrim's Pride looks to the future as they file for bankruptcy

They're a huge East Texas employer, as well as the nation's largest chicken producer - and today, they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Over the last couple of months, the Pittsburg-based company has been crippled by their debt. Just last month, Pilgrim's Pride announced layoffs for more than 300 of their salaried workers across nearly all 3 dozen Pilgrim's Pride locations. Today, East Texas News 9's LaKecia Shockley traveled to the Pilgrim's Pride headquarters to find out what's next for the company.

Five years ago, Pilgrim's Pride lent a helping hand by purchasing bikes for kids. Now, the giving chicken company is finding themselves in dire need.

"For us, this is an opportunity to reorganize and restructure the company not to liquidate the company. Pilgrim's Pride is going to be here for a long time. That's fully our intent. We have asked the court for $450 million in financing that we have lined up through independent banks," said Pilgrim's Pride spokesman Gary Rhodes.

Pilgrim's Pride says loads of debt and other factors in the chicken industry forced the company to take drastic measures.

"The government's ethanol policy led to such a huge run up in the corn prices, record highs this summer. As a result of that and weak market pricing it was almost as a perfect storm hit the chicken industry," said Rhodes.

All over Pittsburg, the talk of Pilgrim's bankruptcy file is a hot topic. Most folks are worried about Pilgrim's employees.

"A lot of them have families and children and I know my neighbors, they've already been laid off like two weeks ago. They have a new home. Now they have to move away because they don't have a job," said Franchaska Coleman.

"It's going to be a trickle down effect. It's going to affect everybody - like us being a wireless ISB in this area we do feed out of Pilgrim's uppers with Internet service," said Ned Rice with Broad Band Rural.

Pittsburg's economic leaders say Pilgrim's fall is also being felt downtown.

"There's a lot of concerned citizens for sure...and I've already seen some tightening of the belts in response to just rumors," said Gus Gustafson, the Pittsburg Economic Development manager. "We had a business that backed out that was going to move in to downtown - they ran scared."

Pilgrim's Pride says despite rumors they have one intent.

"Our intent is to emerge as quickly as possible from Chapter 11. The company is not shutting down. It's business as usual for us," said Rhodes.

It's business as usual, with $430 million of help.

Pilgrim's Pride said Monday that company leaders met with their employees to explain their plan to keep the company's doors open.