The year that was 2017 was my 17th year with MEAT+POULTRY and, in many regards, was the most memorable one yet. Like most years in the meat and poultry processing industry, there was a blend of good, bad and ugly news that made this year one I’ll never forget. In December issue, we recap some of the biggest news of the year, but there are many more stories that developed before, during and after those headlines that are equally as compelling and will forever be a part of the history that was 2017.
As is the case every year, the industry lost some of its most impactful and well-respected people during the year. Among the losses, Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim, co-founder of Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., passed away at the age of 89 this past July. The industry also collectively mourned the death of Dave Theno, Ph.D., who was known as “the man who saved Jack in the Box,” who died during a swimming accident in June at the much-too-young age of 66. More recently, Kelly Hattan, president of Daily’s Premium Meats died while in Chicago attending an industry trade show in September. It’s never easy to accept the loss of friends and colleagues in our tightly knit industry and having had the honor of meeting and working with Theno and Hattan and knowing well the reputation of Bo Pilgrim, I will always respect and miss these titans and the many others that passed away this past year.
Another year of leadership changes, including the country’s commander in chief, also triggered periods of transition in the meat and poultry industry. One example was Tom Hayes taking the torch from Donnie Smith as CEO of Tyson Foods on the first day of 2017. Few would argue that the transition was seamless, and that Hayes embraced his role and was a bold change agent in his inaugural year, which was a record one for Tyson by most measures. Likewise, 2017 saw James Snee put a ribbon on his first year as CEO of Hormel Foods Corp., a role he assumed when Jeff Ettinger retired in late 2016. Snee has continued to lead Hormel through acquisitions, international growth and a variety of innovative products in the healthy category.
Other moves in the meat and poultry industry that caught many of us in the industry by surprise included the announced retirement of the US Dept. of Agriculture’s deputy undersecretary and administrator of its Food Safety and Inspection Service, Alfred Almanza. A veteran of the USDA, Almanza stepped down from his position on July 31 and almost immediately transitioned to a role working in the industry, as the Global Head of Food Safety and Quality of Assurance with JBS SA. The foodservice segment saw its share of shake-ups as well, including the recent announcement that Chipotle founder and CEO Steve Ells would be stepping down.
This year’s acquisition activity was brisk and involved processing companies and some other deals that will affect food companies of all kinds. The deal perhaps raising the most eyebrows, was Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market Inc. for $13.7 billion. The other deals are too many to list, but included Pilgrim’s Pride Corp.’s acquisition of Moy Park, Tyson Foods’ announced acquisition of Original Philly Holdings and Hormel Foods acquisition of Columbus Manufacturing.
There is never a shortage of news or topics to fill the print and web pages of MEAT+POULTRY and this year was no exception. On behalf of the publishing staff of MEAT+POULTRY, I thank our loyal readers, many of whom we interact with on a daily basis through our online offerings and our monthly printed news coverage and features. We look forward to an eventful year to come and wish you a prosperous and healthy 2018.