KANSAS CITY, MO. – Walt Shafer, chief operations officer at Costco’s Lincoln Premium Poultry, Freemont Neb., has been announced as the 2021 recipient of MEAT+POULTRY’s Operations Executive of the Year. The 10th annual award recognizes executives whose careers have been dedicated to pursuing operational excellence while providing leadership and delivering innovative solutions. Previous recipients of the award include Smithfield Foods’ Henry Morris, Plumrose USA’s Freddy Mortensen, Dietz & Watson’s John Schoenfellinger, Tyson Foods’ Chris Rupp and most recently, Perdue’s Gary Malenke.

Shafer got his start in the poultry industry early in life working on pullet crews and in hatcheries, among other things, in Harrisburg, Va. After obtaining a degree in accounting, Shafer moved through a number of different positions in the industry.

Shafer’s titles throughout his career have included field service rep, broiler technician, service tech, plant manager, plant superintendent, vice president of operations, vice president of retail operations, vice president of chicken operations, executive vice president of all US operations and more.  

Six years ago, Costco-owned Lincoln Premium Poultry, exclusive poultry supplier to the club store, was only a concept in the mind of a few people. Today, the complex stands in what was then a cornfield and  now includes a plant, feed mill and a hatchery. Shafer accepted the challenge of making Lincoln Premium Poultry a reality as a way to end his career with something he had full reign over, with the support of a company like Costco.

“They didn't put any limitations on what we could do with it,” Shafer said.

Read more about Walt Shafer, in the upcoming July issue of MEAT+POULTRY.