Moy Park has had many owners in its 74-year history
More than 6,400 employees of its 12,000 global workforce are based in the North
For Moy Park’s management team led by Janet McCollum, and its workforce, it has been an unsettling few months, with Brexit issues also casting uncertainties about the future
Moy Park has grown from humble beginnings on a small farm in Co Tyrone more than 74 years ago to become one of Europe’s largest poultry producers, processing on average 5.7 million birds each week.
It initially began life as a typical farm business selling potatoes, milk and eggs locally until the arrival of supermarkets in the 1950s created an appetite for a certain product – frozen chickens.
In March 1961 it set up a new subsidiary – Moy Park Limited – which would concentrate solely on chicken processing, and that proved to be the beginning of what would one day become a billion-pound-a-year business.
Before that, however, there have been more than a couple of different incarnations of the Moy Park that has become one of the top 10 food companies in the UK and has an estimated 35 million chickens on its books at any one time.
At one stage the business was acquired by a former British textiles giant, Courtaulds plc, who in turn sold it to a local management buyout team in 1984.
This team created the company that Moy Park has become today. Headquartered in Craigavon, it is one of Europe’s biggest poultry producers, employing in the region of 12,000 people across 13 processing sites, including in the North and South of the island.
In Northern Ireland alone it employs more than 6,400 people and is the North’s largest private sector business .
The reassurance from its new owners, Colorado-based Pilgrim’s Pride corporation, that it is committed to keeping Moy Park in the North following its $1.3 billion purchase will be warmly welcomed.
Pilgrim’s has said it “believes in the importance of its local business model and is committed to its team members across its global operations”.
“Moy Park will remain headquartered in Craigavon, Northern Ireland. The Moy Park management team, led by Janet McCollum, will continue to lead the business, and the rest of the Moy Park employee base will remain in place,” Pilgrim’s stated.
This will not be the first time that Moy Park has been owned by an American corporation. It was previously part of the Chicago-based OSI group from 1996 to 2008 and had a very good relationship with its US parent.
OSI sold the Northern Ireland group on to its first Brazilian owner, Marfrig, in 2008 for $400 million in cash and a further $280 million in shares.
Thanks to Marfrig Moy Park enjoyed a starring role in the 2014 FIFA World Cup as an official sponsor.
But two years ago, while struggling to escape a $5 billion debt burden, Marfrig decided to sell Moy Park to a rival Brazilian firm, JBS, for $1.5 billion.
In August JBS confirmed that Moy Park was going back on the market again as part of a major divestment programme by the Brazilian meat packer.
For Moy Park’s workforce it has been an unsettling few months, with Brexit issues also casting uncertainties about the future.
But Ms McCollum is confident that Moy Park’s new owner represents a “positive development” and offers the opportunity to “accelerate our growth plans”.