Despite Troubles, Family Carries On Peterson Legacy

by Serenah McKay  on Monday, Jun. 25, 2012 12:00 am  

Regarding the sale of the broiler operations, Evans said his grandfather "was one of the most dedicated people I know" and "the type of guy that would gamble his last dime to keep Peterson Farms alive and going for the community."

When Peterson died in 2007, there was a surplus of poultry in the world, poultry prices were very cheap and oil prices were at record highs, Evans said.

"In addition to that, we were in front of some very nervous grain markets due to ridiculous ethanol mandates and subsidies," he said. Corn prices when the operations sold were triple what they'd been six months earlier, Evans added.

"Despite a significantly successful hedge I placed on corn in November/December 2007, it was still the right decision for the family to sell," he said. "We wanted to make sure jobs would stay in Decatur and the plant would continue to operate."

When the broiler operations were sold to Simmons, they were producing about five million pounds of chicken every week for the retail and food-service industries.

The sale included Peterson Farms assets: feed mills, hatchery operations, transportation vehicles, flocks and a network of contract growers, a news release stated.

But Rogers architect Collins Haynes said what fascinates him most about the Peterson family isn't what they had and lost, but the niches they found.

Lloyd Peterson didn't set out to be a chicken tycoon, although his company was one of the pioneer chicken producers in northwest Arkansas.

His real interest was genetics, and his goal was breeding a better chicken, one that could be sent to market at a full weight after a shorter growing period. He established the company's breeding farm around 1950, and recruited experts from around the world. By decade's end, the company introduced a breeding rooster known as the Peterson Male.

By 1994, the Peterson Male commanded 70 percent of the domestic market for breeders and 50 percent of the international market, according to a Northwest Arkansas Business Journal article.

Peterson Farms sold the Peterson Male line to Aviagen Group of Huntsville, Ala., a global poultry breeding company, in 2010.

Haynes recalls Lloyd Peterson as a man of vision and determination.



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