Meat+Poultry - April 2021 - 24

years
SOSLAND PUBLISHING

Turkey processing, like
chicken processing, began
as a side business for
many farmers facing
challenging financial times,
especially in the 1930s.

MEAT+ POULTRY | 04.21 | www.meatpoultry.com

National Archives

24

processing was steadily emerging as a protein
competitor. Jesse Jewell, who was credited
with making Gainesville, Ga., the " poultry
capital of the world, " was a pioneer in the
industry for introducing vertical integration to
poultry producers. He joined his family's feed
business in 1922 and in 1930 he took the helm,
just in time for the Great Depression. Jewell
pivoted by supplying economically challenged
producer-customers with chicks and the feed
needed to raise them at his expense. After the
birds were grown to market weight, he bought
them back at a price that reflected his feed
costs plus a predetermined profit for the effort
of those early contract growers.
His family business, J.D. Jewell Inc.,
expanded its integration efforts in the late
1930s with the addition of a hatchery in
1940 and a processing plant the following
year, just in time to reap the benefits from
demand spikes related to World War II. Jewell
then added a company-owned feed mill and

rendering facility in 1954, completing its
vertical integration, which served as a business
model for future poultry companies. The
company, which was known as the world's
largest integrated chicken producer of its
time, was recognized for its signature frozen
chicken and for being one of the region's
first employers to hire Black workers to staff
its plants. Like its red-meat counterparts,
J.D. Jewell resisted efforts of the unions to
represent its workers in the early 1950s and
violent protests to the unions squashed the
organization effort. Jesse Jewell was an active
poultry industry leader throughout the 1950s
and sold the company to an investment group
in the early '60s.
Ogle said Jewell learned quickly that the
road to profitability in the poultry business was
not in selling whole birds, but instead selling
chicken meat as a value-added item and an
ingredient in products such as frozen pot pies.
" Poultry was more of a processed food
from the beginning, " she said.
Ogle said chicken, beef and pork peacefully
coexisted in the 1950s and '60s, largely
because steak and pork were abundant and
especially after the war, when steak was
no longer an aspiration for consumers and
became affordable for the masses. In fact,
poultry was for a time, viewed as a loss leader
used by chain grocery stores to lure bargain
shoppers with low-priced chicken to the meat
department, where they would be tempted by
higher-priced red meat items. Beef was, indeed,
king until the 1970s, when rising prices and
new questions about the healthiness of red
meat began circulating. Soon, fast-food chains
began to take notice and started marketing
chicken as a healthier option that happened to
be less expensive. Between the peak of 1976,
per-capita beef consumption bottomed out
for the next four years, dropping from 94 lbs
per year to 77 lbs per year, the lowest point in
a decade. Chicken's competition didn't affect
the red meat producers until the late '70s and
'80s when production practices like the use
of hormones and antibiotics were called into
question and consumers looked to poultry
as a more wholesome alternative. It was just
another in a series of challenges the meat
industry has negotiated.
" The beef industry in particular has had
kind of a tortured history, " Ogle said.


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Meat+Poultry - April 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Meat+Poultry - April 2021

Meat+Poultry - April 2021 - 1
Meat+Poultry - April 2021 - vdg - 1
Meat+Poultry - April 2021 - vdg - 2
Meat+Poultry - April 2021 - 1
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