A History of Service to the Poultry and Egg Industry

U. S. Poultry & Egg Association is people - people who have recognized through the years that mutual challenges of the poultry industry can best be met by joining together in association.

  • 1947

    Southeastern Poultry & Egg Association Is Born

    Original officers of Southeastern Poultry & Egg Association (left to right)

    W.W. Durham, president. Lebanon, KY
    Vic Pringle, second vice president, Broadway, VA
    Ralph Jean, secretary, Memphis, TN
    Leon Carter, treasurer, Atlanta, GA
    Not shown: J.D. Jewell, first vice president, Gainesville, GA

    The fledgling poultry industry in the southeastern United States was facing a variety of issues in the 1940s. Among them was how to feed and water live chickens en-route to New York by train. New York was a major market, and getting birds there in good condition was one of the challenges. Additional concerns were poultry health, breeding, production and processing techniques, economics, government relations - these and many other issues faced the emerging young industry. And while the details of these concerns might have changed throughout the existence of the association, some of them continue to challenge the industry.

    Seeing an opportunity for collective action to address problems too large for one person to solve, a group of poultry and egg dealers met in Louisville, Kentucky, in March, 1947. They were part of a Kentucky-Tennessee group known as the Southern Poultry and Egg Shippers Association. As they gathered around the conference table, the vision of Southeastern Poultry & Egg Association was born. That meeting was followed by a larger one in May of 1947 in Atlanta to develop plans for the new association. It was decided at the May meeting that the bylaws would be based on those of the National Poultry, Butter, and Egg Association, a group that largely represented produce companies. It would be an "all-feather" organization representing broiler growers, turkey growers, egg producers, hatcheries, processors, and feed and allied firms. From today's perspective, the poultry industry was not vertically integrated. Albert Mott, of Nashville, Tennessee was named the first executive secretary, serving out of Nashville on a part-time basis. The original states comprising what later became known simply as "SOUTHEASTERN" included Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The membership would later expand to include Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas. These 13 southeastern states would make up the organization for many years.

  • 1948

    The First "Poultry Convention"

    Expo Exhibit Floor 1951

    Expo Exhibit Floor Today

    Plans were made for a "poultry convention" in January, 1948. Approximately 200 people from around the Southeast came together at the convention, held at the Ansley Hotel in Atlanta. The original officers were elected, including the first president W.W. Durham, a Kentucky turkey producer with a hatchery and feed mill. Other leaders elected to the original executive committee included first vice president J.D. Jewell (later often referred to as the father of the modern poultry industry since he played a major role leading to vertical integration), Gainesville, GA; second vice president Vic Pringle, Broadway, VA; secretary Ralph Jean, Memphis, TN; and treasurer Leon Carter, Atlanta. Vice presidents were also named to represent member states. Frank Frazier, who was serving as executive secretary of the Virginia Poultry Federation, helped organize the convention and gave the keynote address. In April of 1948 Frazier was named the executive secretary of the new association, and the headquarters was re-located to Richmond, Virginia, sharing office facilities with the Virginia Poultry Federation.

    In August of 1948, a program committee met to plan the first "real" Southeastern Poultry & Egg Association convention, since the first meeting was primarily organizational in scope. It was set for January 15-17, 1949, again at the Ansley Hotel in Atlanta. Registration was $2, and more than 600 people attended. The three-day event consisted primarily of speakers, panel sessions, and separate meetings for the various member groups. Ads were sold for the convention directory, and it was reported that several companies set up table-top displays in the hotel lobby. A similar convention was held again at the same location in 1950.

    The first actual trade show/exposition was held the following year, in January, 1951 when 67 firms exhibited and approximately 2000 people attended. Thus the SOUTHEASTERN poultry exposition began its phenomenal run of steadily growing and expanding year after year to become the annual International Poultry Expo. The American Feed Industry Association joined the Expo in 2007. The North American Meat Institute came on board in 2013, and the event was named the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE). It features the world's most extensive display of equipment, supplies, and services used in the production and processing of poultry, eggs, meat, and feed products. It is the world's largest gathering of poultry, meat, and feed industry leaders.

  • 1950s - 1960s

    Early Association Initiatives

    Harold E. Ford

    In 1953 SOUTHEASTERN's broiler promotion committee approved plans for a Broiler Institute to develop a broiler promotion program to increase chicken consumption throughout the nation. It later was spun off as the National Broiler Council, now the National Chicken Council. SOUTHEASTERN executive secretary Frank Frazier was granted a leave of absence in 1955 to head the staff of the new Broiler Council. Paul Williams, then editor of the Association magazine, moved up to acting executive secretary. Later that year Williams became SOUTHEASTERN executive secretary when Frazier was named executive vice president of the then independent National Broiler Council. In 1954 Harold Ford, a native of Kentucky, joined the SOUTHEASTERN staff as director of organization. He had previously served as assistant commissioner of agriculture in Kentucky.

    In October, 1957, Ford was named executive secretary of SOUTHEASTERN, and the headquarters was moved to the Atlanta area, in Decatur, Georgia. Paul Williams remained in Richmond where he continued to represent the Association in legislative matters and serve as editor of the Association magazine. He also served as executive secretary of the Virginia Poultry Federation.

    In 1961, Harold Ford resigned as executive secretary to join Mar-Jac Poultry Company in Gainesville, Georgia. Bob Martin, of South Carolina, was named to replace Ford. Martin had previously managed the Columbia, South Carolina State Farmers Market before joining SOUTHEASTERN.

    After several years in the industry, Harold Ford returned to replace Bob Martin as Association executive secretary in 1967. Ford guided SOUTHEASTERN to prominence as one of the most effective and influential trade associations, not only in the poultry industry, but throughout the United States.

    From its inception, the ultimate goal of the Association has been to serve the poultry and egg industry and its members. The cornerstone has been the committee concept, small groups of industry representatives providing direction and counsel to the Association leadership on issues and challenges that confront the industry. A new issue arose in the mid-1950s - federal government inspection of poultry processing plants. The Association board of directors named a Grading and Inspection Committee in 1956 to ensure that the industry had a voice in the bills that were being introduced in Congress calling for "mandatory inspection of poultry for wholesomeness." After months of debate and a series of proposed bills and amendments, a final version was passed and signed into law in the fall of 1957. Following the drafting of regulations, a "permissive" date was set for January 1, 1958, and a "mandatory" effective date established for January 1, 1959. The industry was represented throughout the process by a diligent Southeastern Poultry & Egg Association. It was just the beginning of a long and continuing working relationship with government agencies on behalf of the poultry and egg industry.

    SOUTHEASTERN leaders recognized early the importance of continuing education. They realized that managers in their companies must keep up with the rapid changes and advancements occurring throughout the industry. The first seminar sponsored by the Association was the Egg Quality and Grading School in June of 1956. It was later picked up by egg industry organizations. In 1957 the initial SOUTHEASTERN School of Management was held for company officers and managers to enable them to study common problems under the guidance of skilled leaders. The Poultry Processor Workshop for plant managers was established in 1958. The schedule grew into today's comprehensive list of annual seminars, workshops, and clinics to keep every segment of poultry and egg management informed and up to date.

    Association leaders also understood early how vital young people are to the future of the industry. As early as 1950, SOUTHEASTERN sponsored a trophy for each of the three winning teams in the Southern Collegiate Poultry Judging Contest. That same year, the monthly Association magazine The Southeastern Poultryman included the photographs and brief resumes of all the college poultry department graduates in the Southeast. A regional broiler production program for area Future Farmers of America was adopted in 1956 by the board of directors. An award of $100 was made to the best FFA young poultryman in each Southeastern state, with a $500 prize to the regional winner "to further his education or establishment in farming." Association support for FFA, 4H, and collegiate poultry judging continues. The College Student Career Program was initiated in 1967. Held in conjunction with the annual International Poultry Expo, several hundred students from universities throughout the United States gather in Atlanta every year during the Expo to interview with industry and allied firms.

    The first "Workhorse of the Year" was awarded in 1962 to recognize industry leaders who work tirelessly on behalf of the industry and the Association. The initial recipient was Marvin Johnson, a turkey producer in North Carolina.

    Poultry health concerns were on the rise in the early 1960s. In 1962 the Association appropriated funds for gumboro research and worked to obtain funding from the federal government to study leukosis. SOUTHEASTERN-funded research, conducted primarily at universities around the nation, expanded over the years into an extensive program studying all aspects of poultry and egg production and processing, including poultry health, breeding, processing techniques, human health issues, and environmental management, to name a few. Millions of dollars are re-invested into the industry in the form of research grants. The research program leads the industry in searching for answers to the challenges facing poultry and egg firms and looks for new ideas and methods for continued progress and sustainability.

  • 1980s - current

    New Initiatives and New People

    Don Dalton

    John Starkey

    Another youth initiative, the U.S. Poultry & Egg Harold E. Ford Foundation, named for the long-time executive secretary, was established in 1994 to allocate funds to university poultry science departments, and later other universities with poultry programs, to be used for recruiting students. A second mission of the Foundation was added to fund industry research. In 2012, as a result of the severe 2008 recession, the Foundation was experiencing serious challenges in its missions of student recruiting and research funding. In order to return to former levels of funding student outreach and industry research, the boards of the Association and Foundation approved a one-time capital campaign to restore the Foundation's financial resources. The campaign received phenomenal support from the industry, through companies, families, and individuals, so that the Foundation was able, not only to return to previous levels of student outreach and research support, but actually expand both missions.

    Research funding was originally recommended by a Grants Committee made up of Association commodity committee chairmen and the executive committee. As requests for funding increased, the board of directors saw the need for research professionals and established the Research Advisory Committee in 1982. Composed of industry technical experts in a variety of disciplines, the committee evaluates research proposals for merit and value and makes recommendations to the Association and Foundation boards for funding.

    In 2013 the research program was enhanced with the creation of the Board Research Initiative to address specific, more defined issues facing the poultry industry. It operates concurrently with the longstanding Comprehensive Research Program.

    Since the inception of the Research Advisory Committee, the research program has been guided by several nationally acknowledged research professionals. Dr. Morris Cover, retired from Ralston Purina, was the first to direct Association research activities. He was succeeded in 1993 by Dr. Charles Beard, former director of the USDA Poultry Research Lab in Athens, Georgia. He was followed in 2008 by Dr. Henry Marks, a previous head of the Poultry Science Department at the University of Georgia. When Dr. Marks retired in 2011, Dr. John Glisson, former associate dean of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, assumed the leadership of the research program.

    A new dimension in Association service to the industry was added in 1984, when SOUTHEASTERN accepted the sponsorship of the industry's world market development program, the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council (USAPEEC). It had formerly been managed by the Poultry & Egg Institute, which had earlier closed its doors. Jointly financed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Service, the goal was to promote poultry and eggs produced in the USA to consumers worldwide. USAPEEC was later spun off as an independent organization, with the initial board of directors meeting held in January, 1986.

    Following his two separate terms of Association leadership, Harold Ford retired in 1992. Don Dalton succeeded him as staff head (now designated as Association president). He had joined the staff in 1989 as exhibit manager and director of government relations. Dalton had a long relationship with the Association. As an industry leader in the 1970s, and then general manager of Valmac Industries, a broiler processor in Arkansas, he served on the Association board of directors, and in 1978 was chairman of the board. Under Dalton's tenure the Association name was changed to U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, now referred to as USPOULTRY, to reflect the organization's growing national scope, with the membership, including states and companies, from coast to coast. Headquarters was moved to nearby Tucker, Georgia in 1993 into larger facilities to accommodate the growing staff.

    Under Dalton's leadership, the Association continued to expand its services in the 1990s. A food safety department was established to work more closely with member companies and government agencies in human health. An environmental program was formed to assist industry firms with challenging environmental issues. An IT department was set up to stay current with ever-changing technology and to support other national and state industry organizations. The education department added more extensive training and education opportunities for poultry and egg industry managers.

    Don Dalton retired in December, 2007, and John Starkey was named Association president. An industry veteran also, Starkey had been an environmental engineer with several poultry firms before joining the Association staff in 2000 as vice president of environmental programs. Association programs and services to the industry continued to grow, such as the addition of the North American Meat Institute to the IPE; expansion of student outreach, including the addition of international students, and new industry research initiatives. Also, two industry councils were formed with the collaboration of the National Chicken Council and National Turkey Federation: the Joint Poultry Industry Safety & Health Council, and the Human Resources Council. USPOULTRY provides administrative and technical support for both groups.

    U.S. Poultry & Egg Association continues to be as dynamic as the changing industry it serves, meeting the needs of its member companies and always ready for the new challenges that will arise in the future.